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I have 2 Mulberry trees, 1 red, 1 white under which I’d like to plant something perennial and hardy. Right now, I’m dealing with an ugly, almost bare lawn because, of course, nothing grows really well with almost no sun. Am I limited to hostas or do I even have that option? Are there any other options?

K., First I’d like to dispel the idea that “of course, nothing grows really well with almost no sun.” I’m sure that it seems that way because it IS difficult to grow a lawn or plants in shade but, it really has little to do with the shade. The real culprit here isn’t the shade but the roots of those mulberry trees. Your mulberry trees have a large and fairly shallow root system that is competing with the very shallow roots of your lawn. Guess which is winning that competition? That’s right… the trees. If you plant grass types that can grow in shade like those in Hewitt’s Shady Blend of grass seed then it will do fine under the mulberries. This is good news for you though since there are lots of option for perennials and annuals that can thrive in shade. Annuals for shade include impatiens, coleus, non-stop and wax begonias and others. You certainly can grow hostas and there are lots of interesting types to choose from. Other shade perennials to consider would be heuchera, bleeding heart, astilbe, ferns, epimedium lamium, vinca, and lots more. Google ‘perennials for shade’ and you’ll see lists galore. Before you plant under those mulberry trees though, you’ll want to improve the soil’s ability to absorb and hold moisture. This means blending peat moss into the existing soil at a 50-50 ratio. If you can blend the peat moss into the soil to a depth of 8″ to 12″ that would be ideal. Yes, that is a lot of peat moss but it will benefit your new shade garden for years to come. The you can start hunting for shade perennials to add to your new shade garden. Make sure to add bone meal into your planting hole to provide slow release phosphorus to help get the plants get established. Bone meal will last in the soil for several years but must be placed where the roots of the plant will grow into and use it. Bone meal sprinkled on the surface does no good. In spite of all the soil building you’ve done, it will still be necessary to water your shade garden a little extra since those mulberry roots are still down there robbing water from your shade garden. Oozing soaker hoses work great form since they soak the soil slowly while keeping the leaves dry and healthy. Thanks for thinking of Hewitts, Peter Bowden

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