Green Circle Growers Blog

Type of Shade Determines Plant Choices in Shade Gardens

Green Circle Growers - Friday, July 22, 2011

Hostas and Hardy Ferns are the usual stars of shady garden areas. Their lush, green, leafy growth provides dependable filler in garden areas that receive little to no sunshine. However, over-use of these two shade garden stalwarts has diminished their star power. When we see a bed of hostas spreading under a shady maple, we’re more apt to think “ho-hum” than “wow.” There’s no reason not to use hostas and ferns in shade plantings, but perhaps it’s time to relegate them to the background chorus and introduce some new stars to shade gardens.

A wonderful variety of attractive leafy and flowering plants thrive in partial to full shade (see our previous post); the trick is to match plants to the type of shade the garden bed receives. There are 3 basic types of shade:

  • Light shade – areas that receive a maximum of 2 to 3 hours of shade per day
  • Medium shade (also, partial shade) – areas that are shaded for half the day but receive sunlight during the other half
  • Full shade – areas that receive no direct sunlight

Shade can also be dry or wet. Dry shade occurs when a dense tree canopy or overhanging eaves on a building prevents rain from reaching the ground. If a significant amount of rain or storm runoff reaches the shaded ground, the result is wet shade.

It is important to determine what kind of shade is present in a shady area before selecting plants. This can be easily accomplished by simple observation. Over several sunny days, make note of when and how long a shaded area is actually in shade and how many hours of sun it receives. You can determine whether shade is wet or dry by examining the soil after a typical rainstorm. Armed with this information, you will be able to select plants that will thrive in specific shade areas in your yard.