Some plants prefer shade but shade differences vary as white to black. Many of your plant labels will tell you what the plant likes. One catalog I have has a series of circles from solid black to solid white with the preferred one as the first in the series. 

          Dense shade (some times called heavy) is an area where no sunlight appears ever. Some plants like mushrooms do well here but there are very few plants that will bloom well. Those that do will probably have longer than usual spaces between leaves, thus sharing what light they do have.  Wild Ginger that creeps along the ground with tiny brown blooms on the floor, some ivy’s as Jack-In-The-Pulpit, and some wild Orchids can do as well here.  Shooting Star and Hellebores get light before the trees leaf out if they have plenty of water.  The Stars go dormant if they dry out.

          For shrubs (Chokeberries not Choke Cherries), and Japanese Kerria will bloom, while Forsythia will grow and look quite well but does not bloom. Some of the Ferns will look good but mine sends out runners into more sunny areas where they are more vigorous.  My Celandine Poppies are very early bloomers before the trees leaf out.  Solomon Seal , both the variegated and solid green, will grow up even tangling the tree trunks. Both are very hard to move without damaging tree roots.  The colorful Japanese ferns do well but can’t compete with tree roots very well so may need a little help.

          The next shade category is full shade which is “no obvious sunlight but light from a sunny spot nearby”. Most of the deep shade plants do well here plus a number of others such as Jack-In-The Pulpit (a bulb). I toss the red berries and stalks in the fall under a tree or shrub to get another colony started. There are a number of species of “jacks” available.  Most of them do need a fair amount of water to survive.  The usual Jack we see here in Nebraska during a “good” year will be a female and produce the red seeds, while in a bad year they will be a male plant.  Violets do well in deep shade but better yet in light shade.  I have white, blue, red, blue, and a white speckled one lining my pathways under the huge Cottonwood Tree. The one I have never been able to keep alive are the yellows but I will keep trying! Lawn lovers are usually Violet haters as they can get very invasive.  If you are a hater, remember that they form seeds under the leaves in the soil surface.  Cutting off the blooms will not conquer the plant!

          “Part Shade”, the next lighter shade may have the largest variety of plants. Tags on your plants may say “half shade”, “part shade”, or some shade.  This group of plants needs 4 to 5 hours of shade per day.  Here in Nebraska when it gets so hot and dry in the summer this keeps a number of plants from burning. Many of the plants whose labels say full sun will do well here but with fewer blooms or sometimes smaller blooms. Most ferns can survive here if protected from the wind.  Each spring I need to hoe out a number of Cinnamon Ferns from under and around perennials.  Azaleas and Rhododendrons go well here in acid, moist soil.  I see them most often on the North side of a house or in the shade of another large shrub.  Many of them keep their leaves all winter so wind protection is important.  Some years we fence them with burlap or use a spray for wind protection. My Toad Lilies fit into this shade group. They come up early and bloom late with hard to describe flowers of no particular shape.  They may be spotted or striped.  The petals may curl or twist.

          Close to the “Toads” is Astilbe with its fluffy bloom, 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall. It is a water lover in part shade. Astilbes can take more sun if protected from wind.  They come in a number of colors, red or pink being most common.  I keep putting them in various places trying to find the one they like best.

          Lady’s Mantle and Lady Bells (Adenophora) like part shade. As does Corydalis. I find the houseplant Geraniums do best here if you don’t water too much. Daylilies adjust to almost anywhere except full shade as will Coral Bells (Heuchera).  Their foliage to me is prettier than the bloom.  On some species I cut the blooms off as soon as they appear so all the energy will go into the leaves.  The leaves can be most any color, even black, with stripes or spots, ruffled or plain. Lilies of many kinds like part shade to keep the petals from fading.

          “Filtered Shade” is shady all day but sun sneaks through at different areas all day as it moves around.  Some times it is called “Dappled Shade”. Many plants do well here.

          “Light Shade” is shade no more than 2 to 4 hours, good for plants, and is also called “Thin or Part Shade”. Copyright 2010


gypsum will NOT BREAK UP YOUR  hard clay soil!



          Gypsum is a salt also known as calcium sulfate.  Do not add gypsum or lime unless you have had a soil test and they are recommended.  Advertisements for gypsum claim the addition will loosen heavy clay soils, improve soil structure, and improve soil drainage. Research in the Midwest ( Nebraska , South Dakota , Iowa , Kansas , and Colorado ) does not show positive response to such claims. The addition of gypsum is chiefly used to amend sodic soils found in arid regions of the Western United States . The addition of gypsum anyplace else is a waste of money and may even make soil worse because of the salts.

          The best way to improve Nebraska soils is to incorporate large amounts of organic matter such as compost, Canadian sphagnum peat, and/or composted manure.  To amend poor soil before planting new lawns, flower beds or vegetable gardens, add a 2 inch layer of organic matter and till or spade into the top 4 inches to 8 inches of soil.

          To amend an existing flower or shrub bed, mulch with compost around perennials or shrubs and allow earthworms to work it into the soil.

          To amend existing lawns, apply no more than 1/2 inch of fine compost then core aerate. This works the compost into the hard clay soil. Aerate twice a year if desired, and make sure you go over the lawn both ways and even at a diagonal. Aerate every spring anytime in April or the first part of May, and every fall before September 1st. Also use a mulching mower so clippings can work down into the soil and add organic matter. Clippings do not contribute to thatch. Copyright 2010