Summer Annuals for Shade
Annuals bring non-stop color to the garden. While there may not be as many options for shade as in sun, shade annuals are a great way to brighten up dark spaces. Read on to learn about some of the best plants for shade.
An old fashioned annual, Begonia is easy to grow and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance to thrive. They can be grown in sun or shade in light, rich soil. Mix compost or a soil conditioner with high organic content to your native soil before planting for best success. Begonias don’t need much fertilizer, but appreciate a light feeding of balanced fertilizer about once a month. Flowers persist all season until temperatures dip into the 50s at night.
Wax Begonias are the best-known group of Begonias, but you’ll find many other varieties available in our garden center as well, such as Rex Begonia, Angel Wing Begonia, Dragon Wing Begonia, and Tuberous Begonia. Rex Begonias have strikingly colorful leaves and make great houseplants (you can find them in our greenhouse year-round) or summer annuals. Begonias are usually red, pink, or white, but there are a few yellow and orange varieties as well.
Impatiens are one of the most popular annuals because they bloom so reliably in the shade. You’ll find them in a wide array of colors, including pink, red, white, coral, and purple. Two species are readily available: Impatiens walleriana, is used mostly as a bedding plant, while the slightly showier Impatiens hawkeri (New Guinea Impatiens) is often used in container gardens. In recent years, SunPatiens have been developed, which thrive in both shade and sun. Both SunPatiens and New Guinea Impatiens are resistant to downy mildew, which is more prone in the walleriana bedding plants.
Even growing in the shade, Impatiens are thirsty plants. In summer they may need between 2” - 4” of water a week. They will wilt without enough water, but will bounce back if you water them before they dry. Fertilize twice a month with a liquid fertilizer through summer. Prune back by a third as needed if plants become leggy.
Also known as the Wishbone flower, Torenia is related to snapdragons and foxglove and has similarly shaped tubular flowers. Over the growing season, plants will form trailing mounds up to 12” tall and 9” wide. Flowers are typically yellow, pink, purple, or white. Hummingbirds are attracted to it but deer don’t seem to bother it.
Use Torenia as a trailing plant in a container, or in the landscape as a groundcover or border plant. Torenia likes moist, rich soil high in organic matter and part shade. Fertilize once or twice a month with a fertilizer that his high in phosphorus for best blooming.
A fabulous plant grown primarily for its foliage, Coleus brightens up any shade garden with a multitude of colors, sometimes on a single plant. Leaf patterns are diverse and may include yellow, orange, red, pink, purple or green, or some combination of these colors. Coleus grow best in containers, preferring a loose soil. Some varieties can tolerate sun, but the majority are shade lovers.
Keep soil moist because Coleus is not very drought tolerant. Coleus also has a tendency to grow leggy, so regular pinching back is vital to maintain a bushy plant. Many Coleus can get quite large and grow fast. Occasionally, Coleus may send up a few lavender blue flower stalks, which although not particularly showy, are attractive.
Polka Dot Plant
These colorful plants, as you might guess from their name, have spotted red, pink or white foliage. Add it to container gardens as mounding plant that may tumble slightly over the edge, or use as a border plant in the landscape.
Polka Dot Plant can be grown indoors or outdoors. When grown outdoors, wait until temperatures reach 60 degrees before planting. Make sure you give it moist but well drained soil with a good amount of organic matter. They do not usually need fertilizer when grown outdoors.