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Jessica Walliser

Too much shade? These 5 blooming plants love it

Jessica Walliser
| Saturday, May 12, 2018, 11:27 a.m.
Shade-loving plants are just as showy as their sun-loving counterparts.
Jessica Walliser
Shade-loving plants are just as showy as their sun-loving counterparts.

Gardeners who deal with shady landscapes are often heard lamenting their lack of sun. They're disappointed they can't grow sunflowers and salvia, but the truth is, there are many annual plants that perform beautifully in even the densest of shade. These shade-loving plants produce beautiful blooms that fill the garden with color, often in conjunction with fabulous foliage.

Though shade gardeners may think they're relegated to using only impatiens and coleus, nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some of my favorite flowering annuals for the shade. All are available from local garden centers and thrive in average garden soil with very little care.

Torenia: Also called clown flower or wishbone flower, torenia is smothered in blooms from spring through fall's first frost. There are two different types: one that's a low-growing bedding plant and another that trails and tumbles over the edges of garden pots and hanging baskets. The flowers are shaped like a short and stocky trumpet, and they come in shades of blue, white, pink, purple and yellow. Torenia makes a great groundcover, container plant or you can add it to a shady corner for a pop of color. There's no need to deadhead, pinch or prune. Just keep it watered and you're all set for a season of color in the shade.

Dragon Wing Begnoias: If you've grown wax begonias in the past, you're all-too-familiar with how uninspiring they are. Yes, they do well in the shade, and yes, they're fairly resistant to deer, but wax begonias seem kind of boring now that dragon wing begonias have come along. These beauties are fantastic! They're far more bold than wax begonias. These fast growers reach a height of 18 inches and branch into a lush, full plant within a few weeks of planting. I grow them in my shady containers every year and have never been disappointed.

Browalia: The purple-blue, star-shaped blooms of browalia look so sweet tucked into a shady border or bed. The plants bloom profusely all summer long on stems that reach up to 18 inches tall. This is a great choice if you're looking for something with a more formal, rounded growth habit. There's no need to deadhead the plants; they generate plenty of new blooms with very little maintenance necessary.

Rufus Fuchsia: If you love hummingbirds, then this upright fuchsia is the shade plant for you! While many fuchsias have a trailing growth habit that's best suited to hanging baskets, ‘Rufus' is an upright variety that stands tall at about 20 to 28 inches high. It grows almost shrub-like and produces clusters of dangling red flowers on the end of every stem. If you can't find ‘Rufus' at your favorite garden center, ask if they have any other varieties of upright fuchsia in stock. Chances are good that they'll have at least one or two other varieties. Look for ‘Baby Blue Eyes,' ‘Beacon' or a red-leaved selection called ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt.'

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender': While this plant is often grown as a houseplant, it makes a great bedding annual, too. The thick, succulent leaves are a dark green on the top and deep purple beneath. Large clusters of narrow, trumpet-shaped, lavender-blue flowers cover the plant all season long. Also called Swedish ivy, Plectranthus reaches between 12 and 18 inches tall. There's also a plectranthus species that has green leaves with a white edging and others that have a variety of leaf coloration, but if you want one that produces lots of blooms, opt for dark-leaved selections like ‘Mona Lavender.'

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.”

Her website is Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

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