Gardeners usually consider shade a liability, but shade gardens can have practical advantages. Plants grow slower in shady conditions, reducing the need for dividing and pruning. Likewise, slow-growing weeds are less of a problem. Plus, a shady garden's combination of dense foliage, cooler soil and decreased exposure to wind keep watering chores to a minimum.
To be a successful shade gardener, you first need to know what sort of shade you have. "Partial shade" means the site receives full sun for several hours a day, but is in light to full shade the rest of the day. "Light shade," or "dappled shade," means that an area receives filtered light through a lacy covering of overhead leaves. "Full shade" is not dark, but direct sunlight rarely reaches the soil level. It still is open, with good air circulation and adequate moisture. "Dense shade" is an area that's completely shaded by buildings or trees, and it's difficult for plants to thrive in such conditions.
When it comes time to choose plants, remember that shade gardens are more about foliage than flashy colored flowers. As you become familiar with the vast palette of shade-loving plants, you will be amazed and inspired by the beautiful combinations you can create. To ensure that a plant's light requirements match the growing conditions you can offer, refer to the cultural information provided on the plant tag, or by the nursery where you purchase your plants.
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