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Shady Characters Offer Summer Color
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Some of our best summer color can be grown in the shade or partially shady areas.
Impatiens are impressive with their vibrant colors that can yield tremendous floral displays in the fall if watered thoroughly throughout the summer. The plants need a well-drained, organic amended bed. Space plants 15 to 20 inches apart depending on the variety.
The Dazzler series of impatiens has long been one of the best choices. Try some new color varieties this spring, such as Lilac Splash which is lavender with a dark magenta eye, Burgundy which is a rich velvety color and Deep Pink which is darker, rosier than pink.
Vaughn Seed has introduced a new series of impatiens for the South called Cajun. It is "stretch resistant" by virtue of its short internodes and an initial horizontal growth, so it doesn't get long and leggy in the heat and humidity. Their large flowers are available in seven bright non-fading colors and a mix.
Goldsmith Seeds has a new series of impatiens called Mosaic. Lilac is the first of the Mosaic series. It loves shade and features a unique color pattern of mosaic-like splashes of white in the lilac, giving the illusion of texture.
Super Elfins may be the best known impatien variety, and this year Pan American Seed introduced two new colors. Deep Pink which is a deep, rosy pink and melon which is an intriguing salmon rose.
Don't overlook the power of impatiens' performance in the landscape, especially if you have a lot of shade. Look for them in the bedding plant section at your garden center.
Another trooper in Mississippi's summer shade is the wax begonia. While some bronzed-leaf varieties can take the sun, the green-leafed and variegated varieties need shade protection.
Begonias grow 8 to 14 inches tall and wide. They are well suited to low borders, massed plantings, hanging baskets and containers on the deck or patio. Tall, lanky plants can be sheared or pinched to encourage basal growth.
The Varsity series of begonias have become popular for earliness of bloom and their ability to take rugged weather. Varsity Pink and Bright Scarlet are new in this series for 1996. They are available on green-leafed or bronze-leaf plants.
Foliage plants such as the coleus offers us a lot of choices in colors and variegation. They perform well until the first frost. Some are compact and others reach nearly 3 feet in height.
They are great in patio containers, but you will be greatly rewarded by mass plantings in a bed. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers that can cause excessive greening. Don't forget, it is the riotous colors we seek.
Keep flower buds pinched to encourage leaf production. Cutting-grown coleus from your nurseryman is ideal for high quality. Seed-grown coleus are less satisfactory and are selected to produce flowers and seed.
For a really show-stopping display, mass plant a bed of Alabama coleus with big blue liriope on the border.
Another striking display can be achieved by planting Lemon Twist coleus that is lime green with fuchsia-colored impatiens. It is a gorgeous combination. For the best coleus at taking full sun, look for the varieties Plum Parfait and Burgundy Sun.
The hostas, or plantation lily, is another shade-loving plant that offers a lot of choices in cultivars. Select from those that are rather diminutive to those that will reach 30 inches in height.
Plant hostas from nursery transplants into a well-drained, highly organic soil. Hostas with their deep-green to blue-green foliage and variegation are very attractive when in contrast with fresh reddish-brown pine bark mulch or nuggets.
The variegated varieties really lighten up the shade garden. Most hostas produce a white or violet flowering stalk in late spring or early summer.