Garden Tips

New to planting bulbs? Need helpful guidance and tips to ensure beautiful blooms? Select the Spring Planting Bulbs or Fall Planting Bulbs link below to see a list of frequently asked questions and answers.

What are fall planting bulbs?

Fall planting bulbs are plant species that need to be planted in the ground in the fall before the first hard frost. Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, iris, allium, fritillaria, and scilla require a cold period in order to form roots, and based on lighting and warmth conditions will bloom in the spring.

What should I look for when buying fall planting bulbs?

Look for bulbs that are firm.  Bulbs that are mushy usually have not been kept in a cool dry place and will rot, and therefore, not flower.  As a consumer it is important to understand bulb sizing. While bigger is not necessarily better, it is important to understand what is and what is not a consumer value. For example, top size tulip bulbs have a circumference of 12 centimeters or more. If you are trying to showcase a set of 10 tulips in your yard, look for top size bulbs. On the other hand, if you would like to plant a large bed of tulips for cut flowers or just to display a carpet of spring color, smaller tulips with a minimum circumference of 10 centimeters are perfectly acceptable. The bigger the bulb, the more blooms you get and the larger they will be.  Bulbs will grow larger in the ground after blooming.

How does bulb sizing work and what should I look for?

Since bulbs come from Holland, bulb sizes within the industry are usually given in centimeters and are usually labeled as such by the “cm” notation to indicate the circumference of a bulb (note there are 2.54 centimeters in an inch.) To measure a bulb, wrap a tape measure around widest part of the bulb and measure. The following chart provides a guideline as to what are the minimum and maximum sizes of fall planting bulb varieties.

 

Variety

Top size

Minimum acceptable size

Notes

 

In centimeters

In inches

In centimeters

In inches

 
Tulips

12/+ cm

4.72

10 cm

3.94

 
Narcissus and Daffodils

16/+ cm

6.3

12 cm

4.72

 
Hyacinths

19/+ cm

7.48

14 cm

5.51

Top size hyacinths are usually reserved for indoor forcing. In the garden look for hyacinths size 15/16 cm. Larger hyacinths have a tendency to fall over from the weight of the flower.
Large Flowering Crocus

9/+ cm

3.54

7 cm

2.76

 
Specie or Snow Crocus

5/+ cm

1.97

4 cm

1.57

 
Dutch Iris

9 cm

3.54

7 cm

2.76

 
Specie Iris

6 cm

2.36

4 cm

1.57

 
Large Allium

20/+ cm

7.87

19 cm

7.48

Includes following varieties: Giganteum, Lucy Ball, Stipitatum, Globe Master
Medium Allium

14/+ cm

5.51

12 cm

4.72

Include following varieties: Aflatuense, Christophii, Karataviense, Rosenbachianum, Schubertii, Ivory Queen
Small Allium

4 to 6 cm

1.57 – 2.36

4 cm

1.57

Includes following varieties: Moly, Ostrowskianum, Neapolitanum, Sphaerocephalon
Fritillaria Imperial

24/+ cm

9.45

22 cm

8.66

 
Amaryllis

34/+ cm

13.39

24 cm

9.45

 
Jumbo Amaryllis

42/+ cm

16.54

n/a

n/a

Only a few varieties of Amaryllis grow larger than 34 cm
Paperwhite Narcissus

17/+ cm

6.69

14 cm

5.51

Ask your local retailer for Jumbo paperwhites.
Oriental Lilies

18 cm

7.09

16

6.30

 
Asiatic Lilies

14/+ cm

5.51

12 cm

4.72

 

When should I plant my fall bulbs?

Fall bulbs must be planted in the fall before the first hard frost. It is best to wait until the outside temperature does not reach 65 degrees anymore. If there is a hard frost in the first couple weeks after planting, mulch your beds and remove in the spring. Light morning frosts will not hurt the bulbs.

Oops! I forgot to plant my bulbs this fall. What should I do?

Fall bulbs really need to be planted within 6 months of purchase. Bulbs are dormant, but still very much a living product that need the right balance of water and soil. Leaving bulbs out of the ground for too long will cause them to lose their hydration and die.  If your ground is frozen in December for example, try to wait for a thaw or break in the weather and plant them a little deeper than normal. If this seems an unlikely scenario, plant your bulbs in pots, place them in a cool (not freezing) dark place and water sparingly throughout the winter. When the ground thaws in the spring, you can place the pots in the ground or on your patio. As a last resort you can plant the bulbs in the spring when the ground thaws, but do not expect many flowers that spring. Feed with bulb care fertilizer and you should have better results next spring.

It is not even spring, and my bulbs are coming up, what should I do?

There is nothing you can do, if the weather is unusually warm some bulbs will be confused and start to sprout. The good news is that this means that your bulbs have a good root foundation and no snow to shovel! Most bulbs are resilient and will bloom again in the spring.

Why can’t I plant fall bulbs in the spring?

Bulbs require a minimum cold period of 6 weeks to form roots. If you plant bulbs in the spring they will not have sufficient cold weeks to grow their roots. It also means that the bulbs have been dormant for over 9 months. This long period of dormancy will also affect bulb performance.

What can I do to prevent deer, rodents, rabbits and other animals from eating my bulbs and flowers?

The best remedy for preventing animals from eating your bulbs is to plant bulbs they do not like to eat. While you can spray them with soap, pepper, or a chemical, this tends to wash off after the first rainfall and can be time consuming. Here is a list of bulbs that deer, rabbits, and other rodents do not like to eat:

  • Daffodils
  • Narcissus
  • Hyacinths
  • Allium (all types)
  • Fritillaria
  • Fall Flowering Crocus
  • Iris (all types)
  • Anemones (all types)
  • Scilla (all types)
  • Snowdrops
  • Eranthus
  • Chinadoxa
  • Muscari Grape Hyacinths

What is a hardiness zone?

The US Department of Agriculture and the US National Arboretum have prepared a map representing winter hardiness for certain types of plant material. Most fall planting bulbs are considered hardy and will survive the most severe winters including, tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, crocus, scilla, fritillaria, iris, snowdrops, muscari, eranthus, and chinodoxa. However, if you do live in zones 1 through 4, or if you live in the mountains, additional mulch to protect against severe freezing temperatures (20 degrees below zero) is recommended.

For more details about your specific region please see the USDA Hardiness Zone Map.

I live in a warm climate; which bulbs are best for my area?

The following bulbs DO NOT need to be cooled: Narcissus, Dutch Iris, Anemones, Ranunculus, Freesia, Ixia, Sparaxis, and Amaryllis.

I live in a severely cold climate; are you sure my bulbs will make it through the winter?

Bulbs are extremely hardy as many are indigenous to Europe or Central Asia which are equally cold climates. The following bulbs are very hardy: tulips, daffodils, narcissus, crocus, hyacinth, scilla, iris, and fritillaria. In areas of the country where the average temperature regularly drops below zero we recommend adding a foot of mulch as protection which can be removed in the spring time when the danger of severe freezing temperatures has passed. Otherwise, rest assured, occasional cold temperatures are good for bulbs.

What type of fertilizer should I use?

Fertilizer is not necessary, but for increased performance a small application of Bulb Booster or bone meal is acceptable. It is more important to make sure the pH level of your soil is correct.

What is the right pH level of soil for bulbs?

Having the right pH level in your soil is important to bring out the true flower color. The ideal pH level for bulbs is between 6 and 7. To check your pH level, bring a soil sample to your local garden center or purchase an inexpensive testing kit.

What do I do after my fall planting bulbs have bloomed in the spring?

Let the leaves die down naturally; do not cut them off or mow over them. After bulbs have bloomed it is important to let them rest because during this period, the bulb is gathering nutrients from the soil and growing so that it can bloom again next year.

How do I grow Tulips, Daffodils, or Crocus inside?

The term often used in the industry is “forcing.” However, not all varieties are suitable for indoor forcing, therefore, for best results, look on the packaging of the bulb or ask your local garden center which bulbs are most suitable for indoor forcing.

  • Select a shallow 6″ ceramic pot, and fill the bottom with an inch of gravel. It may be necessary to place a shard of broken pottery or large rock over the hole in the bottom of the pot.
  • Next, fill the pot with moist potting soil.
  • Place your bulbs in the soil mix, leaving just the tips exposed. A good rule of thumb is 15 crocuses, 6 tulips, 6 daffodils, or 3 hyacinths per six inch pot. After you’ve finished planting the bulbs, place the pot in a cool place. A refrigerator works great for this. After the bulbs have been cooled for about six weeks, remove the pot. Place the pot in a sunny, warm location and keep the soil moist but not wet. In a few weeks the bulbs should start growing.

How do I grow Hyacinths inside?

Hyacinth bulbs require a dormancy period in order to flower when forced.

  • Place them in a refrigerator for about six weeks before forcing. After the bulbs have been cooled sufficiently, place them into a special hyacinth vase. These can be found at your local garden center. Add water up to the neck of the vase. Place your hyacinth in the vase.
  • It is important that the water level is kept just below the bulb itself. If the water is touching the bulb it will rot.
  • After a few weeks, roots will start growing towards the water. Once the roots are well established the bulb will sprout, and shortly after that it will begin to flower.

How do I plant Amaryllis bulbs?

Potting Instructions

Place 2 inches of potting soil in the bottom of your pot. The Amaryllis bulb likes to sit with 1/3 of the bulb above the soil line so place bulb accordingly in your pot and gently pack the soil between the roots. There should be about 1 inch of soil between the bulb and the edge of the pot as they like a tight fit.

Watering Habits

Water once when you first pot up your Amaryllis bulb, then sparingly until the sprout is well out of the bulb. Then water regularly, and you will soon be rewarded with the most spectacular blooms, 4 to 6 per stalk and 2 – 3 stalks depending on the size bulb planted.

Aftercare

When blooms fade, cut off the tubular flower stem near the top of the bulb, leaving the foliage to continue growing. Water as usual and apply a water-soluble fertilizer every four weeks. Once the danger of frost is past, you may move your Amaryllis bulb outdoors to your garden where it can enjoy the summer sun. Be sure to continue your fertilizer program every four weeks as this is necessary for the next round of indoor forcing. In early autumn, bring your Amaryllis inside and allow it to completely dry out. Cut off the dry leaves and let it “rest” for 6 weeks. Now repot your Amaryllis in new soil and start the process all over again.

How do I grow Paperwhite Narcissus?

Paperwhites can be grown without going through a cold storage period. Simply fill a pot halfway with soil, set the bulb gently in the soil and pack more soil around the bulbs leaving the tips visible. Water the bulbs thoroughly, allowing time for the soil to absorb enough water so it is thoroughly soaked. Place anywhere in the house and watch them develop. Place them preferably in a window sill where there is plenty of light. If you place your Paperwhites for 3 to 4 weeks in a cooler place (45 – 55 degrees F.) directly after planting, they generally stay shorter which prevents them from falling over when in full bloom.

Special thanks to the Netherland Bulb Co.

A beautiful garden that returns year after year and repels hungry deer sounds like a dream, but it can be real! Create an entire deer-resistant garden using plants these creatures strongly dislike.

Of course, a hungry deer will eat just about anything. These plants repel because they are fragrant, prickly or sap-filled. Utilize them strategically in your garden to keep deer away from favorites such as garden phlox or hosta.

Bee Balm

Bee balm repels deer with its minty scent, but pollinators can’t get enough. Bee Balm blooms in violet blue, red, pink or white from July through August and grows relatively tall, 2-3 feet. Boost your Bee Balm withEspoma’s Organic Flower-tone fertilizer for big, healthy flowers. Best suited for zones 4-8.

Lavender

Besides being a garden must-have, lavender deters both mosquitoes and deer. Its fuzzy and fragrant leaves just do not appeal to deer. Most varieties flower between June and August. Lavender prefers full sun with well-drained soil. Feed with Espoma’s Plant-tone throughout the growing season. Hardy in Zones 5 through 9.

Black-eyed Susans

Named for their dark brown centers peeking out of the gold or bronze petals, black-eyed susans thrive in the sun. Because its covered in course hair, deer and rabbits stay far away from it. These daisy-like blooms are perfect for a late summer or fall bouquet. They tend to grow to about 2 feet tall and handle high heat and drought conditions well. Grow in full sun in zones 3-9.

Yarrow

Yarrow is a vibrant yellow perennial with fuzzy foliage that deers hate. It has a lengthy flowering time from June through September. It is a relatively tall flower with an average growth height of 2.5-3 feet. Give your flowers a strong soil base to help them thrive with Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil. Best suited for Zones 3-8.

 

Foxglove

The colorful bell shaped flower with freckles on the inside is lovely addition to deer-resistant gardens. This plant earns its deer-resistant label because it’s poisonous to deer (and humans). Many foxgloves are a biennial, so flowers don’t show up until the second year in the ground. Newer hybrid varieties are perennial, though. They are self-sowers, so if you leave the stalks in, they will continue to bloom year after year. Use Espoma’s liquid Bloom! to keep the flowers coming. Grow in Zones 4-9.

 

Bleeding heart

Known as a classic cottage staple, bleeding heart has a sap that deer find disagreeable. Beautiful blooms develop quickly in late spring and will last throughout summer and foliage stays lovely into fall. It’s easy to see why their floral pendants, in shades of rose pink and white, will pack a punch. You can never go wrong with a bit of romance. Hardy in Zones 4-8.

Special thanks to Espoma for this garden article.

As your lawn endures the trials of job this summer – drought, pestilence and disease – you must hold to the hope that there is a lush, green turf on the other side of this summer. Has your spring turf been reduced to an arid, brown toasty color? If not, you might want to submit your water bills for federal disaster relief. Dry, scorching heat is the perfect scenario for crabgrass to flourish and bluegrass to perish. What’s needed, of course, is a good, deep penetrating rain.

The large Japanese beetle population will mean a heavier than normal population of grubs. Knowledge is of course your best defense. Here are a couple of suggestion for coaxing your sod through the trials of summer…

Feeding: Your lawn’s nitrogen needs are at their highest in late summer. Avoid fertilizing when temps are about 85 degrees. Supplement this late summer feed (high in nitrogen) with a fall fertilizer that will concentrate on developing the root system. This will build a turf more resistant to drought and pest damage. This might be your most beneficial feeding. You can supply a fall food right into November in most areas.

Pest Control: In late summer and early fall the grub cycle begins as the larvae pupate into the common white lawn grub. At this stage of their development, these grubs are the most vulnerable. Treat infested areas with milky spore, an organic alternative to harsh chemicals. For more information visit the NOFA website.

Watering: A good rule of thumb is to water in the early morning hours. Try to provide at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water through rainfall or irrigation. A deep watering once a week is more beneficial than a series of shallow watering.

Seeding: To repair damage caused by drought, pests and disease, plan on a fall seeding program. Match the grass seed varieties to the conditions. For example, if you have a rocky, sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture well, use a drought resistant lawn mixture featuring turf-type tall fescues (TTTF). Unlike ryegrass that spread by shallow rhizomes, TTTF have long individual tap roots. They are tough, durable and make a long wearing attractive turf. Heavy clay soils might do better with a bluegrass and ryegrass mixture. Fall is an optimum time for seeding. The warm weather speeds germination while the autumn night temps start to drop. Remember to keep the seed moist until established. That might require 2-3 mistings during our “Indian Summers”. The attention you pay to your lawn now will pay big dividends in the fall, the following spring and for years to come.

Much like an artist uses oils, the gardener uses plants to paint strokes of color across the landscape. Part of the art and beauty of gardening lies in the ability to combine nature’s hues in a way that delights the eye and engages the viewer. Some instinctively know which colors work well together and the exact shade to use to perk up a drab border. For others, the process is more hit or miss, moving plants around to find the right combinations. Whether your tastes run to brilliant reds and yellows or restful blues and greens, the secret to creating the look and feel you want in the garden is often simply a matter of understanding the effects of different color combinations.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are those that are closely related on the color wheel. Yellows, oranges, and red-oranges (or blues and violets) used together create a feeling of harmony. Combining analogous colors is perhaps the most popular color scheme used in gardening.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite on the color wheel, such as violet and yellow, blue and orange, and red and green. These colors offer the greatest contrast, so the effect can be bold and dramatic, even vibrating. Be careful not to mix small amounts of complementary colors together, however, as from a distance the colors will tend to blend, appearing gray. Larger areas of one color positioned against an area of its complement will work to create an exciting contrast.

Triadic Colors

Triadic colors are groups of three colors that are spaced equidistant from one another on the color wheel. Using areas of primary colors, such as red, blue, and yellow, together in your garden can create a dramatic effect. As with complementary colors, too many small patches of varying color can create a gray or neutral tone from a distance. Plant larger areas of color to benefit from this electric contrast.

Monochromatic Colors

A single color used throughout the garden can create a wonderful feeling of unity. To keep this area from becoming too monotonous, use plants of varying textures and varying degrees of value (lights and darks). An all-white garden, featuring silvery-greens along with a variety of white blossoms, will impart a feeling of purity and light. You can add hints of pale blue for a cool, quiet mood, or warm things up with a splash of yellow.

Cool colors, such as blues, violets, and pinks, can create a quiet, calming effect, while warm colors, such as bright yellows, oranges, and reds, tend to make a bold and dramatic statement. Placing plants with cool colors, which recede from the eye, behind those with warm colors, which advance, creates the illusion of depth in a small space.

Perhaps the best rule to follow in creating a color statement in your garden is to experiment. Try unusual combinations of color together to see for yourself what works for you in your space. Move plants around…as a color that isn’t quite working in one area may look great in another.

Although gardeners often dream of sun-splashed borders filled with stately perennials, many are discovering that their daisies, daylilies, and daffodils are working overtime, bringing the garden to light…at night! Welcome to the world of the garden after dark.

With busy families finding fewer daylight hours to enjoy their gardens, it makes perfect sense to create a moonlight retreat in which family and friends can gather after hours. Spending balmy evenings out-of-doors is a wonderful luxury after the chill of winter…and during the scorching days of summer, the relative cool of the nighttime garden will come as a welcome respite. For the romantic at heart, few things are more enchanting than a midnight stroll through flowers kissed by moonlight.

How do you begin to create such a paradise? The secret is to select white and pale-colored plants that shimmer in the night. You’ll find that many of your favorite flowers, which you thought only bloomed in blue or hot pink, have been hybridized for white color or a very pale interpretation of their darker counterparts. Annuals like petunias, impatiens, and snapdragons all have white cousins, along with perennials, such as echinacea (coneflower) and campanula. You may also be surprised to learn at what time of day many flowers open. While some, like daylilies, as the name suggests, actually close at nightfall, others, such as evening primrose and moonflower, with its lemony scent, come alive right along with the peepers and crickets.

Just like any other garden, the moonlit garden should be filled with plants of different heights and habits, shapes and textures. Plants with variegated or white-edged foliage like euonymus, ivy, and hosta, add contrast to the garden and will sparkle in the dim light just like the flowers. Shrubs like spirea provide a backdrop for lower-growing plants like cosmos and artemisia, while a well-placed trellis or fence can lend support to lacy curtains of clematis and passionflower. A bench beneath an arbor brimming with white wisteria and climbing roses or a garden swing flanked by fragrant lilac or mock orange is an intoxicating spot to while away an evening. You’ll find that the strong fragrance will not only attract hopeless romantics, but also the “butterflies of the night,” moths, which will flit and flutter throughout the moonlit garden feeding on sweet nectar. Special touches complete the scene: A serpentine path lined with phlox, baby’s breath, and lilies, will invite a leisurely stroll, and a rustic lantern will allow you to enjoy your garden even on those nights when the moon is hidden by clouds.

A warm summer’s night, a trickle of water from a nearby fountain, and some soothing music from a speaker hidden beneath a shrub–the stage is set for spending a relaxing evening with friends and family in the magical land of the midnight garden.

My hydrangea grows beautiful green leaves, but I haven’t seen any blooms yet. How do I get my hydrangea to bloom?

There are a few main reasons that you may not see blooms on your hydrangea bushes: sun exposure, over-watering and over-fertilizing. Endless Summer® hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon dappled shade. If they are planted in full sun, it may be too hot and intense for the blooms to produce. Also, over-watering and over-fertilizing your plants can inhibit bloom production. Hydrangeas prefer moist, but not wet soil, and one application of fertilizer in spring or early summer. For additional planting and care tips, please click here.


I pruned my hydrangeas back after an early frost and now I am not seeing blooms. Why is that?
How to prune hydrangeas is a great question. If you pruned your hydrangeas back to the base, it will take some time for the new growth to develop and produce blooms. Be patient and look for the green growth coming up from the base of the plants. That is where your new blooms will grow from!


I had several small blooms on my hydrangeas last year, so this year I have fertilized every 10 days until I saw blooms starting to develop. What else should I be doing to get big blooms?
The first rule of thumb is to NOT over-fertilize your hydrangea plants. We suggest one application of granular fertilizer in spring or early summer, and then follow package instructions afterwards. If you over-fertilize, it can burn the root system of your hydrangea bushes and actually inhibit bloom production. For more tips on fertilizer and how to achieve big, beautiful blooms, please click here.


My hydrangeas have brown dry spots on the leaves and brown petals on the bloom. What do I need to do to make the hydrangeas healthier?
If the spot is round and brown with a red to purple ring, you likely have Anthracnose. Remove the affected leaves and dispose away from your plants. Treat with a fungicide and repeat as necessary. If the margins of the leaves fade from green to grey and then turn brown, the plants were dry for too long. If the petals of the flowers turn brown at the tip, not enough water was applied. Both the leaves and the flowers will show lack of water very quickly.


I planted my hydrangeas in a location with at least 6 hours of full sun and partial afternoon shade. I read online that hydrangeas prefer that I water them heavily once a week instead of a little water every day. Now my hydrangea bushes are turning brown with no blooms. What am I doing wrong?
Depending on where in the United States you live will determine how much sun your hydrangeas can handle. If you are in a northern state (Zones 4 – 5b), your hydrangeas can handle up to 6 hours of sun in the morning, but as you get further south you should allow for more shade on your plants. In the southern-most regions (Zones 8 – 9), we recommend a maximum of 2 hours of morning sun. Too much sun exposure can cause your hydrangea shrubs to burn on its leaves and blooms. Also, be sure to put your fingers in the soil to see if it needs watering. We do recommend a soak versus light watering each day, but you should be sure that the soil is always moist – not wet – by sticking your fingers in the dirt. If it is dry, give it a good soaking. If it is wet, do not add water. For more information on where to plant and how to water, please click here.


Do these hydrangea plants survive in containers? Our garden gets really hot, so I think a container would be a better option. Do I follow the same care instructions (watering, fertilizing, etc.) as I would in the garden?
Absolutely! Hydrangea shrubs are perfect as potted plants and give you the ability to move the hydrangeas to different locations and create a focal point in your living space. The care instructions are mainly the same, with a few notable differences. For a complete look at container care, click here.


What type of fertilizer do you recommend? I know that hydrangea bushes do best with certain kinds of fertilizer because of their big blooms, but am not sure what to buy!
We recommend a granular, slow-release fertilizer with a NPK ratio of 10-30-10. If you cannot find that specific ratio, ask your local nursery for a fertilizer with a high concentration of phosphorus, as that encourages the bloom growth. For more information, please click here


I bought these plants because I wanted big, beautiful blue hydrangea bush in my garden. I got big blooms, but they are PINK! What did I do wrong?
The pH level of your soil determines hydrangea colors. If you have a pink hydrangea and you want a blue hydrangea, no problem! Pink blooms develop in alkaline soil, so certain amendments need to be made to lower the pH and create an acidic soil situation. We suggest Color Me Blue soil sulfur to encourage blue bloom production. This is safe, organic and all-natural. There are also other natural remedies to changing hydrangea colors. To encourage blue blooms in alkaline soils, add aluminum sulfate, composted oak leaves, pine needles or coffee grounds. There are more tips, including how to change from blue blooms to pink hydrangea, click here.


I planted my Endless Summer hydrangea in an area that is far too sunny and hot, so I’d like to transplant them to a more shaded area. What is the best time of year to do this, and are there any other tips I should know?
If you are transplanting your hydrangea bushes, we recommend doing so while it is dormant.That means transplanting your hydrangea shrubs in late fall, after the first frost, or in early spring before it has woken up for the summer.


I live in an area that gets a lot of snow during the winter. Should I prune Endless Summer Hydrangeas back like I do with my other hydrangea bushes? What else should I do to protect them from the freezing winter months?
The great thing about Endless Summer® hydrangeas is that you don’t need to prune them back to the base like other hydrangeas. Since they bloom on previous years’ growth AND the new season’s growth, you can leave them all winter long to achieve double the blooms next spring. Do NOT prune the hydrangea back in fall. Leaving the fall blooms on your plants over the winter provides winter interest, and ensures you aren’t removing buds that will become flowers in the spring and summer. Leaves, wood mulch and/or straw are good options to insulate your plants. Mound the mulch or leaves around your plants at least 12” high to protect the flower buds that will bloom early next year. For more Overwintering tips, please click here. If your hydrangeas are planted in containers, please click here.

Information courtesy of Endless Summer Hydrangea. Visit website >

Shade plants offer much more color and variety than most of us imagine. Your best bet is to stick with plants that note full or part shade. We find good definitions to be 0-2 hours of sun for shade and 2-4 for part shade, and like some light and bright tones to punctuate shade.

Almost all spring bulbs work in areas around trees, since they will bloom before the tree leafs out. 

For lots of color in shade plants through the season, consider bright annual Impatiens. They’re especially great in two or three rows to create a vivid band of color on the front border. Begonias love shade, too.

Variegated Leaf Shade Plants

A great way to achieve long color in shade gardens is plants with variegated leaves. Mix in some Hostas with large areas of white in their leaves – there are some lovely limes, too. A large blue-green elegans is beloved as a great focal point. Other bright leaves include some ferns, especially the Japanese varieties. The delicacy of ferns’ leaves add beauty in shade plants, and Solomon Seal fills and spreads nicely (great with Dicentra, which dies back in heat). There are probably more varieties than you know – do some searching. One grass, Hakonechloa macra aureola, in gold, grows in shade, as does variegated Lamium and Brunnera with striking leaves and small blue flowers. Caladiums are always stunning – try them with dragon-wing begonia for drama –and most Coleus prefer part-shade.

Spring and Summer Shade Plants that Flower

In the spring, Dicentra, pink or white bleeding heart, tiny flowers on arching stems, are gorgeous and seed freely. Primroses may bloom all summer in cooler areas, and do a spring and fall show in others – they’re small, so plan them at the front. Lily of the Valley has graced gardens for hundreds of years, Pulmonaria has patterned leaves and lovely spring flowers and  Cordyalis brings in yellow accented by ferny leaves.

In early summer, Huechera (coral bells) steal hearts. Older varieties flower in pinks to reds, and newer ones offer purple, orange and lime foliage (but tend to have rather non-descript white flowers). Heucherella and Tiarella (foam flower) are smaller versions of Heuchera with vivid leaves.

Astilbes follow in many pinks plus white, red and lavender, love part shade and provide tall foamy flowers – fertilize them throughout the season and leave the dried flowers on for great winter accent. Aruncus (goat’s beard) is a tall display of foamy white flowers in June and July. Many varieties of Hemerocallis will grow in quite a bit of shade, and Tiger, Oriental, and Asian lilies do well as partial shade plants.

Fall and Winter Shade Plants

Hostas bloom in purple or white, and tall scarlet lobelias are a great accent at the back of the garden.  Sedum Autumn Joy is great in partial shade.

Helleborus, or Lenten Rose, blooms between February and April depending on your Zone.

Shrubs

Kerria Japonica is a true shade plant. Many Hydrangeas, some small decorative maples and Summersweet (needs lots of water) thrive in part-shade.

It’s fun to discover how much you can do in shade, and shade gardens look cool and inviting whatever the temperature.