Beautiful gardens in sun or shade

While you may love the look of a certain flower, if your light conditions are the wrong fit, you’ll wind up wasting time and money. Getting the right flowers for a yard with full sun versus shade is a key step when doing any planting. We asked two local experts for tips on what to buy and where to plant it.

Judging your space

Sometimes it’s obvious when your garden is fully in the sun or completely shaded. Other times, it can be tricky to tell how much sun is really “full sun.” After all, most gardens do get a certain amount of sunlight.

“A full sun garden gets south or west exposure during the hottest part of the day – from 11 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m.,” said Lois Henn, the perennials manager for Grandma’s Gardens in Waynesville. Plants in these gardens need to be able to stand up to the heat.

“Shade plants belong in the cooler sun or morning sun from the east or north,” Henn continued. “Or in areas blocked by houses or trees. Direct cover plays an important part in placement.”

With any new plant, it’s important to read the information on the tag to ensure you have the conditions to place it and care for it properly.

Let the sun shine

Sun-loving perennials come in a wide range of colors and sizes. As a bonus, many are very easy to care for – some don’t even like much water.

Henn recommended coneflowers or Echinacea, which are traditionally purple, but now come in a variety of colors and with double petals.

“Once established, they are drought tolerant,” she said. “They don’t like a lot of water.”

She also suggested lavender, Shasta daisies, sedum and black-eyed Susans as low-maintenance, full-sun-tolerant perennials.

If you like to change the look of your garden from year to year, consider annuals. Candy Fugate, annuals manager, also with Grandma’s Gardens, suggested lantana, a bright, drought-tolerant and deer-resistant annual. Supertunias are somewhat drought tolerant and do well in full sun, as well as million bells.

Succulents are also a good full sun choice and can be taken inside the house once gardening season ends, Fugate said.

Made in the shade

In shady spots, most perennials “are for foliage effect,” said Henn. “They have a short bloom time.”

She suggested astilbe and said, “They have a really good plume with color and vary in height.” Another good choice is brunnera, which “has a bloom like a forget-me-not.” When the plant is done blooming, the silvery leaves provide nice color to a shade garden and help to fill in bare spots. “They take up a good chunk of real estate once established,” Henn said.

In the annuals department, the options for flowering shade plants are also few. However, Fugate said, “They’ve come up with new varieties of begonias like bonfire and bon bon cherry. Since there aren’t a lot of flowers for shade, it helps to have these new varieties.” The flowers are as vibrant as their names suggest.

As another option, Fugate suggested that gardeners “use houseplants that don’t take as much sun. You can use houseplants and tropicals in containers.”

Full sun plants like to be dry, but most shade plants prefer to stay watered. Henn stressed the importance of determining via info tags and sheets whether your particular plant needs dry or wet shade. Fugate concurred and added, “Use your fingers to see if the top half of the soil is dry or wet. Watch your plants – they’ll tell you what they need.”

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