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Planting in the shade and a summer garden tour

If you are like me, and you have a lot of mature trees on your property, you will find you have a lot of areas with either full to part shade, dappled shade, or part sun. So, I thought I would give you a little tour and a few ideas what the best plants are for planting in the shade.

Planting in the shade, what can I plant in a shade garden

Gardening is in my blood. There is something about digging in the soil that is a meditative experience for me. It must be all of those anti-depressants that they say are in the dirt. The minute the temperature rises over 60 degrees, I am outside digging. I actually love turning over the planting beds and tweaking the old ones, and continually expanding my shady areas.

Side yard with HostasLet me start off by saying I love my Hostas. I have A LOT. The thing I love about Hosta’s is they are great filler, blocking out weeds,and mine have come about after 17 years of dividing. They just keep making more. They are the gift that keeps on giving! I am lucky they do well in my Chicago zone 5a, Midwest area. I have about 30 different varieties. They grow really well here and I don’t have any issues with deer, just Mice and voles eating the roots, but my plants are big enough they normally recover from a few winter nibbles. I have a friend who does, and she swears by planting marigolds and other plants they don’t like around her Hosta. But, if you a huge Deer issue, Coral bells are a good alternative, they come in a ton of varieties (you’ll see in my pictures) and the deer don’t really like them. The same goes for Lamb’s Ear, Russian Sage, Monarda, Marigolds, Astilbe, Peonies,Ferns, Lemon Balm (BOMB), and Yarrow. But if your deer are hungry enough, they might eat anything.Other people also love spray on deer repellent, or pet hair. If you have a trick to deter deer and bunnies, feel free to leave it in the comments, I am sure everyone will appreciate your wisdom!

Deck with part shade

One of my shade trees is  a Japanese Maple that loves the shade and the micro-climate off the deck. Many purple leaved trees need to stay in the shade to keep their color. Once hey get into too much sun, they will switch to green leaves to cope with the light exposure. I had that problem with my Forest Pansy Redbud until my Black Maple tree was big enough to shade it enough.

Hosta and shade mixture

Most people don’t know that Hosta will grow in anything from full shade to full sun. I have mine in both. In full sun though, the leaves fry a little bit, so you have to keep them really well watered in the hot ,hot days of summer.  I love my August Moon and Elephant Ear Hosta the most. The August Moon is almost 3 feet high by 4 feet wide and every year he just gets bigger.

Dappled shade mixture

Other good plants for shade are Sedum, Coral Bells, and Spireas,Marigolds, and even perennial Chrysanthemums.

Even if something says part shade or part sun, many times it will do OK in full or dappled shade, it just might not get get as big or flower as much.

Shade loving plants

The same goes for trees. I treat many of my new trees such as  Prairie Fire red flowering crab-apple as under-story trees. They will be slow growers, but that’s fine with me.

Also did you know Daylillies also do fine in full shade, even though they love full sun the most? I love to use them between my Hosta and my Coral bells.

Part shade tree contorted filbert

One of my favorite understory trees is my Harry Lauder’s Walking stick. It doesn’t get as big in the shade as it does in the sun, but it looks really interesting in the winter.

Shade plant ideas

Other plants I have success with planting in the shade are Cherry bells (Campanula).

Cherry bells

In fact, I have to keep an eye on them because they love the shade a bit too much and will go everywhere, the same goes for my Lily of the Valley.

Shade shade garden planting

In my front which gets full sun late afternoon, I have Coleus, Impatiens, Sedum and Coral Bells (Heuchera). Sometimes I find the best shade gardening is repeating the same plants that do well, but in different varieties.

Shade garden

In my back garden which has more Hosta (of course!), I have understory trees such as the Forest Pansy Redbud, a Flowering Dogwood, Black Elderberry and common Juniper. These do really well mixed in.

The biggest trick to shade gardening is varying your color and texture, so the eye doesn’t see one big mass of green, and try to have something flowering all season long, even if it’s annuals like Impatiens or Petunias in raised pots or urns.

New part shade planting bed

This is my brand new part shade planting bed, we threw down a few bags of mulch to keep the weeds down, but really need a few more.  It gets a ton of afternoon sun for my garden,but it still has enough shade, I liked adding the planter just to add some interest until we can fill it in more. But, having the planter with the urn makes it not feel so bare.

Thank you for joining me on a little yard tour! I’ll share again later in the season to see what else is blooming!

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  1. Your yard is so pretty! I love day lilies, the flowers are bright and showy and I think the leaves add a lot of interest to garden beds when they aren’t actively blooming. I’m anxiously waiting for a couple I have to build big enough clumps that I can divide them and distribute them into other beds.

  2. So very pretty! Being from West Texas and now Florida, I always longed for cooler climates! (although I know Illinois gets hot too in the summer).
    I love your hostas and wonder how they might do in NW Florida, so I will have to check that out. I am in a different zone than I have been in all my life, so I am learning about all kinds of plants I never thought I could grow. My all-time favorite is peonies, but not sure if that can be grown here. Everywhere I look are ferns (love those) and azaleas. We are two miles off the gulf coast, so my biggest shock when we moved here, was seeing all the huge forests of pine trees (and black bears). The best surprise was that we have been picking tomatoes for a month now, and okra and peppers for almost that long 🙂 I love when you throw out the gardening tips, btw :))

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