Available in countless shapes and colors, caladiums are a top pick for shady garden beds or containers. Their bold, tropical foliage looks terrific from early summer until frost. Caladiums grow from tubers planted just underneath the surface of the soil.
Growing Conditions: Full sun to full shade (depending on variety) in well-drained, evenly moist soil
Size: 18-24 inches tall; dwarf varieties grow about 12 inches tall
Caladiums in the Garden
For the best effect, always plant caladiums in groups or drifts. They’ll look fuller and add more color, plus they’ll help support each other in strong winds. Here, a mixed group of pink, white, and green caladiums is paired with another shade lover, browallia ‘Endless Illumination’.
The brilliant, oversize leaves of cannas look bold and beautiful no matter where you plant them. These tropical beauties are available with green, bronze, black, variegated, or striped foliage. As a bonus, they also develop flowers in red, pink, orange, yellow, or bicolor. Start them from rhizomes planted directly in your garden after frost danger has passed in spring.
Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist soil
Size: Up to six feet tall
Cannas in the Garden
As versatile as they are beautiful, cannas are one of the best plants to use if you need to screen a view or provide quick privacy. Aside from their towering height, cannas large, paddle-shape leaves will block any view. Here, a clump of Tropicanna canna edges a driveway. Dwarf cannas, which grow two to four feet tall, are a good choice for smaller landscapes.
Once only a shade plant, new varieties of coleus have been developed to grow as well in the sun as they do in the shade. Coleus comes in a mind-boggling array of solid and mixed colors like purple, red, orange, pink, and yellow. Almost foolproof, coleus is a snap to grow, but they can get thirsty and need extra water during dry spells.
Growing Conditions: Full sun to full shade (depending on variety) in consistently moist soil
Size: 18 to 30 inches tall
Coleus in the Garden
A versatile landscape plant, coleus works as well in beds and borders as it does in pots and planters. Just read the label before you buy to make sure you’re getting the right variety for your light conditions. Some varieties still grow best in the shade, while others can handle both sun and shade. Coleus partners well with plants that have flowers in complementary colors, such as fuchsia.
These shade-loving perennials will brighten even the dreariest spot with their pretty foliage. Depending on the variety, hostas can produce blue, chartreuse, emerald green, and variegated leaves. Arching spikes of pink, lavender, or white flowers are a bonus burst of color in summer.
Growing Conditions: Part shade to full shade in well-drained soil
Size: Can vary from four-inch-tall miniatures to four-foot-tall giants
Hostas in the Garden
When planning your landscape, take advantage of hosta foliage in shady spots. Here, a narrow ribbon of hosta ‘Halcyon’ is used to create a “river” of color in an all-green shade garden. Another option is to plant hostas with broad, white-lined leaves along a garden walkway to act as living path lights. Or, mimic the sun peeking through the trees by scattering clumps of sunny, chartreuse hostas in your shade garden.