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Annuals for small shady gardens and balconies

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Violets - delicate splashes of colour
Violets - delicate splashes of colour

Brighten up your shady urban garden with summer colour

Gardens of new houses are getting smaller and more and more people have access only to a balcony, back yard or windowbox.

Most people associate gardens with the sun – but what if your little piece of heaven is in the shade?

As buildings go upwards and get squashed together, the result is more shady spots – but don’t despair.

Annuals aren’t what you usually reach for when dealing with shade or partial shade (see my in-depth choice of perennials, shrubs and trees here).

Most annuals love the sun

There is a reason for this – most need full sun. However, these varieties will tolerate some shade – but be prepared to sacrifice a few flowers.

Begonia semperflorens (fibrous-rooted not tuberous): Tender perennials usually grown as annuals from seed or as young plants in late spring. The white, pink or red flowers with showy foliage cope well with partial shade. Harden off and plant out after the last frost – feed containers every week with tomato fertiliser every week during the summer.

Bellis perennis (daisy): Ornamental form of the common lawn daisy, with often double flowers in cultivars, from early spring to late summer, up to 10cm tall.

Impatiens (busy Lizzie): One of the best for shade, used as bedding plants, or in borders or in pots. They’re not keen on full sun and can fall victim to downy mildew. New Guinea hybrids have better resistance.

Prolific self-seeders

Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh poppy): This is an annual that self-seeds everywhere in my garden and will tolerate a lot of shade, with its yellow flowers.

Tropaeolum (nasturtium): Whether compact or tall, climbing varieties, unfussy nasturtiums are an excellent choice for children or beginners. They’ll cope well with semi-shade and do suffer heat stress in exposed, hot sites. Self-seed too. In cream, orange, yellow, red and burgundy, from 30cm to 2m.

Viola (pansy): Pansies and violas flower best in cooler weather, which is why they are so popular in winter pots and baskets for an early show. Partial shade is ideal for them, as the hot afternoon sun will shut down flower production. Violas cope with deeper shade in my garden and self-seed.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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