Mother Nature Is Always Right

This post, “Mother Nature Is Always Right” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana


The one piece of gardening advice I have to give is don’t fight Mother Nature.  If a plant needs sun, don’t try to grow it anywhere else.  If it needs part shade, don’t try to grow it in the sun.  Good drainage?  Grow it where it will not sit in water.  Label says it grows five feet wide and ten feet tall?  Don’t place it where it can’t spread out.

Trying to plan what to plant in the shade can be a challenge.  As a gardener who has a great deal of shade from tall pine trees, a big magnolia and a two-story house, I have had to learn to deal with shade.  Deep shade, dry shade, wet shade, dappled shade.  I have them all.  I learned through trial and error what will or will not grow in shade.  And believe me, there has been a lot of error.

Shade doesn’t have to mean just green.    Impatiens will bloom in shade, and they last from spring until the first frost.  Caladiums, variegated or golden-hued hostas, and coleus will give shade colors that pop.  But, by no means, are these more common plants the only ones to look for in a shade garden.  Hellebores do well in dry shade.  I can even grow them in my zone 8 Coastal Southern garden.  I also use hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) which blooms summer into fall with pink flowers.

 There are also plants like variegated lirope or English ivy that I have growing on the north side of my house next to a large planting of bamboo.  They add color along with the variegated toad lily.  So don’t think of just flowers.  Persian shield, sedges, perilla, the spotted aspidistra, and acanthus also work well for me in shady areas.

I also use hanging baskets of begonias and plectranthus mona lavendar to add color.  In some areas, esp. the dry shade with tree roots, I set out potted plants of angel wing begonias, alocasia, and wax begonias.

One thing to keep in mind when planting in the shade is to first amend the soil.  I use a great deal of compost that I make myself.  I am lucky that I have a large oak tree that makes fantastic leaf mold.  That, along with the other material I compost, gives me a way to improve the soil.

So years ago, I gave up trying to fight Mother Nature, and now I make sure to place plants where they will be happy and will thrive.



  1. Brenda Kula said,

    March 13, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Best advice to take. It’s just like relationships. You can’t change other people. Nor can we change a plant’s inherent needs. Like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Just doesn’t work. I myself love shade-inclined plants. Hostas are a particular favorite, as well as ferns.

    Sometimes we just have to face reality and not ignore it. For a plant to be happy, it is just like real estate – location, location, location. Plant it where it will grow. I have a few hostas; sometimes it is a challenge to grow them this far south. Since Katrina took out several large trees, I have more sun and can finally have some of the plants that I’ve always wanted. However, there are still large areas of shade that I have to deal with.

  2. Phillip said,

    March 13, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I started out with mostly sun and I now it seems I have more shade. All those trees I planted! Anyway, the shade is surely appreciated when it starts to get hot. But I do cringe when I see my roses suffering. I guess we can’t have everything! I’m always looking for plants that do well in shade. Great post!

    Thanks, Phillip. With all of our shade, I have often had to move plants to where they can get more sun. Sometimes I think my property looks a little lopsided with so many blooming plants in the areas where the sun shines. This is something I am working on – balancing out the shade and sunny areas.

  3. Randy said,

    March 13, 2008 at 11:57 am

    You are absolutely right. No one knows better than Mother Nature. Since there were three HUGE trees in the yard and now there are none, it’s going to be interesting to see how all those plants fair in this Alabama sun.

    I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised at how your garden is going to change. I found out that many plants that were in partial shade became thicker and more vigorous with more sun.

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