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Southern California Gardening: Growing a Garden in the Shade

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Shade is a valuable commodity in Southern California. Here are some ideas for low-light areas of the garden.


By Evelyn Alemanni

Shade in Southern California is a valuable commodity. Having shade means you can use less water, and plants don’t turn crispy on hot, windy days. Also, gardening in the shade keeps you from getting overheated and helps you avoid sunburn.

Where we live, shade often results from structures rather than trees. Regardless of your source of shade, it’s important to remember that hours of shade vary as the sun shifts on the horizon during the year. In winter you may have more shade than summer. Even the time of day affects how much shade you enjoy.


Although many plants require at least 6 hours of sun to thrive, many flourish in shade. Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), with their large mopheads of flowers, are shrubs I can depend on in my yard’s treasured little bit of shade. It’s fun to dry the flowers and use them for wreaths and dried-flower arrangements.

Fuchsia Angel Earrings

Upright fuchsias, such as Fuchsia Angel Earrings, are shade tolerant. Their charming flowers add captivating color to the shade garden — and they make lovely accents in bouquets, pictured. You will be amazed by how tall these fuchsias can grow. In Ireland they are hedges.

Foxtail fern

Whether blooming or not, camellias (Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua) are other lovely flowering plants for shady situations.

Gardeners often look to ferns for low-light areas. I like foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers') because it is drought-tolerant, rabbit resistant, and the snails leave it alone. In fall and winter it sports small, red berries for a festive holiday look.

Caladium ‘Sweetheart

Gardeners sometimes find it challenging to create color spots in shade, and this is where caladiums rush to the rescue. Their large foliage comes in many colors, bicolors, and variegated forms — ranging from white through many shades of pink, apricot, and red — that can light up a planting bed. 


Did you know you can grow vegetables in shade? While most vegetables take all the sun you can give them. But lettuce, pictured, broccoli, beans, chard, kale, carrots, spinach, and scallions tolerate partial shade.

Go ahead — be creative and mix vegetable plants with your other shrubs. Your garden will have it made in the shade!

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