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Which plants are best for color in my shady spots?

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Q: I need a suggestion for some flowers that’ll add lots of color in a couple of pots I have. Trouble is, they are in a shady spot for most of the day! Help. – N.S., Rio Rancho

A: Here are two plants for you to search out to color up your world.

First, look for impatiens. These vibrant blooming annual flowers will cheer any pot you put them in! You can find the impatiens in so many colors, too. They’ll be available in brilliant white flowers, pale pinks, soft lavenders and rosy pinks that’ll catch the eye all season long. If your tastes run to a more vibrant palette, you should be able to find impatiens in brash orange colors, magentas and some of the most vivid purples you’ve ever seen. The best part is impatiens thrive in shade. In fact, they’ll collapse if planted in too sunny a locale.

Next, consider annual begonias. You can find plants wearing true, good red-color blooms, some that are happy pink or brilliant white. The foliage of the begonia is a visual treat, as well – stocky ear-shaped leaves that are a good green color and then some that have a red-bronze color to them. The plants that wear the red-bronze can handle quite a bit of sun, too, making them multi-talented. But in your shady spot, the begonia would be a good choice. In most nurseries you should find a “shade” section that’ll make shopping for your color needs a bit easier.

Q: “Prune after the bloom,” right? Is now the time to prune my lilacs? – R.T., West Side

A: I am so happy that you remember my silly wee rhyme! Yes, it is time to prune the lilac, the forsythia and any winter blooming jasmine if you have any living in your landscaping. It’s the new growth that’ll support next year’s bloom, so get cracking! Or should I say “get cutting”? It depends on how big the plant is now and how you want the plant to look as to how much you take it down. On average, pruning back about one-third of the shrub’s size will keep it happy and healthy. With lilac, I know it’s good to remove a couple of the older, more internal, canes to rejuvenate the whole plant every couple of years, too.

Q: I am in the process of winning the dandelion war in my lawn and wonder if you think I’ll still get germination of the grass seed I’m applying in the ex-dandelion spots or is it getting too hot? – L.L., Albuquerque

A: You know, as long as you keep the spots dampened where you are putting the seed, cover it (just enough) with some fresh mushroom compost, and don’t cut the lawn too short when you mow, I am going to think good thoughts. This year is shaping up to be an odd one as far as temperatures, so go for it for a while longer. Leaving bare spots in the lawn are open invitations for any manner of interloper, so if you don’t set down seed, you might go to plugging in pieces of sod. But with the nighttime still very mild and your dedication to keeping the grass seed healthy, I believe you can continue winning your lawn war.

Happy Digging In!

Need tips on growing your garden? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.