Options for seeing red all summer long in your yard

I have a space that is shady most of the day where I would like to plant something that has red flowers all summer.

Would any of the following work: “Jacob Cline” bee balm, cardinal flower, red columbine, red astilbe, Texas scarlet quince, Nova Zembla rhododendron or rugosa rose? Or would you suggest something else?

I also have an Austrian pine in the front yard with a ring of cement curbing around it. I would like to know if I can plant some type of perennial flowers beneath it. I was told the pine needles would kill anything growing underneath.

— Laurie

There are several things on your list that would work. Bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, astilbe, rhododendron all do great in the shade. In fact, they need it to grow well here.

You also could consider coral bells, “Brilliant” pinks, bleeding heart, “Lipstick” strawberry, red lupine, Maltese cross and “Beauty of Livermore” oriental poppy.

There are a number of others that would grow in the shade as long as they got good bright light.

The problem I think you’re going to run into is maintaining bloom all summer long. Most of these plants bloom in the spring.

Most years, by the first of July, they’re done and there’s really nothing happening from then on. You might consider supplementing the bed with a patch or two of annual flowers that ought to keep the flowers coming. Some choices would be begonias, bedding dianthus, impatiens and lobelia.

If there’s enough light you could even do petunia, pentas, salvia, snapdragon and geranium.

Growing something under your pine is next to impossible. As you mentioned, the needles will leach chemicals that make the soil very acidic and are antagonistic to other plants. The roots of the pine also secrete these chemicals.

The biggest problem for most people is that it’s just so dark under that pine. The branches are low to the ground and they cast a dense shade. Combined with competition from the pine plus those soil chemicals, it’s tough.

Planting under a pine can sometimes be bad for the pine as well. You may end up overwatering it just keeping the flowers going. I’ve seen fungal rots attack the base of the trunk because of the moist environment under the flowers or ground cover next to the bark.

I’d put some bark chips there instead and call it good.

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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