Tom Karwin, on gardening | Shade-loving plants – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Take care of your garden
Overlooking my patio, two Chiltalpa trees are leafing through and will soon provide filtered shade for much of my patio. This unsurprisingly seasonal event prompted planning for a shaded plant patio display of a scale suitable for containers and attractive for close viewing.
Many gardens, perhaps including yours, have shaded areas, and these garden owners will look for plants for those areas every now and then. In this column, we explore the selection of shade loving plants.
Consider the range of sun exposure that individual plants prefer outdoors. The range of exposures can be divided into arbitrary levels: direct full sun (6 to 8 hours / day); more moderate coastal sun; light shade; filtered shade; and full shade (i.e. no sun exposure). We may come across different labels, but the concept should be clear.
The vast majority of popular garden plants prefer full or moderate exposure, but many plants grow best in varying degrees of shade that are individually preferred.
As always, the gardener should gather some basic information about a plant before purchasing it and installing it in their garden. Important information about whether to buy a plant is mature size, moisture requirements, frost tolerance, and sun exposure preferences.
There are other variables of interest: evergreen or deciduous, flower color, flowering time, country / region of origin, disease resistance, etc., but let’s leave these variables to another day. .
For the filtered shade environment of my patio, I have already installed Bromeliads, Aeoniums and a Haemanthus in containers.
Bromeliads include Matchstick Bromeliad (Aechmea gamosepala), Queen’s Tears (Billbergia nutans.), And an unidentified Bromeliad that was a find at the Santa Cruz Garden Exchange. I’m looking to add a Brazilian silver vase (Aechmea fasciata) and two Chilean plants: Calilla (Ochagavia litoralis) and a Fascicularia pitcairnifolia (no common name). These plants are not usually seen on retail shelves, but can be specially ordered from a well-organized garden center.
Aeoniums are native to the Canary Islands, off the Moroccan coast. The popular species, A. arborescens and the cultivar A. a. ‘Zwartkop’ is getting too big for the containers, so I have specimens of these plants in another semi-shaded area, where they are doing quite well.
In the shaded patio, I have smaller Aeonium cultivars: “Silver Edge”, “Sunburst” and “Suncup”.
Finally, the shaded area already has a South African Cape tulip (Haemanthus coccineus). This factory is located near the main group and is not integrated into the other selections.
Here’s a note for plant nerds: Hemanthus, like the popular Naked Lady (Amaryllis), is hysterical, meaning new leaves appear after its flowers have wilted. Plants which have flowers and leaves at the same time are called synanthous.
Developing this display of filtered shade plants, like much of gardening, is an ongoing process of well-planned and fortuitous additions, as well as occasional (hopefully) victim replacements.
In this example, the selection of plants for the main container group focuses on only two genera. Other container displays could be oriented towards themes of flowers or foliage, with similar or contrasting combinations. Every gardener could pursue his aesthetic vision.
Develop your gardening knowledge
If your garden has shaded areas that need to be landscaped or improved, there are good sources of information on suitable plants. The first stop for many gardeners will be Sunset’s Western Garden Book, which lists several trees, shrubs, vines and perennials, bulbs, vines and annuals for shade. Sunset Editor-in-Chief Kathleen Brenzel and Heather Anderson recently published an article on shade plants, available at www.sunset.com/garden/flowers-plants/color-plants-for-shade.
Another useful source for selecting shade-loving plants is the Fine Gardening magazine website. Two recent pieces are “10 Ground Covers for Shade” (www.finegardening.com/article/10-ground-covers-for-shade) and “High-performance Plants for Shade”, with a short video by planter Dan Hinkley (www .finegardening.com / article / high-performance-plants-for-shade-with-dan-hinkley).
Deborah Lee Baldwin has an informative webpage on Succulents That Like Different Levels of Shade (Not all succulents prefer full sun!). Go to debraleebaldwin.com/succulent-plants/shade-succulents/.
Finally, here’s an alert for the next Cactus & Succulent Society of America webinar, which will be on Gasterias. We’ll have more details in next week’s column, but if you’re interested in these plants, mark your calendar at 10 a.m. on May 29. The CSSA has received a strong response to its webinars, which effectively bring expertise to a wide audience. The Company has announced plans to host bi-weekly webinars, so succulent gardeners will have regular access to a series of succulent specialists from around the world.
If a website link doesn’t work for you, remove all spaces in the web address and try again.
Enrich your gardening days
Organizing container plants, whether in sunny or shady situations, involves creative exercises in plant selection, container selection, and designing pleasing combinations of flower color, foliage structure, plant size, and other variables. These attractive challenges arise with small and large groups of plant containers.
It’s a great way to enjoy your garden!
Tom Karwin is the Past President of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and Monterey Bay Iris Society, and a UC Lifetime Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). He is now a board member and garden trainer for the Santa Cruz Hostel Society. To view daily photos of his garden, https://www.facebook.com/ongardeningcom-566511763375123/. To find an archive of previous gardening columns, visit http://ongardening.com.