Is Your Landscape Sheltered from the Sun? Pick Plants Made for the Shade

Erin Conant

Gardening, like life, sometimes presents us with challenges. Sunless voids in our landscape – aka shady spots – are prime examples. Shade rules out several plants ranging from vegetables and annuals to roses and lots of well-loved Texas perennials. Thankfully, there are several shade-loving, leafy selections that are sure to win you over.

First, determine your shade conditions. From partial to dappled to deep shade, each situation and the hours of sunlight a site gets each day should guide your plant choices.

  • Deep shade sites, usually under a heavy tree canopy, typically get less than two hours of sunlight a day. Holly fern, Turk’s cap, firespike and columbine all flourish in these conditions.
  • A moderately thick tree canopy and 2-6 hours of filtered sunlight create dappled shade that may be perfect for tender eastern and European garden perennials. Consider American beautyberry, ‘Katy’ ruellia and snowflakes.
  • Partial shade conditions, which usually get at least six hours of sun a day, are ideal for some plants — in particular, morning sunlight allows non-native garden plants relief at the end of a Texas summer day. By the same token, the same plants may not having their partial shade turn to full scorch in the afternoon, so there’s room for trial and error. When in doubt, check the SAWS plant finder to find a variety of options.

Most plants grown in shady areas require fewer applications of water – a benefit that yields lower water bills and less outdoor labor. And don’t rule out non-plant solutions for a dimly lit site; a permeable hardscape of crushed granite, stone or mulch can be beautiful and practical.

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