Many perennials do well in both shade and heat

I have a strip of dirt about 4 feet wide on the southeast side of my deck. The lawn grass doesn’t do well there (I’ve replanted twice). The strip is shaded most of the day by trees, but gets two or three hours of blistering midday sun. Is there a perennial plant that I can fill in with that will take the shade and heat?

— Jan

I think that there are quite a few things you could plant successfully there. I suspect that your problem isn’t so much to do with the sun or shade but with the soil and perhaps some competition from the nearby trees. Before planting, do a good job digging up the area and mixing in a good amount of a low-salt organic amendment like Soil Pep. Try to dig down as deeply as you can, 6 inches at a minimum, 12 inches would be wonderful. I’d add one part amendment to every two or three parts soil. Loosening up the soil and mixing in the organic material will really improve the soil, giving your new plants the best head-start that you can give them.

There are probably dozens of choices in perennials that would work there, but let me give you a “few” of my favorites to consider:

Marshall’s Delight bee balm grows 2 to 3 feet tall, forming a striking ornamental perennial with green, aromatic foliage and pink tubular flowers in round whorls in late spring which attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. This variety of bee balm (and there are lots of other varieties with different-colored flowers as well as dwarf varieties) grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Marshall’s Delight is resistant to powdery mildew, grows well in sun to part shade and is hardy to 25 degrees below zero.

Blanketflower is a staple for the perennial garden. The plant grows from 8 to 12 inches tall with a rounded, spreading growth habit. This plant puts on a spectacular display with daisy-like flowers that bloom over a very long season from late spring through summer. Most varieties are a combination of yellow, orange and brick red. This plant tolerates heat and drought and is hardy to 35 degrees below zero.

Purple coneflower grows 18 to 30 inches tall, bearing large, purple-pink, daisy-like flowers in late spring into early or midsummer that have a dark copper-brown, cone-shaped center. This plant prefers well-drained soil but tolerates sun, heat and wind and is hardy to 35 degrees below zero.

Coral bells is a large group of plants that provide a showy accent to the perennial garden. The plant will grow 12 to 18 inches tall depending on variety, with an attractive, tight mounding habit. The rounded leaves with scalloped edges are usually the focal point of the plant, coming in a range of colors and patterns from green to purple-black to chartreuse to caramel yellow-gold. Small, bell-like flowers on branched spikes in mid- to late-spring are white through pink to coral red, depending on variety. This plant prefers rich, well-drained soil, tolerates partial sun to shade and is hardy to 35 degrees below zero.

Gloriosa daisy or black-eyed Susan is a sturdy perennial, growing 18 to 24 inches tall with dark green foliage. The plant bears striking daisy-like flowers that have bright orange-yellow petals with dark centers throughout the summer. The plant thrives in full sun to partial shade and is hardy to 35 degrees below zero.

Daylily is probably my personal favorite. This versatile perennial forms attractive mounds of grass-like foliage 15 to 30 inches tall, depending on variety (of which there are hundreds). Gorgeous lily-like flowers ranging in shades of yellow, orange, cream, pink, gold and red are displayed on the plant from late spring into midsummer. This adaptable plant grows from full hot sun to total but bright shade and is hardy to 35 degrees below zero.

I’m out of space to include full descriptions, but other good choices include: geraniums, balloon flower, geum, bearded iris, peonies, Chinese plumbago, garden mums, penstemons, pincushion flower, creeping potentilla, rock soapwort and veronica.

Once I started going through the list, I just had a tough time stopping. In fact, it’s gotten me thinking about some things I may want to add to my perennial bed.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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