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It just isn't summer without some graceful hanging baskets accenting a porch, patio or other outdoor space. Sometimes these areas are partially shaded, which rules out sun-loving plants. But a little shade doesn't mean you have to skimp on colourful flowers. Buy hanging baskets already planted, or mix and match for a custom creation that can thrive in the shade.
Fuchsias are usually classified as uprights or trailers. The trailing form is ideal for hanging baskets. Large, double flowers on some varieties often are ruffled or fringed, adding even more interest. Like fuchsias, begonias are available in both upright and trailing forms. The trailing versions look lovely in hanging baskets and they also bloom more profusely than their upright cousins. Begonias excel in filtered shade and do quite well on a porch or under an awning. Other large-flowered options include the black-eyed Susan vine, which can also be grown indoors, and the moonflower vine, which has fragrant flowers that open at night.
Lobelia is equally attractive as a filler in hanging baskets or as the star of the show on its own. Cornell University's Growing Guide notes that the Cascade series is a trailing variety perfect for hanging baskets. Lobelias do best in partial shade, especially in areas with intense summer heat. Lobelia flowers may be red, white, blue or violet.
Sweet Alyssum is a classic plant that forms a dense mat of pink, purple, white or apricot flowers, often cascading over the edge of a hanging basket.These fragrant flowers have no serious pest or disease problems. Sweet peas and verbenas are other choices to consider. Verbenas can tolerate hot climates, but sweet peas do better where the summers are mild.
Nasturtiums, old-fashioned flowers with a light fragrance, enjoy sun or part shade. Semi-trailing nasturtiums are the best choice for hanging baskets, reaching a length of 2 to 3 feet. The blooms are edible and make an unusual addition to a salad. The edible leaves contain a healthy amount of vitamin C.
Chamomile has airy, delicate foliage and small flowers that resemble daisies. This plant tolerates partial shade and the 2- to 3-foot stems make a bountiful, overflowing hanging basket. Harvest the flowers and dry them to make tea. The variegated strawberry is another contender. Strawberries grown in shade don't produce many berries, but the variegated foliage is attractive.
Foliage plants really shine in the shade. Almost any fern does well in a hanging basket. Ostrich ferns are big and dramatic, while asparagus ferns have threadlike foliage. Sweet potato vines also offer a surprising array of foliage colours to spruce up a shady spot. Sweet potato foliage can be chartreuse, burgundy or plain green. When the vines get too long, simply trim them with a pair of scissors. The calico plant, another low-maintenance option, also has burgundy foliage. This trailing plant can handle either sun or part shade, and is easily started from cuttings.
- Washington State University Extension; Fuchsias; Mike Altman; January 2005
- Colorado State University Extension; Start Some Tuberous Begonias; Shari Thomas; May 2004
- Cornell University Growing Guide: Lobelia
- Iowa State University Extension; Edible Flowers; Richard Jauron, et al.; November 2005
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Sweet Alyssum
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