Friday, April 20, 2007

Amy's Patio Garden

My girlfriend Amy asked some questions about what to plants in her container garden. She's in zone 5, and has a full shade porch. I thought I'd reply to her e-mail on the blog so I could also gather input from my blog readers that could further assist making Amy's porch garden the best it can be! Here goes:

Unfortunately, it's really hard to get plants with big flowers & lots of color (i.e. petunias, daisies, zinnias, roses, anything like that) to grow in low in light conditions. Your plants will grow well, but they will not flower without sunshine (as was Amy's situation last year). Seeds also will need sunshine to flourish, so it's good choice not to try seeds on a shade patio.

Moderate sunshine is about 4-6 hours, so Amy is in a very low sunshine situation, also know on the gardening labels as "full shade". My front porch gets about the same amount of sun as Amy's deck. So, I'll tell you which annual plants (don't survive winter) I have luck with out there: Impatiens, (as you know, come in red, orange, pink, white, magenta, more), Coleus (LOVES SHADE and has intense colors in it's foliage such as lime, magenta, red, emerald green, etc, and when it does flower it's usually blue/purple), Fucshia (it's a weird plant, hangs dramtically from containers and has little flowers that you can pop like pods), Sweet Potato Vine (comes in dark eggplant purple and bright lime green, doesn't flower [mine doesn't anyway?], but would hang from your planter boxes 4-6 feet down or more if you let it). Also, in your planter boxes, since they seem to hang out a little further, and get a little bit more sun, you could try and add some geraniums for height & petunias for a blast of color. Begonia's will do well, also.

As far as perennials (return year after year despite winter), full shade plants with good color include Hostas (white and lavendar varieties with green and white leaves), Coral Bells (coral pink flowers with deep red foliage), Astible (emerald foliage with bright white, red, or pink bottle brush type flowers), & Bleeding Heart (blooms only in spring, with tiny string of little pink bells, very dramatic). I do not put any of my perennials in containers. They are all in the ground, but I know you can grow them in containers if you bring them into a semi-protected areas like a garage or protect the pot by mulching around it, or putting it inside a bag during the winter time (from first frost to May 10th in our area).

Amy asked if Home Depot is a good spot? Home Depot is great. In the past I have picked up my annuals there. I get all my impatiens, sweet potato vines, coleus, verbena, nicotiana, and marigolds at Walmart even & they do great). Last night I picked up some at Farm and Fleet. I have not found a bad place for run of the mill plants. I did make a trip into the fancy nursery to get two perrenials bee balm plants last night. I knew I would not be able to find those at the chain stores.

Amy also asked about veggies and fruit. You can grow veggies in containers. Any kind you want! I don't know enough about which eatables would grow in the shade though... I'll look into this. But had you a porch with sunshine you cold grow just about anything from tomatos, peppers, onions, chives, squash, cukes, strawberries, and more.... I'll post some link to articles I have read on this when I have a minute later.

So what should Amy buy to put in her containers?

Coleus is your best bet for foliage colors in the shade, as far as I'm concerned. Walmart will carry a variety pack, called Wizard mix, and it will have chartruese, reds, and greens, very pretty. At nurseries you can find some pretty striking varieties. My local nursery had dozens of different kinds. A magazine I recently read suggested trailing plum coleus, and it looks very, very pretty. I am trying some out this year, also. I put my coleus in the back of my window boxes, and it fills the space well.

Buy begonias that are already started (not tubers/bulbs), and they should produce flowers. red yellow, orange. Pink, too. They also like to hang out of the sides of the pots.

Put some sweet potato vine in chartruese and eggplant purple colors in the front of your boxes so it can trail down.

Try Deadnettle, pink purple and white flowers. Usually pink. Beautiful two tone green foliage. It does trail, so don't put it in the back of the box, more toward the front.

Impatiens are your best bet for flowers in the shade. You can put those in the back of the pots, also. They can get tall. Now you can even find mixed breeds with two-tones, or another type called "new guinea impatiens" which are bigger, with thicker flower petals and darker thicker foliage, and even some "double- impatiens," which have a second or third set of leaves in the center causing the flower to look a little like a mini-rose. As far as keeping them bushy and blooming, always let the pot dry out before you rewater, they don't like wet feet. Make sure you plants them far enough apart. I know at first the pot seems empty, but they fill in fast, and won't get long and stringy stretching out for space.

Wishing Amy the best of luck with her garden. Keep any ideas and suggestions coming folks!

1 comment:

Amy said...

Wow!!! You're the best!:) I think my mistake last year was getting plants that were moderate sunshine (since I thought that's what I had). And like I said, the impatients did really, really well... flowered all summer and got to be really big. So I obviously do need to go for shade plants. Thanks for all the suggestions! I can't wait for a few more weeks to know it'll stay warm and get started. May 10, right??