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Celebrate the Shade with Nine Fine Annuals that Thrive in Lower Light Gardens

Colorado’s brilliant sun means we can have amazing color in our gardens.  But if your yard isn’t all about sunny spaces, you still don’t have to settle for boring plants. Just visit the shade section of Tagawa’s Annuals Department and you’ll see what I mean.

I did just that, and look at some of the dazzling things I found!

Not too many plants prefer “full shade”

For all shade, all the time, try a beautiful fuchsia!

Fuschia at Tagawa Gardens

Fuchsias come in both cascading and upright varieties.  The trailing types are absolutely stunning in hanging baskets well sheltered from sun or damaging winds.

The intricate blossoms seem other-worldly and come in combinations of pink, purple, lavender and white.  Fuchsias prefer well-drained but consistently moist soil.

Flowers for “early morning sun”

Some of the varieties of flowers in Tagawa’s shade department feature plants that can take early morning sun, but nothing stronger.  Begonias fall into this category.

Let’s start with one of my favorites,  Nonstop begonias.  

These begonias get their name from their lovely habit of blooming continuously from last frost in the spring until first frost in the fall.  Big double- and semi-double blossoms come in a wide range of colors, including the canary yellow shown above.  Foliage may be green or bronze.

Nonstop begonias prefer rich, evenly-moist but well-drained soil.  They’re stunning in large pots and allowed to spill over the side.

Also in the begonia family:  Reiger begonias.  

Riegers may take a bit more light than the Nonstops, but not much.  They’re a cross between the tuberous and wax begonias.  Blossoms are smaller and more clustered.

Rieger begonias will give flowers all season long in baskets, pots or beds.   They should be watered thoroughly then left to dry slightly, until the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.  They are not good candidates for locations that receive overhead watering.

An impatiens of a different sort

If you garden in the shade and haven’t tried New Guinea impatiens, now’s the time!  They’ll take early morning sun to shade.

The New Guineas offer big, densely-colored flowers in white, pink, slamon, red, rose and fuchsia.  The plants have an upright and mounding growth habit and prefer early morning sun to shade.  They’re excellent in hanging baskets or containers.

They prefer evenly-moist but well-draining soil.  New Guineas do not get downy mildew that frequently attacks the old-fashioned varieties of impatiens.

If you’re interested in elegant simplicity….

If a sense of sophistication in a flower appeals to you, take at look at Calla lilies.

Callas offer single smooth, deeply cupped flowers on top of tall stems.  Flower colors include yellow, deep pink and white.  Callas need moist soil and protection from intense heat.  They will bloom from spring to mid-summer, when the hotter weather shuts them down.

Plants for “morning sun” only

A lot of beautiful flowers perform wonderfully in locations with morning sun only.  Let’s start with Regal geraniums, also known as Martha Washington geraniums.  Don’t let the name “geranium” mislead you.  These are not the tough-as-nails geraniums that are such a workhorse in our hot summer gardens.

Regals will not be happy in Colorado’s strong mid-afternoon sun.  They’ll thrive in a morning sun location in containers or beds.  Their best performance comes while night temperatures are still on the cooler side.

Regals offer stunning bi-color blossoms in a variety of color combinations.  Their saw-toothed foliage is a big plus, too.

If you need a little blue in that shady garden…

Browalia may be the purr-fect fit!

Browalia is also known as “Bush Violet,” for obvious reasons.  This under-used shade-loving flower cascades and blooms freely if it’s in the right location.  It’s ideal in containers and hanging baskets.  Browalia prefers cooler locations and does best in fairly moist, but not soggy soil.  It makes an excellent companion to other shade plants like impatiens.

And now for something bright and bold!

Gerbera daisies have been a gardening staple for years, but they can be a challenge if they’re not grown in the right conditions.

Gerberas don’t like to get too hot.  Give them morning sun only, protect them from the wind and keep them evenly moist.  They’re ideal in containers, where it’s often easier to give them a bit of TLC, then watch the show of big daisy-like flowers take center stage.

Gerberas’ tall, sturdy stems make them excellent as cut flowers.  They come in a rainbow of colors including pink, orange, red and yellow.

Another big, showy flower: Dahlias

Like the gerberas, dahlias can put on a stunning display!  And with a little effort, they can return to your garden from one summer to the next.

It’s easy to understand why some gardeners are devoted to dahlias.  Their variety of color and form is hard to beat.  They like good light, but don’t appreciate hot sun, so planting in a morning-sun-only location can be the perfect answer.

Dahlias stand up on sturdy stems and do well in beds or containers.  They make excellent and eye-catching cut flowers.

Dahlias are tubers.  They won’t survive our winter temperatures in the ground, but if you carefully dig up the tubers after the first light frost, they can be stored over the winter and re-planted the following season.  Check with our Garden Advisers at Dick’s Corner for details on how to properly store them and re-grow them the next year.

If your garden includes a lot of shady spots, check out the shade section of Tagawa’s Annuals Department.  You’ll find lots of great plants and experienced staff to help you light up those darker spaces and make them come alive with color!