Summer in Florida—summer in Wisconsin. We’d all agree there’s quite a difference. The plant tag says “full sun,” yet the same plant grown in July in Florida or in Northern Wisconsin, will yield dramatically different results. There’s so much vague information out there about gardening, and as valuable as plant labels are, I’ve never liked the fact that the info is universal regardless of the location in which the plants are sold.
Even though our summers are short, we have a great climate for bending the rules of gardening. Here are some examples:
Dragon Wing Begonia ~ The tag says part shade, but in our climate they will thrive in full sun or total shade. Their growth will be a bit different in each area, but will be outstanding in both.
Boston Fern ~ This is a very underutilized plant. Often thought of as “fussy” indoors, they are actually extremely easy outdoors. Our patio always has two 10” pots that receive hot afternoon sun. They start out stunning, and continue to be so until a hard frost. By mid-summer they boast a four-foot spread.
Heimalis Begonia ~ Often thought of as shade-loving, this compact show-stopper will take full sun with our moderate summers. Still, it will thrive in part shade.
Torenia ~ The tags say shade, but this plant also does very well in full sun.
Vines ~ This group includes sweet potato vines, German ivy, lotus, vincas, ibosa, and more. They are mainly used as fillers in containers, and are highly underutilized as focal plants. Often there seems to be too much focus on flowers, and not enough on texture and leaf color. One of the most striking displays in our yard is a group of stumps at various heights with a different potted vine flowing down each one. They are at the edge of the yard where the woods begin and form a living wall of unique beauty. Contrary to some labels, most vines will prosper in full sun, deep shade, or anything in between. An example of this is the three variegated potato vines we grow each year. They are in three different locations, from good sun to no sun whatsoever, and all three thrive beautifully.
Parting thoughts. Because of our moderate summers we can sometimes find locations (for instance, eastern morning sun) where a shade plant (i.e. impatiens) and a sun plant (i.e. geranium) can thrive side by side. Also, when bending the rules, some plants such as dragon wing begonia, when leaving the greenhouse will go through an adjustment phase if placed in full sun—you might even burn a few leaves. But once adjusted, they will grow beautifully.
Go be a garden rebel!!
~ Bill Cerny