Learning to Design Shade Gardens

This past month, I was asked to design two small shade gardens, so I grabbed my books and went to the Internet to see what did well in Florida. Shade gardens can be limited by the colors used because blooms tend to need more sun, but I feel like these gardens still have a variety of color textures, creating its own foliage beauty. Here is what I came up with:

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Brunfelsia):

This shrub is the centerpiece for this small garden. The blooms are purple, lavender, and white. But that isn’t the best part. The fragrance is AMAZING! These shrubs aren’t picky for soil or light and are easy to care for. Be sure to keep soil moist during dry spells and fertilize in spring. This shrub will grow from 7 to 10 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide. ¹

Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora):

The Autmn Fern or Japanese shield fern is a perennial fern that grows well in Florida. Its foliage can reach up to 2 feet tall. The foliage is a bronze-copper color in spring when the plant is young, then matures to a dark green. The cultivar Brilliance has more reddish to coppery coloring than other species and holds the coloration when it becomes mature. Keep the soil evenly moist. ²

*Cost: $98, mulch included. Plants purchased at Crowley’s Nursery and Gardens. Mulch purchased at Home Depot.


1 https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/yesterday-today-tomorrow/yesterday-today-tomorrow-plant.htm

2 http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3188


Hostas are a good shade-garden plant and were a favorite of mine when I lived in Illinois. I did read mixed reviews on hostas in Florida, so perhaps this is an experiment. They may not handle the heat well. This particular garden spot doesn’t get any direct sunlight, so I hope the hostas have a fighting chance to survive.

Aztec Grass:

This ground-cover grass is another plant that works well in shade and moist soil. This grass can be trimmed one a year. ¹

Tri-Color Ginger:

I chose this Brazilian-native ginger because of the color variety. This ginger does well in humidity and filtered light. It can grow from 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. You can fertilize this plant up to every 2 weeks, though I would suggest adding compost and mulch to add more natural fertilizers. ²

Variegated Ginger

This ginger can be used as a substitute for ginger spice. This plant can grow from 5 to 8 feet tall. It needs to be in moist soil. If the soil is sandy, be sure to add compost and mulch to help remedy the soil. ³

*$68, mulch included. Note: Some of the other plants pictured were already apart of the garden. Plants and mulch were purchased at Lowe’s.


1 https://myperfectplants.com/product/aztec-grass/

2 http://homeguides.sfgate.com/tricolor-ginger-plants-46862.html

3 https://www.gardenguides.com/90603-variegated-ginger-plants.htm




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