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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Shade Plant Selection for the Desert

Q. My garden has matured and now I have flower beds that are shaded.  What plants grow in the shade here and where can I buy them?
A. I hesitate in answering plant selection questions sometimes because I do not know what the nurseries are carrying as well as I might. It can be a problem for me to recommend plants and then you go and find out they are not available. The recommendation is not a problem so much as whether you can find it anywhere. Frequently plant recommendations become circular, going back and forth with both of us frustrated.

Shade is different for different plants. Shade for vegetables is light to very light shade, no more than 30 to 40%. In even light shade, some plants like okra produces beautiful foliage and flowers but produces no fruit. Going over 40% shade will oftentimes result in no production of fruits like tomatoes for instance. While leafy green vegetables can handle more shade than flowering or fruit-producing types. This translates over to ornamental plants as well.
Generally speaking for shady spots stay away from plants that produce flowers. Flowering plants normally require more light than nonflowering plants. In the old days of Las Vegas we would see a lot of ivies; Boston, Needlepoint, Algerian, etc. They were tough and did well in the shade and water was plentiful. Water is more expensive than it used to be and landscapes are much drier now.

My best advice is to send you to the nursery and ask for some recommendations. If you have the time, get five or more recommendations and then I can run down the pluses and minuses of each.

A2. Response from Andrea Meckley (Andrea.Meckley@aol.com)
Here are a few flowering plants I have found that work in the shade:
  • ·       Lily Turf
  • ·       Ajuga
  • ·       Vinca minor (Periwinkle)-aggressive ground cover
  • ·       Begonias (annual)
  • ·       Kalancohe (annual)
I also use plants with colorful foliage in shade for color:
  • ·       Nandinas
  • ·       Coleus (annual)
  • ·       Aucuba japonica
Andrea Meckley, CH
Horticultural Consultant and ASHS Certified Horticulturist

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