White Mexican petunia
—LSU AgCenter/ Heather Kirk-Ballard
Get it Growing: Flowering plants for shade
Flowers can add such beautiful color to landscapes. They catch the eye of the beholder and are also loved by garden visitors such as butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Growing flowers in shaded areas can be difficult. But if you’re up for the challenge, you can do it.
Most blooming plants require a great deal of sun to produce colorful flowers. For those of us with heavily shaded areas in our landscape, this can be discouraging. But there is hope. Flowering plants that bloom in shady areas do exist. Let’s explore some of our options.
Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) are a great choice as an annual blooming plant for shade. They come in colors of white, pink, orange, purple and red and do an excellent job of bringing a splash of color to shady areas in spring through fall. They’re an excellent choice for color that you can change out annually to keep a fresh new look. Dark green foliage makes the colors just pop out of the landscape.
Begonias (Begonia spp.) are another great selection for colorful annual flowers for shady areas. Many types of begonias come in a variety of colors and interesting foliage structures. The BabyWing series is a Louisiana Super Plant and Certified Louisiana product. It has performed well in trials and has proven to be more heat- and stress-tolerant than some of the other begonia species. That makes it a great selection as a warm-season annual for Louisiana in shaded areas. BabyWing begonia displays pink or white flowers from late spring through winter frost on gorgeous, glossy, wing-shaped light to dark green foliage, depending on the amount of sunlight it receives. It’s a wonderful addition to a shaded area.
Torenia Kauai series (Torenia fournieri) is another Louisiana Super Plant and Certified Louisiana product for shaded areas with great blooming potential and interest. Kauai Torenia (aka wishbone flower) is a warm-season bedding plant that has performed well in the hot and humid climates of Louisiana in trials conducted by the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station. These annuals are everblooming from midspring until fall and come in an array of colors of burgundy, deep blue, yellow, magenta, rose and white. They make another great selection for color in shaded areas that can be changed out for annual interest in the landscape.
Here are some perennials. Many are traditionally used in and will do well in full sun, but they also have been shown to perform well in shaded areas.
Indigo plant (Indigofera kirilowii) is a deciduous ground cover with a spreading form that is a great understory plant for larger trees and in shaded areas to add color to your landscape. It displays a pink-lavender flowering raceme cluster that looks very similar to a wisteria flower. It’s a great selection for its delicate, interesting foliage and gorgeous flower clusters.
Bees and hummingbirds love dwarf red powder puff tree Nana (Calliandra haematocephala Nana). It has the most interesting red flowers that resemble the flowers of a mimosa. It’s a tropical that performs well in the full sun and it will bloom continuously throughout the year. But is also blooms well in shady areas. This small-to-medium-sized naturally evergreen shrub is also good choice for shady areas and as an understory plant.
Chenille plant (Acalypha pendula) makes an interesting addition for shady areas. This spreading ground cover displays medium green oval leaves on trailing stems with red flowers that look like cute little fox tails. It makes a great border plant for shaded areas and is sure to grab the attention of houseguests. Often used as a hanging basket specimen for its spreading form, it will overwinter well and add color to shaded areas. This plant can take full sun but performs well in shady areas.
Dwarf Mexican petunia, also known as Dwarf Katie ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana Katie), is another fantastic blooming perennial selection for shaded areas. The flowers come in white, pink and purple on dark green foliage that has great texture. This variety will bloom all summer long and into fall. It has a spreading-mounding growth habit that is wonderful and has no real disease or insect issues. It can tolerate the heat, humidity and droughts of Louisiana without missing a beat.
Ligularia (Farfugium spp.), also known as leopard plant, is an evergreen perennial selection for shaded areas. Yellow blooms provide color late summer through winter. Large evergreen, glossy, lily-pad-shaped foliage adds interesting texture to your shaded landscape.
Liriope (Liriope muscari), also known as lily turf, is another flowering evergreen perennial plant for shaded areas. It has the appearance of a grass with purple flower spikes that appear in early summer. It is great as a border plant or for mass planting.
If these plants are to be installed directly underneath trees, be careful when digging around them. You need to be careful not to damage any large tree’s root system. When possible, try to avoid cutting any roots larger than 1 inch in diameter. Working the soil can be done most easily by using a gardening fork rather than a shovel to turn the soil under the tree. The fork will damage fewer roots as you work the area to prepare to plant.
There are so many plants to consider when working and planting in a partially to fully shaded areas that can add a colorful pop to your landscape. Go give some of these a try.