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The Differences Between Sun and Shade Plants

Posted June 3rd, 2014 by Lyndsey Roth in

Begonia

In June you were probably so excited to plant spring annuals. After the awful winter most of the US experienced, it was time for color in the yard. You bought all kinds of annuals for flower beds and containers. Tuberous begonias overflowed with delicate blooms and you planted them in window boxes, the midnight petunias would be great under the shade tree and impatiens returned this year so they lined your sidewalk. After all the flowers were planted you were convinced the summer would bring you beds overflowing with color.

Now fast forward to the heat of summer and your begonias are burnt to a crisp, the petunias never grew and the impatiens shriveled up and died. Ego crushing to say the least! Do not be dismayed. I work in a garden center and hear countless people planting flowers in the wrong locations. “I planted these petunias a month ago and they haven’t grown at all. Why is that?” The answer is that those petunias need bright sunlight and the shade tree has blocked their light. The opposite scenario is true for the begonias and impatiens. They are shade plants. A lot of people assume that colored blooms automatically mean they belong in sunlight, whereas green foliage plants like ferns and ivy grow in shade. It is quite possible to grow colorful shade plants but bright sunlight will kill a shade plant. The leaves will frequently turn yellow, have burnt edges or die all together.

Luckily for you there is still a little time to correct these lighting problems. It is the middle of summer, but most of the US still has one or two more growing months remaining. Garden centers will not have a large selection of plants remaining, but most still have some options. Your new plants will not grow as large or bushy as if they were planted in spring, but you can still have success. Plus, prices are probably reduced at this point so you can find better bargains. This time you are going to pay attention to the tags, and talk to a sales person. Follow the light guidelines the tags state. A part sun plant means it can have sun and shade during the day. It does not matter if the plant gets morning or afternoon sun, so long as half the day is sun and half is shade.

Many people ask me for plant suggestions when planting in full sun and full shade. There are plenty of full sun plants for you to choose between. The classic options include: geraniums, zinnias, petunias, marigolds and verbena which are affordable options. If you want to try something different try to find nemesia, purple heart, lobelia or Mexican heather. Easy shade plants include wax begonias, tuberous begonias and impatiens. More colorful shade annuals include New Guinea impatiens and Caladiums. Chances are good that the second set of plants you buy will be pot bound and hungry. Replant them sooner than later and a week later feed them a general purpose fertilizer. Remember to water and keep them in the correct light. In a week or two you will see the new batch of plants starting to prosper.

Lyndsey Roth is a frequent contributor to Garden & Greenhouse.

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