KUSA - Continued hot weather reminds us of how much we value trees in our landscapes. The older the neighborhood, the more likely mature shade trees will dominate. Creating an outdoor living space beneath them is a great way to beat the heat. To make it interesting and colorful, use shade-loving plants for beds and containers.
My shady patio holds several dozen pots. They thrive on benign neglect, getting watered and fertilized infrequently. Best bets for shade containers include begonias--especially the new 'Whopper' begonias, coleus, blood leaf (Iresine) and wood sorrel (Oxalis). Shade-loving houseplants perform beautifully in shady conditions and add height and bulk. Dracaenas, spider plant, palms, ficus, arrow leaf and umbrella plant all enjoy a summer vacation in the shade. All of these require very little care.
Perennials for shaded garden beds aren't nearly as numerous as those that thrive in sun, nor are they as colorful. Shady beds are more of a woodland tapestry than a colorful crazy quilt. Late in the season, hostas are the big stars. These Japanese perennials feature large leaves and spikes of often fragrant lavender or white flowers. There are hundreds of varieties of hostas with showy leaves that may be green, lime or blue-green. Many have white edges or are streaked with lighter stripes.
Hostas do best in shade beneath deciduous trees and soil enriched with organic matter. Deadhead flower spikes after they finish. Hostas are vulnerable to hail (they're big targets) but they only put out one set of leaves each year, so don't cut off only slightly damaged leaves. Slugs will also eat hosta foliage. Major damage is a sign of over-watering.
Other perennials that thrive in shade and require little care include creeping Jenny, lamium, lamiastrum, brunnera, leopard's bane, vinca and Solomon's seal.
Gardening is full of sweaty summer chores. Lighten your load with smart planning and carefree shade plants.
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