Plants for a Colorful Shade Garden

A hosta lover shares some of his favorites among shade-loving plants.

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You can create a lush shade garden with nothing but hostas. Aside from the midsummer flowers, the main show is the beautiful foliage that comes in a wide variety of greens and blues and markings. Here, 'Spritzer' hosta.

Here are some of Driskell's favorites:

Hosta (Hosta 'Spritzer')

The plant: Introduced in 1986 by renowned hosta hybridizer Paul Aden, this unusual hosta has long, pointed leaves (more lanceolate than rounded) and rippling green margins with yellow to cream centers. Growing 18 inches wide by 18 inches in height, the plant grows upright, but with cascading leaves. Funnel-shaped, purple flowers appear in mid-summer. USDA Zones 3 to 9.
How to use it: Given the cascading form of the leaves, this is a good hosta to plant on a slope or in a raised bed or container. Placing it in part sun will bring out the color of the leaves.
Cultivation: This is a disease- and pest-resistant hosta that is rather sun-tolerant. As with other hostas, provide moist, well-drained soil that has been amended with plenty of compost.
Source: Hilltop Farm

Golden variegated bamboo

Golden variegated-leaf bamboo (Pleioblastus auricomus or P. viridistriatus)

The plant: Not as aggressive as other running bamboos, this dwarf plant has slender purple-green canes and sulphur-yellow leaves striped with pale green. The plant grows to about three feet high.
How to use it: This is an excellent subject for a container or for a low hedge in part shade. Very showy in a shady garden. Good companion plants are yellow-spotted ligularia, ferns, hostas and hellebores.
Cultivation: The more sun the plant receives, the brighter the color of the leaves. This plant should be grown in part shade, however, in humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil. In late winter or early spring cut back the old canes to encourage new, brighter leaves. The plant creeps slowly. To be absolutely sure that the plant doesn't escape and invade other areas, install a barrier around the root system if you plant it in the ground.
Source: The Bamboo Garden

'Stiletto' hosta

Hosta (Hosta 'Stiletto')

The plant: This is a small, upright hosta with narrow, dark-green, wavy leaves with a bright cream edge. Introduced in 1987 by hybridizer Paul Aden, the plant at maturity measures eight inches tall by 15 inches wide. The long, narrow leaves measure six inches long by one inch wide. Its undulating leaf formation makes it appear as if it's in motion. Flowers are purple and appear in August. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
How to use it: Because of its small form, it's excellent for a shady rock garden. Also, 'Stiletto' grows quickly so it would be useful for edging a path.
Cultivation: Grow in moist, well-drained, compost-rich garden soil. This hosta will take a half day of sun (preferably in the morning).
Source: Glenbrook Farm

Indian pink

Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica)

The plant: This woodland perennial is native to the southeastern U.S. and in spring produces tubular flowers that are bright red with showy yellow centers. The flowers appear on two-foot-high stalks on plants that form a 12-inch wide clump. USDA Zones 5 to 8.
How to use it: This is a beautiful plant for a part-shade garden. Place it where you can see the bright red and yellow flowers.
Cultivation: Site in part shade in soil that is moist and acidic.
Source: Sunlight Gardens

'One Man's Treasure'

Hosta (Hosta 'One Man's Treasure')

The plant: This medium-sized hosta has shiny, slightly rippled, solid green leaves and highly unusual reddish-purple dots on the top and bottom of the petioles (the leaf stalks). Lavender flowers are held on purple stems (also unusual--hosta stems are normally green), and even the seedpods are purple.
How to use it: This hosta needs to sit up in a container where the red stems can be best appreciated. Or, if you have a wall at eye level, the hosta could be grown on the edge.
Cultivation: Grow in rich, well-drained soil in part shade.
Source: Global Gardens

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