Zone 4 Shade Loved Plants – Best Shade Plants For Zone 4 Gardens
Shade loving plants are perennial perennials that thrive in full sun or partial shade. They grow best in zones 3 through 6, but they will tolerate any zone except zero.
These plants have long blooming season (7 months) and produce flowers year round. Some of them bloom all summer, some only during spring and fall, while others do not flower at all. All of these plants have bright green leaves with few if any white veins.
The most popular shade loving plant in the world is the sunflower. Sunflowers are among the oldest known flowering plants and they were cultivated from their wild form over five million years ago!
Their name comes from their ability to survive exposure to sunlight without wilting. They are very easy to grow and require little care other than regular watering. The sunflower is one of the most common shade loving plants because it grows well in almost any climate.
Sunflowers are often grown for their flowers, but they are also used as ornamental plants. They make excellent houseplants and can even be planted in containers to give them a permanent home.
You may wonder why we don’t call them “shade loving” plants since they do indeed love the shade! Actually, the sunflower is a “tolerant” plant rather than a “loved” one. It grows just fine in the shade but will grow exceptionally well in full sunlight, provided that it is given sufficient water.
The common sunflower is not the only sunflower out there. There are about eighty species of sunflowers and they can be divided into three groups: annuals, biennials and perennials.
The common sunflower is an annual plant because it takes a year for the plant to produce seeds and die. However there are also biennials and perennials among the sunflowers. The biennial varieties grow their roots, stems and leaves the first year and then produce flowers and seeds the second, at which time they die. Perennial sunflowers are exactly what their name implies: they live for more than two years. They grow, flower and set seeds each year.
Many of the sunflowers grown for their seeds have a double meaning because the petals are often accompanied by a decorative “ray” of petals that look like rays. These decorative rays are called “ray flowers”.
The flowers are usually yellow, but can also be orange, red, pink or purple. The ray flowers often have a stronger color than the actual sunflower face.
The most common sunflower varieties available are:
· Mammoth Russian – this sunflower grows to be up to 10 feet tall when fully mature! It grows best in full sun and produces a green flower with an orange-yellow disk and yellow rays.
The seeds can be eaten after the flower has turned to silk, about one month after it has flowered.
· Indian Blanket – this sunflower has large green leaves and grows up to 8 feet tall when mature. It can also reach widths of 3 feet.
The ray flowers are a light brown color with a green disk, and the seeds can be eaten when the flower has dried up.
· Large Leaved – this sunflower is also known as “Oncidium”, the botanical name for the plant after which it is named. It grows best in full sun and its large green leaves make it a popular ornamental plant.
The disk is a dark yellow color and the rays range from bright yellow to orange.
These are just a few of the sunflower varieties available. There are many more out there that you can try such as:
· Mammoth Golden Stripe – this sunflower is similar to the regular Mammoth Russian, but has more prominent yellow stripes on its petals.
· Black and Tan – this sunflower has dark brown petals with a black disk and light yellow rays. The rays may appear white depending on how much sun the plant gets.
Once you get your sunflower seeds, you need to prepare them for planting. Most packages of seeds will tell you exactly when to plant them outside, but if you’re unsure here are some guidelines.
First of all, sunflowers grow best in direct sunlight and soil that has good drainage. You don’t want water to pool around the base of the plant once it starts growing because it will cause the roots to rot. Also you should prepare the ground before you plant. Loosen the soil to at least a depth of eight inches. The easiest way to do this is simply dig a hole 8 inches deep, refill it and then repeat until your whole area is dug over.
When you’re ready to plant, fill your holes with soil you dug out and plant your sunflower seeds. If you are sowing multiple kinds of sunflowers, make sure you space them far enough apart that they won’t crowd each other out.
They need room to grow!
Water the soil well and then keep it consistently moist until the seeds sprout. Once the seeds sprout it is important to thin out the plants.
Do this carefully using your hands. Carefully pull out the plants you don’t want by the roots and place them in a pile to be discarded. You can also place them in a bucket of water to kill them if you’re worried about damaging the environment.
Once the thinning process is over, water the soil well and keep it consistently moist until the sunflower plants start to flower. You may need to fertilize as well.
Follow the instructions on your fertilizer package for proper instructions.
And that’s it! Now you just wait for your magnificent sunflowers to bloom.
Remember that sunflowers are perennial plants and will come back every year. However, you should replace them every 2 or 3 years to get the most out of them.
Also be aware that birds and other wildlife will attempt to eat your sunflowers. You may need to place netting over the top to protect them if this is a problem in your area. Also keep in mind that these plants can grow very big, sometimes as big as 20 feet! Make sure you have enough space for them.
Now that you know how to grow sunflowers all you need to do is decide which ones you want to plant. Good luck and enjoy your sunflowers!
Sources & references used in this article:
Flower Gardening in the Hot Midwest: USDA Zone 5 and Lower Zone 4 by LL Hillegass – 2000 – books.google.com
Herbaceous perennial plants: A treatise on their identification, culture, and garden attributes by AM Armitage – 2008 – books.google.com
Herbaceous ornamentals: annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses by SL Love, K Noble, S Parkinson… – University of Idaho …, 2009 – extension.uidaho.edu