Ask Burton: This week, we’re looking at color for a shady porch – not the easiest thing to do in the cool season. Q: I have a shady covered porch on the north side of my home, and I really want some color for the winter. What can I do? Pansies never thrive well, and I’m pretty sure it’s too dark.

A: Color in shady areas in winter is difficult! It takes a lot of energy to put out a lot of nice blooms, and you just aren’t getting enough, between the shorter days and the sun’s angle at this time of year. Here are a few pointers on making your patio attractive this winter:

  • Focus on foliage color and texture. It’s quite possible to have interesting leaf color with plants such as ajuga, heuchera, variegated English ivy, or variegated fig ivy; plants which will show leaf color other than green without a lot of light. Flowering cabbages, kale, and rainbow chard are good choices, too. Several of the evergreen ferns would be useful for texture, such as holly or autumn ferns.
  • Some flowers are more shade tolerant than others. Truly, your area is dark enough that you won’t have great flowering on anything you try to keep in this area long term, but cyclamen is a plant with a unique look which is more shade tolerant than most for winter.
  • If you want bright blooming pots of color, there’s still a way! Plant several containers up with the beautiful flowering color you’d like to normally see this time of year, and just rotate your pots from a sunny spot they’ll enjoy into this area periodically. If you don’t leave the pots in the deep shade for too long at a time, you’ll keep them in good health and with color.  When the color starts to lose its best show, exchange them with the plants you’re holding in a sunnier location.