Tips For Success With Partial Shade Plantings
By Mike "The Seed Man" Lizotte
There are several factors that go into a successful wildflower planting. A couple of important elements that I discuss often with our customers are sunlight conditions and soil composition. In a perfect growing situation, we would all get 6 hours of sun and have well-balanced soil with perfect amounts of silt, clay, and nutrients — but in nature, and in our own yards and meadows, some variability is to be expected. Here are tips that will help you determine if your area will be successful when planting wildflowers in partial shade conditions.
Sunlight: Defining Partial Shade
Let’s first discuss sunlight. When we refer to “full sun” we are defining that as an area that gets six or more hours a day. So when you are planning your meadow or wildflower planting, if the area gets 6 or more hours of sun, we would consider that ‘full sun’ and you can grow just about any of our mixtures and species that we sell.
If the area you are thinking about planting wildflowers only gets 3 - 4 hours, or what we would define as Partial Shade, don’t be discouraged. We offer several wildflower mixtures and species that will grow very well in these conditions.
Not Sure How Much Sunlight Your Planting Area Receives?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to understand your site and determine if your partial shade area will support a wildflower meadow. These simple observations can go a long way in determining your success.
- How much is currently growing in the area you're thinking of planting?
This is a good indicator that can help determine if your wildflower planting will be successful or not. Ideally, we want to see existing growth in the area you are thinking about planting. Existing growth tells us two important things; you are getting enough sun and the soil conditions will work. If the area currently supports growth, such as weeds or grasses, that is a good sign that your wildflowers should grow and thrive there as well.
On the other hand, if the area you want to plant has very limited growth, with lots of bare spots, that is a pretty good sign that this area might not be a good choice for starting a wildflower planting. This would indicate that that area is probably getting less than the 3-4 hours of sun needed to successfully grow and establish a wildflower meadow.
- Are plants growing in your ‘partially shaded’ area also found on sunny parts of your property?
If this is the case, you are probably getting more sun than you realize, and wildflowers would thrive very well.
However, if you see the landscape drastically change from grasses and weeds in the sunny areas to damp soil, ferns, and/or plants that are found only in your partially shaded areas, that is usually a sign that it might be too shady.
Soil: Wildflowers Are Adaptable
The second element I always discuss is soil composition. Well, the great thing about planting a wildflower meadow is that wildflowers do not need ‘perfect’ soil conditions. If we were planning a vegetable garden, we would want to make sure we are using the best soil we can find, loaded with compost and microbes, in hopes of growing that prized tomato and having a bountiful harvest. Unlike tomatoes, wildflowers can tolerate a wide variety of soils, from clay to sand to silt. If the area currently supports growth, your wildflowers should thrive just fine!
Wildflowers For Partial Shade
We have formulated our Partial Shade Wildflower Seed Mix with limited sunlight in mind. This mix is a hardy blend of annuals and perennials that should succeed in areas that may only get 3-4 hours of sun daily. Under proper conditions, when soil temperatures over 55°F and adequate water, you should see seedling 7-10 days after germination, followed by flowering in 4- 6 weeks.
Our Top 12 Wildflowers For Partial Shade:
- Baby's Breath
- California Poppy
- Four O'Clock
- Johnny Jump-Up
- Scarlet Flax
- Sweet Alyssum
- Sweet William
Wildflower Seeds For Shady Areas
Wildflowers that tolerate part shade can add color to areas that may receive just morning or afternoon sun, and can be a good choice for planting under trees and along fencelines.
Partial Shade Wildflower Seed Mix is a colorful, varied mix of 26 annual and perennial wildflowers. A complementary color palette of pinks, reds, blues, and golds will brighten up an...Learn MorePartial Shade Wildflower Seed Mix Partial Shade Wildflower Seed MixAs low as $11.95 Sale $9.56Per 1/4 Pound
Bring show-stopping color to your shady meadow or garden with our Shade Wildflower Collection. Our wildflower experts have designed this collection with two annual and perennial vari...Learn More
by Mike Lizotte
There are a number of factors that go into a successful wildflower planting. A couple of important factors that surface quite often when talking with customers are soil composition and sunlight conditions. In a perfect world we’d all get 6 hours of sun and have well balanced soil with perfect amounts of silt and clay. But the nature of growing conditions means that some variability is to be expected.
Let’s first take a look at sunlight. When we refer to “full sun” we’re usually taking about 6 or more hours a day. Customers are often nervous that they’re not getting enough sun and when I ask them how many hours they proceed to tell me 10-12 hours. Now that’s a lot of sun so they’re usually relieved when I tell them they’re getting plenty. But what happens when you’re only getting 3-4 hours? These situations are certainly more challenging for not only the avid gardener, but the novice alike.
Through my 20 years of consulting I’ve come up with a very easy first step in this process and that’s to simply go out to the area in question and see what’s currently growing. This is a very fast, cost effective way of understanding your situation. Some things to looks for:
- How much growth are you currently seeing in your shaded area? This could tell you immediately if wildflowers might work or not. If the area in question is so shaded that you’re seeing very limited growth with a lot of bare patches that’s a pretty good sign that this area might not be a good choice for starting a wildflower planting. Ideally we want to see lots of growth in the area prior to planting. This is where, just for a little while, we welcome weeds and grasses growing. This tells us two important things; you’re getting enough sun and the soil conditions will work.
“I spread the seeds in a long partially shaded piece of the property, previously covered in weeds. turned over the soil, threw the seeds and watered... 2nd year is looking better than the first!” – LTW – Pittsburgh, PA
- Do you see similar plants growing in your shaded area that are also found on sunny parts of your property? If this is the case, you’re probably getting more sun that you think and wildflowers would be a good option. If you see the landscape drastically change from grasses/weeds in the sunny areas to damp, ferns and different vegetation found only in your shaded areas, that’s usually a sign that it might be too shady.
Sounds too easy, right? These simple observations can go a long way in determining your success. We’ve formulated our Partial Shade Mix with limited sunlight in mind. This mix is a hardy blend of annuals and perennials that should succeed in areas that may only get 3-4 hours of sun daily. Under proper conditions you should see germination and seedling in 7-10 days with flowers in 4- 6 weeks. If you’ve sown this mix and after 2 or more weeks you’re yet to see germination, we may have underestimated sunlight.
“Very low production in first year. Seems to have kicked into at least low gear this spring. But the shady mixture may have needed a little more light. Recommending only because it is at least doing something in the shade.” – RoPo - Kaw River Valley, KS
Look for a related post on our Dry Area Mix for planting wildflowers in dryer soil conditions.~ The Seed Man