Thanks to the magnificent mature live oak in my front yard, my front yard sails through summer. The plants there have their own "beach umbrella" thanks to the oak's leafy canopy. We had no idea how beneficial large trees can be until we embarked on our grand yard makeover. We have been amazed at how well the oak canopy insulates our plants from cold in the winter, and from heat in the summer. The plants under the oak also require much less water than those in full sun, thanks to both the shade and the free mulch provided by the thick layer of oak leaves.
The oak tree keeps us cool too. What's not to love?
|My front yard, shaded by a large live oak|
In our backyard, which is shaded by two large elms, many of the Ocala anise shrubs we planted along the fence line are struggling. They like wet feet to begin with, and the elms are hogging all the water. Additionally the roots of the elms are so numerous and densely packed that the roots of the anise have literally no room to spread out. The anise shrubs farthest away from the elms are flourishing; those closest to the elms have barely grown since we planted them two years ago. A classic case of "wrong plant, wrong place." I finally took the pathetic anise shrubs out and am mulling over what to try in that area next. Suggestions, anyone?
Unlike the elms, the live oak coexists beautifully with other plants. I continue to marvel at the variety of shrubs, groundcovers and even flowers that bask in its leafy embrace.
Many people seem to think the areas underneath large trees are destined to be dead zones. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here are my top six favorite shade plants. Six because five just wasn't enough!
This native hydrangea produces large, showy leaves and gorgeous clusters of white blossoms. Give it lots of room -- it can get big and wide, but what a showstopper!
|Cast Iron Plant|
Cast Iron Plant
The ultimate trouble-free shade champion. Its tall, glossy, deep green leaves look great in mass plantings under a tree.
A lovely low-growing groundcover, with wide leaves and delicate purple flowers. I have seen peacock ginger thriving in rain gardens, but mine is very drought-tolerant in its shady home and spreads readily.
Another Florida native, named because its crushed berries were used in cosmetics. Pretty pinkish-white flowers and red berries grace this small shrub that will reach only 5-6 feet in height. Very shallow-growing, thin roots make this a great choice beneath trees.
|'White Christmas' Caladium|
Thanks to Hoe and Shovel blogger Meems and Central Florida Gardener blogger Susan, I am now a passionate fan of these summertime splashes of color. Pick your favorite, or mix and match light and dark-leaved varieties, and you'll have stunning color in your shade garden all summer. And, they'll pop back up all by themselves every year!
|Neoregelia 'Orange Crush'|
Another perfect plant for adding color to a shady area. Bromeliads come in an amazing variety of styles and colors. Some produce stunning flower spikes; others climb, and others have richly colored foliage. My favorite: Neoregilia 'Orange Crush'
Now it's your turn. What are your favorite "made in the shade" choices?