The Calathea makoyana thrives in shady spots and does not need much water.
The Calathea makoyana thrives in shady spots and does not need much water. Picasa

The best way to garden in the heat

I'VE been doing a lot of gardening these past few weeks. I know, it's been hideously hot, so I have had to choose my projects carefully. Usually, I focus most of my energy on my kitchen garden, and other areas that are close to the house - the ones that I use and see often. But, in this weather, I've been doing the bare minimum early in the morning or late in the afternoon, avoiding the heat of the day. So that means I've had to spend my time in other, more out-of-the way parts of my jungle, taking refuge in the relatively cool shade provided by established trees.

So, what grows well in these shady places? Lots of the interesting foliage plants do well, providing year-round colour. I especially love things like the ctenanthes, calatheas, dieffenbacchias, and stromanthe, which thrive in shade and don't need too much water. There are lots of different leaf patterns and colours, and some even have lovely fragrant flowers. They clump up nicely, forming a dense groundcover that suppresses weed growth. And it's easy to make new plants just be digging a bit up and putting it in a new spot. Caladiums are good, too, but bear in mind that they will be dormant in winter.

Most bromeliads are spectacular and easy-care shade lovers. Guzmanias have showy flower spike that emerges from the centre of the plant, whereas neoregelias are often more subtle, with small flowers occurring right down in the centre of the leaves. The flowers last for months, and the plants happily reproduce and flower again, year after year. Although some bromeliads like full sun, most are content in shade or semi-shade.

Two of the best shade-loving flowering plants are also the most popular flowering indoor plants - spathyphyllums (sometimes known as peace lilies) and anthuriums (sometimes called Flamingo Flower). They have similar types of flowers - a large spathe, which is really a modified leaf, from which emerges a fleshy spike, called the spadix. The spathe on anthuriums may be pink, white, red, orange or purple, whereas on spathyphyllums it is always white. Anthuriums prefer drier conditions to spathyphyllums, which are quite big drinkers. Be aware that all parts of these plants are poisonous, and may cause tummy upsets if you eat them.

Gingers and heliconias are fabulous in semi-shade, producing extraordinary blooms through summer and into autumn.