The first Sunday of the new year is here. It seemed like the first Sunday of 2008 was just yesterday.
Along with the start of the new year comes the start of a new gardening year. Right now, we are looking forward to the coming of spring with all the flowers in bloom. We start the new year with the expectation that we will receive plenty of rain, have very few insect and disease problems and the summer temperatures will be mild. We do not have control over the amount of rain or the temperature, but we can control the insects and diseases that our plants receive.
Plants that are not stressed and are growing have fewer problems than plants. One of the stresses on plants is shade. I have had numerous questions lately on how to get plants to grow well in the shade. To get plants to do well in shade, you need to have the right plant and properly prepared soil. You also need to change your management to meet the needs of these plants.
The first step to having success growing plants in the shade is to choose the right plant for the area. When we think of plants that like shade or partial shade, we generally think of azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, dogwoods and redbuds. These are some of the most common shade plants in our area. There also are many other plants that will do well in shade. You have to choose the plant based on soil moisture, amount of shade and the height of the plant.
One plant that does well in partial or full shade is anise, which is a rarely used but attractive shrub. This plant has anise or licorice smell when crushed. Another added benefit of this plant is the blooms. There is Japanese anise, (Illicuim anisatum ) that has creamy to yellow flowers. Florida anise (Illicium floridanum) has maroon flowers. Anise will grow under a wide range of conditions. They like to grow in areas that have ample moisture, but they will do well under drier conditions. In order for them to do well in drier conditions, they have to be mulched well.
Another plant that does well in shade is Japanese Fatsia (Fatsia japonica) . This plant has a tropical appearance with big, glossy, dark green leaves. The leaves are fan shaped with deep lobes. These plants will get 5 to 8 feet tall. In the spring, they will have clusters of small, white flowers.
Fatsia will grow in all soil types and will do well in drier soils. If the soils are too wet, they will get root rot.
There are two major pest problems with fatsia. These are mealybugs and wax scale. These insects like to attack fatsia during droughts when the plant is stressed.
This next plant is a good specimen plant for your landscape or it can be used in mass plantings. The common name is Oregon grape or mahonia. This plant is easy to grow and tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. In our area, it is best to give it morning sun and afternoon shade, or you can grow it in full shade. The leaves have spiny edges. The leaves are very thick. The flowers are formed in bunches and are bright yellow. The berries form a cluster that looks like a cluster of grapes. They are blue-black, but some varieties can have red berries.
In order to have success with growing these plants under trees, you have to plant the plant properly. The first step is soil preparation. You need to dig the planting holes as large as you can, but at the same time you are trying to minimize the amount of damage to the root system of the surrounding trees. When you dig the hole, break up the soil and use the native soil to fill in around the plants. The next step is to mulch the plants well. The mulch will help conserve moisture. You need to water these plants well until they are established. After they are established, you can start watering less often.
Shade is a stress on plants, so scout your plants for insect and disease problems. Find out what the major pest problems are for your plants. With this information, you can determine when these pests are most active and the best control option. Also, fertilize these plants. Use a slow-release fertilizer to spread the release of these nutrients across a longer period of time.
Remember to base the analysis of fertilizer that you use based on what your plant needs. This is best determined through a soil sample.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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