See the Progression
This small-space shade garden, above, was planted in an afternoon, instantly adding eye appeal to a front entryway. Here, right, the garden is shown when first planted, just 6 weeks earlier.
Big and Bold
Cannas and elephant’s ears both have large leaves that capture attention even from a distance. The variegated leaves of Tropicanna and Tropicanna Gold canna and the jungle-like elephant’s ears make a dramatic backdrop, adding size and presence to the bed. As a bonus, the cannas will produce flowers later in the summer.
A Boost From Blooms
Shade-loving impatiens and coralbells pack a one-two punch. The hot-pink New Guinea impatiens capture attention from any distance, but the clusters of tiny white coralbell flowers are best viewed up close. And what better place to do that than in a pocket garden near a doorway?
With a wide range of colors and variegated patterns, it’s hard not to find a coleus you like. While it can be used as an accent, with time this foliage plant will grow large enough to serve as a focal point.
Although its shape echoes that of the elephant’s ears, caladium’s variegated leaves are etched with neon colors that simply can’t be ignored. Rather than having it fight it out in the bed with the coleus, the caladium in this garden has its own stage—in a container by the front step.
The more-sedate purple and pewter color of the coralbells foliage balances the highly charged coleus planted nearby. As a perennial, it will return every year as a low-cost anchor plant.
Bigleaf hydrangea has big color, too. It does best with morning sun, afternoon shade and ample moisture. A higher pH results in pink blooms (shown), while acidic soil brings about blue flowers. Even after they fade in late summer, flowers remain attractive.
Shade Garden Planting Plan
- Elephant’s ears (Calocasia esculenta), Zones 8–11 or annual*
- Cannas (Tropicanna and Tropicanna Gold), Zones 8–11 or annual*
- Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), annual
- Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), Zones 5–9
- Burgundy coralbells (Heuchera micrantha), Zones 3–8
- Chartreuse coralbells (Heuchera micrantha), Zones 3–8
- New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), annual
- Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’), Zones 4–8
* Where winters are cold, these tender bulbs can be overwintered in sawdust or peat moss in a cool, dry basement and replanted in spring.