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Shade gardening starts now in Southwest Florida

May 18, 2012
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS (Garden Club of Cape Coral) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


Special to The Breeze

The hotter it gets the slower I get. I am naturally a slow, laid back gardener, so as the late spring sun begins it glaring days, I need to get everything outside looking cool and collected.

I finally have given up on any marigolds around the mailbox. When the rainy season really gets started, maybe I will try again. That area around the mailbox is definitely a hot spot so nothing for shade there.

The Dusty Miller planted there a couple months ago looks great. It loves that hot ole sun and a light pass of the sprinklers seem to be just enough water. I should have figured this out several years ago, however I was never very fond of this plant and just ignored it.

One shade plant that I was never sure of for our area was the beautiful hostas. I had tried them several years ago when I was trying to duplicate the large bed of hostas up in South Jersey. They never did well for me. I know have a nice pot that I planted a month ago and it is doing just fine under the roof of the lania. The lania faces north and will get some blasts of cold north wind during the next winter. I can always move them if it gets to be too cold.

Right now they are great and I have another bag of bulbs to plant outside the lania on the west side. There is both a shade area there and a sunny area. The sunny part has an older hibiscus tree and large cheerful crotons and geraniums that run closely into the shady part with a large pot of caladiums and several pots of extra cactus plants that have nowhere else to go. The shade of a big, old, multi-trunked Dracaena Fragrans makes a perfect light shade area. The Dracaena has been there for about 20 years and will sure stay there as long as I am here. I have several other Dracaena plants,

The Marganita is my favorite with its slender multi-color leaves. They are a great, no care landscape plant, for sun. There are about 150 species of this tropical plant from Africa.

I have not decided if I will plant the hostas in a pot or in the soil. I like to be able to move things around, however I have a lot of pots to watch with the kinds of cold, hot, dry and wet weather conditions we live in. However, if they are going to do well maybe I will plant in the soil.

I also have about three caladiums left over from an earlier planting that could go out there also. Caladiums are so beautiful with their many different colors and shapes and sizes. You do have to watch that you plant sun ones in sun and shade ones in shade. Easy to plant, just make sure the eyes on the corm are pointing upwards and not too deep.

They do like to be damp for the first two weeks but after they start peeking up from the soil, they will do well with just a sprinkler swish or two per week.

They will die down in the fall but will be back in the late spring. Sometimes they are smaller but will be ok for about three years. I know some of you will have them last longer and some will not even be able to find them the next year, but relax, that's the way gardening is.

In hot, hot August there will be the usual Caladium Festival over in Lake Placid. A good place to visit. It is like a country festival throughout the whole town. Yes, it is hot but they have a lot of shade and plenty of parking, like every which way you can find a spot. More about that when we get closer to the event time.

I know some Cape people have some already because we sold quite a few of the corms at our recent March In The Park plant sale at Jaycee Park. When you are plant shopping and see something marked for SHADE growing believe it. NO shade plants want our hot sun. You can decide if you have deep shade or light shade, or even a dappled shade where sunlight peeks through the trees at some point during the day. A plant that says morning sun, means just that and no more.

Most of the shade plantings will not need a lot of water after the first week or two. They do want the ground to be a well draining spot. There are a lot of shade plants in the market. Once in a while it is a little confusing.

I have canna lilies in two different places. They are both for sun and like a good watering and draining area. The cannas' facing north have less sun but more water, the ones in the sun have less water. They both do well.

I have just recently planted a new color called Cleopatra. The flower is a bright yellow spotted with a small splash of red everywhere and a few wide red stripes here and there. I hope they are as beautiful as their photo.

All cannas should be planted about 2 inches deep and unless you have a dwarf plant they will be over 48 inches high. When they are not blooming and leaves look ragged, just cut them way back and they will be fine.

I do not fertilize them when I first plant. I know the soil is good enough so let them get started first. The Cleopatras have plain green leaves. Some of my others have a reddish copper color with fine lines - great for floral designing.

Misquotes are buzzing around. I see my gardenia bush needs another shot of oil of volick so there are some hungry critters out there. Hibiscus look OK right now. The little bit of rain we have been getting helps wash them clean, but watch for aphids, etc.

Wear sunscreen, gloves, and hats while working outside and digging in the soil; as a gardener we are supposed to do the planting, not getting ourselves planted.

There are some nasty things in the soil and nasty mosquitoes and that sun can be a killer.

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Cape Coral Garden Club.



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