HARDY GROUNDCOVER: Acalypha repans Stephie is an evergreen spreading plant with unusual, bushy, red tail-like flowers. Top left: Odontonema strictum; below left: Justicia carnea.
HARDY GROUNDCOVER: Acalypha repans Stephie is an evergreen spreading plant with unusual, bushy, red tail-like flowers. Top left: Odontonema strictum; below left: Justicia carnea. Contributed

GARDENING: How to find a shady bunch

ONE of the biggest problems encountered by owners of established gardens is finding plants that will tolerate shade from the canopy of the established taller trees and shrubs.

In many cases, gardeners are left in a quandary as to what they can plant in this position.

The first suggestion is often to plant some fern runners, but this can be to the detriment of the overall appearance of the garden.

However, there are a number of very hardy, ground covering plants that can be grown with a minimum of effort, and will give attractive flower colour at some time during the year.

Gardening pics Neil Fisher
Gardening pics Neil Fisher Contributed

Then some gardeners realise that they may be a true gem for that shady part of the garden.

Last Wednesday I walked through the well-presented gardens of CQU and was impressed by the large range of colourful shrubs and groundcovers flourishing under the canopy of shade trees yet still producing a lot of understory colour.

With a little careful selection, there are quite a number of plants that flourish in these less than ideal conditions.

Acalypha repans Stephie is an evergreen spreading plant with unusual, bushy, red tail-like flowers, and mild green leaves with sawtooth edges. This groundcover is very hardy for part shade to full sun areas.

Graptophyllum pictum Tricolour is a native to Indonesia and New Guinea that forms an attractive foliage plant for either sun or shade. The attractive leaves are marked with irregular scrawls that resemble a kindergarten ink blot drawing. Three main foliage colour varieties are available - pink and red; white and green; and yellow and green. All have small heads of purple-crimson flowers during summer. It grows to 1.5m high and 1.5m wide in most Central Queensland gardens.

Gardening pics Neil Fisher
Gardening pics Neil Fisher Contributed

Justicia carnea, or Brazilian Plume Flower, is a small shrub with large, glossy dark green foliage that contrasts well the striking beauty of the pink or white plume flowers. Flowering happens from early summer to late autumn, with spot-flowering in winter. Justicia carnea is fairly tolerant of most soil types but does require a more protective part-shaded position.

Lysmachia Gold Clusters is a vigorous evergreen prostrate perennial with foliage very similar to the prostrate Lasiandra.

It is ideal for partly shaded areas, and will add colour to the garden all year round, with clusters of buttercup yellow flowers.

Megaskepasma erythrochlamys, or Brazilian Red Cloak, is a beautiful dense tropical shrub.

This shrub is perfect for those damp partly shaded areas where plants do not always grow successfully.

With its flame-red flowers and bushy growing habit, it is an excellent flowering screen plant.

Odontonema strictum, or Red Justica, is a dense shrub growing to 1.5m high with a tropical appearance, while not suitable for frosty or very hot areas.

Flowers are borne on showy spikes of tubular red. These flowers are spectacular in mass blooms in the garden though useless for cut flowers.

Ruellia ciliosa, or Splash of Blue, is in my mind one of the hardiest, most shade-tolerant groundcovers available to local gardeners. We have used this groundcover over the years in landscape projects from Emerald to Great Keppel Island without ever having a single casualty. It is a very hardy groundcover to low shrub with large blue flowers over long periods of the year.

Viola hederacea, or Native Violet, is a vigorous growing groundcover spreading to one metre in diameter, with very attractive mauve and white, violet shaped flowers. Viola hederacea can be found growing naturally at Blackdown Tablelands. There is also a white flowering form available to local gardeners.

As the days become shorter during winter it seems that we always find those bare spots in the garden where a fill-in plant like some of these could be very helpful.



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