Question: We have large trees. What kinds of flowers grow best in the shade?
Answer: I am constantly asked to recommend flowering plants for shady areas. We live at the floor of a pecan forest, and I have tried just about every flower that has ever been recommended for shade.
The fact is, most flowering plants do best in full or nearly full sunlight. The list of those that will survive and bloom well in the shade is considerably shorter. Looking past just the flowering types, here are some of the best shade color plants for Texas:
Annuals: impatiens, wax begonias, flowering tobacco (nicotiana) and pentas
Perennials: violets, ajuga, oxalis, columbines, summer phlox, spider lilies, oxblood lilies, fall crocus and belladonna lilies
Foliar annuals: coleus, Persian shield, bloodleaf and its sister with the great name: chicken gizzard plant
Foliar perennials: hostas, variegated ajuga, variegated liriope
Having said all that, however, I have to admit that I get most of my satisfaction from containerized tropical plants in the shade. I love the rich textures and even the colors they bring to our shadows.
We have probably 75 containers, from 6-inch wire hanging baskets all the way to 4-foot faux terra cotta pots made out of a really durable lightweight plastic.
Having plants in these containers elevates them to "hero status" in our landscape, and it also allows me to position them precisely into the best possible lighting. I use a lightweight potting soil mix that is half brown Canadian peat, 20 percent bark, 20 percent horticultural perlite and 10 percent either expanded shale or washed brick sand.
My favorite tropicals year-after-year include crotons (center distant in photo), aglaonemas (mid-right in photo), pleomeles, colocasias, ferns, sansevierias, airplane plant, varieties of English and Algerian ivy, unusual types of self-heading and vining philodendrons (the red-leafed plant to the left of the photo), devil's backbone (Pedilanthus), fancy-leafed cane-form begonias (lower right in photo) and clumping aloes and haworthias (lower left in photo), among many others.