Toni Reale | File Photo

Many look at the shady spots in their yard and only see problems or disappointment. Instead, think of those spots as an opportunity to plant some fun varieties that you’d miss out on otherwise. Try these five plants to transform your shady spot into an area that you can find joy on those oppressive mid-summer days. 

Giant Elephant Ears 

Alocasia macrorrhiza, commonly known as Giant Taro or Giant Elephant’s Ear, is a show-stopper of a shade plant. Their mature size alone is remarkable. The shape of the leaf resembles an elephant’s ear with ruffled edges. These plants grow quickly with little maintenance. While they will die in the frost, they will come back year after year and spread. The sap of the plants can irritate hands, so don’t let your kids play with them. (Unfortunately, I know this first-hand after my kids cut them, and the sap made their hands feel as if on fire.)

Tractor Seat plant

Farfugium japonicum, or the Tractor Seat plant, is becoming very popular in Lowcountry landscaping, particularly the variegated kind. Its interesting shape pairs well with most other shade plants as it really doesn’t look like anything else. It shoots up a petite yellow flower in the fall that attracts pollinators. These are slow-growing so it’s better to plant more than you would with a fast-growing plant. You can divide the clumps in the spring to spread out their coverage.

Fringe tree

Chionanthus virginicus, otherwise known as the Fringe Tree, is blooming right now all throughout the Charleston-area. This Southeastern native tree is petite and has beautiful showy ivory-colored flowers that resemble fringe. In the fall, birds are attracted to the small berries it produces. 

Japanese pieris

Pieris japonica’s bell-shaped flowers would be a beautiful addition to your shade garden. They are evergreen bushes with floral varieties in white, pink and dusty rose. The flowers make an excellent cut flower with a long vase life. This shrub will mound and grow over time, so be patient.

Plantain lilies

Hostas, or plantain lilies, are a no-fuss option for shade gardens. There are more than 40 varieties, some of which are variegated and really stunning. There’s no shortage of hostas to fit your overall design aesthetic. They also make a great border or edging. They spread overtime through underground runners and will fill in nicely.  Note: Deer love hostas so they might not be good in some suburban environments.

Autumn ferns

Hands-down, my favorite fern to plant in a shade garden is the autumn fern. It is unique in that its leaves emerge a copper color that matures to dark green. These plants will spread and fill in the shade garden. Don’t fret when they die back as they will emerge in the spring. 

As you plan your shade garden, take into consideration the growth habits of each plant selected and how one might impact another. Additionally, think about color when choosing your varieties. The plants in this article are low maintenance, but they do need some care. Be sure to keep the soil moist and pay attention to the leaves to ensure that nothing is getting over or underwatered. With any plant, research its optimal environment to create that at home. Set yourself up for success and some shade loving times this summer!

Toni Reale is the owner of Roadside Blooms,
a unique plant, flower, crystal, and fossil shop
in Park Circle in North Charleston.

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