Shade Annuals for 2014

Yes, our go-to annual for the shady spots in our gardens, the trusty impatiens, is still not available thanks to the downy mildew that attacks it. While that is sad news for many area gardeners, it give us a wonderful opportunity to try some different annuals. Here are just a few for your consideration.

For a brilliant blue purple that blooms throughout the season consider the Browallia. Heat tolerant, successful in light to medium shade, and never needing deadheading, this lovely plant will bloom from the time you plant it until the first hard frost of fall.

Browallia
Browallia

Another option to consider is Torenia. It is a profuse blooming annual that starts flowering early in the season and keeps up the show through fall, also with minimal deadheading. Torenia's bright and quirky upturned flowers give rise to many common names. If you've ever seen one looking at you, you'll understand the name 'Clown Flower'. The name 'Wishbone Flower' comes from the way the anthers arch and join at the tip, when the flowers fist open. Visiting bees break the wishbone while pollinating.

Some of the brilliant colors of Torenia
Some of the brilliant colors of Torenia

You don't need a flowering plant to get brilliant color in your shady garden spots. Those who have yet to discover Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides cvs., USDA Hardiness Zone 11) are missing out on the stupefying number of possibilities they offer. Whether grown in containers or in the ground, used as specimen plants or as partners in a combination, these multicolored beauties perform like nothing else in the garden. Don’t let their beguiling colors prevent you from taking advantage of their other design attributes: Coleus come in different shapes and sizes from trailing varieties to big bushy mounds. From vibrant splashes of color to flowing curves of texture, look no further for the secret ingredient to complete your garden masterpiece.

A border of torenia brightens and softens a shady rock garden
A border of torenia brightens and softens a shady rock garden
A variety of coleus brightens a garden walkway
A variety of coleus brightens a garden walkway
Caladium framing a tree adds an unexpected ring of color
Caladium framing a tree adds an unexpected ring of color

Another annual that is know for its brilliant foliage is Caladium. Tropical plants that originated in the Amazon basin in South America, Caladium leaves can be shaped like hearts, arrows, or lances in color combinations of red, pink, rose, white, chartreuse, and green. The brilliant foliage of this classic plant is often translucent, which makes them light up your garden. For a big show of color, pick your favorite selection and plant a bunch. They’ve brightened shady spots for generations, but now you have the option of newer selections that can take some direct sun.

Yes, we miss the trusty impatients, but growers have developed some beautiful options for the shady spots in our gardens. Wander through your local garden center and let your imagination have fun with these alternatives!