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Plants can’t grow without light, and sunlight is the one thing that gardeners can’t provide. Gardeners can improve and fertilize the soil, and they can water the garden, but they can’t manufacture sunlight. Luckily, there are low light plants that grow well in shady areas, as long as their other needs are met.
The trick to growing low light plants is to choose plants that will thrive in the available environment and that will also look good. Weeds will grow almost anywhere, even in deep shade, but who wants a garden filled with weeds? Consider the height and spread of the plant and its leaf color when choosing low light plants. Here are some of the best:
Carpet Bugle (Ajuga) is among the hardiest low light plants, with dense foliage that grows about six inches (15 cm) high. It is a very tough plant that can grow well even in deep shade. It flowers in late spring. The leaves of the species are green, but there are cultivars with bronze, purple, and even variegated foliage.
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis) has light green, almost chartreuse leaves shaped like fans. It flowers in summer, but the leaves look wonderful all season. This shade plant grows about 16 inches (40 cm) tall and prefers moist soil.
Sweet Woodruff (Asperula Odorata) is one of the low light plants that tolerates acidic soils, so it can be grown under pine trees. It grows about six inches (15 cm) tall. The leaves look like tiny green parasols and are attractive all season. This shade plant has fragrant white flowers in the spring.
Astilbe is sometimes called spirea, but it shouldn’t be confused with the shrub Spirea, because this shade plant only grows to 28 inches (71 cm), and many varieties are shorter. It has beautiful fern-like foliage and flower plumes in various colors in midsummer. This plant grows well in light shade and needs rich, moist soil.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectablis) blooms in the spring, and the pendulous blossoms are heart-shaped. The species has pink flowers, but there is a variety with white flowers. This is one of the taller low light plants, growing 28 inches tall (71 cm), but it will go dormant during the summer heat.
Coral Bells (Heuchera) has many varieties, so the foliage color can range from chartreuse to purple to almost black. The color is usually more intense in light shade. This shade plant flowers in early summer and prefers a moist location.
I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to have a plant on my desk at work. The only problem was that my desk was nowhere near a window. I had to find an office plant requiring low light.
I discovered that philodendrons can survive with almost no light. They grow on the floor of the rain forest, so they are used to intense shade.
This plant resembles and grows like ivy. It has dark green, heart-shaped leaves, and it will continue to grow and drape until you trim it.
I water mine once a week, and it does fine. It has only the overhead fluorescent light shining on it, and it is perfectly happy with this.
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