By Keri Byrum
Does a large tree or a building shade your yard? Embrace those conditions and bring your landscape to life with color and texture.
Shade can change throughout the year. Before planting, consider the shifting angles of the sun’s rays; parts of your yard may receive much more sun during summer, when the sun is most intense. Shade plants should avoid midday sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. but many grow well with early-morning or late-day light.
I like to use fatsia (Fatsia japonica) for its large, tropical-looking leaves. This evergreen provides a great backdrop to a variety of other plants. Fatsia is slow growing, so it doesn’t require much maintenance.
To create a landscape that “pops,” go for a layered effect by combining different textures and colors for depth. For instance plants with white in their leaves or flowers almost glow in dark settings.
One example is white caladium, pictured, which greatly adds depth and interest to a shade garden during the warm months. You can plant caladiums as bulbs or plants, and they’re a good option for areas with lots of tree roots. Simply spread the bulbs in your garden bed, and cover with a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch for easy planting.
Lighter shades of green or chartreuse, such as of these foxtail ferns (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myersii’), stand out against darker-green leaves and complement the textures and forms of other plants. These plants stay as a single clump, but their stems spread out like plumes. Foxtail ferns are very hardy and do well in dry areas, too.
Try plants traditionally used as houseplants. Our warm Gulf Coast climate is favorable, and these plants are already well-adapted to low-light levels. This sansevieria (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Black Gold') is well suited to move from the living room into the garden.