UNITED STATES—Home gardens are becoming shadier. Modern homes are taller to fit closer together. Modern fences are taller to compensate. Densely evergreen trees and large shrubbery compensate more. Taller homes and fences, and denser vegetation, shade more of their smaller modern parcels. Not much sunlight can reach the soil of modern home gardens.
Portions of a garden that are too shady for gardening are not necessarily useless. During warm weather, patios, sheds and workspaces are cooler with shade. Koi generally prefer shade to sun exposure most of the time. Compost piles and woodpiles need no sunlight. Such utilization of shady areas leaves more sunny areas available for actual gardening.
Deciduous trees that let warming sunlight through for winter are less practical nowadays. They do not always obscure undesirable scenery as trees in modern landscapes should. Warming winter sunlight is not so useful to energy efficient modern homes anyway. It is useful for gardening though. That is why smaller evergreen trees are now more practical.
Small trees produce small shadows.
Such trees or large shrubbery can do what they must without creating too much shade. If they get only high enough to hide nearby windows, they should not shade solar panels. Nor should they fill eavestroughs with debris. Perhaps more importantly, they allow more sunlight through than larger trees would. Lower vegetation appreciates what it can get.
Some plants tolerate more shade than others. Some of the most tolerant are understory species. They naturally live within the partial shade of larger plants. Many have big dark green leaves to maximize sunlight absorption. Fern are familiar shade tolerant plants, but have finely textured foliage. Coleus and hosta have exquisitely colorful variegation.
Because most plants enjoy sunlight, the selection of plants for shade is limited. Rhododendron and azalea have a reputation for tolerance of shade. However, too much shade inhibits their blooms. Camellia and hydrangea tolerate a bit more shade, with less inhibition. Cast iron plant is a famously shade tolerant foliar perennial. Kaffir lily tolerates almost as much shade, and blooms splendidly.
Highlight: Kaffir Lily
Kaffir lily, Clivia miniata, and lily of the Nile seem to be similar but are very different. Both develop densely evergreen mounds of arched strap shaped leaves. Both bloom with many funnel shaped flowers in spherical umbels on upright stems. Even their thick and rubbery rhizomes and roots are similar. However, they are related neither to each other nor to lilies.
Kaffir lily bloom is rich orange, fiery orangish red or yellow. This is opposite of the pastel blue or white floral color range of lily of the Nile. While lily of the Nile requires abundant sunlight, Kaffir lily tolerates significant shade. Kaffir lily leaves and bloom are more stout and less pliable than those of lily of the Nile. Kaffir lily foliage is generally darker green.
Individual leaves of Kaffir lily can be three inches wide and about a foot and a half long. Mounding growth of old colonies can get more than two feet high. Bloom hovers barely above the foliage. A few round and bright red berries can develop after bloom. Individual seeds within each berry may be genetically variable. All parts of Kaffir lily, particularly the rhizomes, are toxic.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.