May 8, 2013

Red Amongst the Green

Blood Lily
Haemanthus multiflorus
Red is a difficult color to find in a shade garden. There are numerous plants with red flowers, but most of them require abundant sunlight. There are many plants that have red flowers to attract birds and bees as pollinators. In partial shade or even full shade, plants with red foliage or flowers are far less common.

At Pinecrest Gardens, we have a few plants which flower with nice red colors, even in the shade. For heavy shade, plants in the Shrimp Plant Family ( Acanthaceae) rule the forest with flashy flowers and colorful bracts. One of our favorites is the Cardinals Guard plant. It grows best in bright filtered light, but can perform even in very low light. Its crimson flowers are a welcome contrast to waves of green foliage in a forest landscape.

Cardinals Guard
Pachystachys coccinea
There are numerous species in the Lily Family that can add color to your garden, including the venerable Amaryllis group. Although they grow best in very bright light, they can still flower in shade conditions under a tree. In slightly cooler climates, Sprekelia formosissima is a scarlet flag that portends Spring. Many Hippeastrum hybrids are excellent garden plants in mild climates, or as container specimens in colder climates. There are myriad cacti and succulents that grow well as hanging basket plants, and some grow fairly well in a shade garden, such as Epiphyllum, which grows on an oak tree branch in our front entrance here at the Gardens. 

photo courtesy of
Aztec Lily
Sprekelia formosissima

photo courtesy of Floridata
Hippeastrum 'Red Lion'

There are myriad choices for color in a shade garden. Red flowers in a shade landscape are a challenge to find, but such challenges are worth the effort. In the event that the plant choice won't grow permanently in the chosen area, consider growing the plant in a container in a sunnier area, then displaying it in a shade garden while it flowers. Plants with red foliage e.g. Aglaonema, Cordyline) are a bit more forgiving of shade, but less forgiving of colder weather other than South Florida. Consider some of these brilliant colors, even if it is just for a summer. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens