Best Shade-Loving Water Garden Plants for Kaua’i
Shady or sunny? When it comes to water gardening it really does not matter. Water gardens can work in any location. It is always best to ask, ‘how much sun does your location get? This will decipher the plants that will work. After all, we want you to be successful! Try to monitor the amount of light your area is receiving with visual observation or even apps such as Sun Seeker that can help you to do so with accuracy.
If your area falls into the full sun range (6+ hours) we are always going to suggest the alluring world of water lilies (in which we specialize in). For the lilies, it is the more sun the better, with our lowest-light tolerant varieties clocking in at a minimum of about 4 hours of full sun.
However, what can we do for the areas of our gardens that are in partial shade (1.5-4 hours of sun) or full shade (less than 1.5 hours of sun)? Oftentimes it is these less-glamorous shady areas of our gardens and homes that needs a little lift, a little life (a little mana so to speak). It is these shady areas that beg the question, what water-garden plants will work in lower-light situations? How do I breathe life into these areas with shade-loving water gardens?
To answer these questions, we asked master-gardener and Garden Ponds founder/owner to give us some guidance – because who does not love a kumu with over 30 years of experience to offer their tried and true practices, specific to Kaua’i water-container gardening?
So without further ado here are Ken’s top picks for shade-loving water-garden plants.
One of the best flowering shade-loving plants is the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum). It can flourish in no direct sunlight and tolerate water up to its crown. The darker the location, the darker the leaves will become. If it has direct sunlight it would prefer morning sun for up to 3 hours or afternoon sun for up to 2 hours. If the location is too dark, it will not do well.
Chinese Taro or sometimes called ‘Buddha Heart’ (Alocasia cucullata) is not part of the Taro family, yet the shape of its leaves looks like one. It has a shiny waxy leaf and will grow up out of the water as the plant matures.
A variegated Hala (Pandanus baptistii) is another shade plant that will grow with no direct sunlight. We prefer a Japanese variety we carry since the darker the location the whiter the variegation, where the local varieties stay yellow. Hala is a long-term plant that will go up on its stilts and create quite a Hawaiian look in your shaded pond or water-container garden.
We have a Giant Iris variety that does not bloom and can get up to 5 feet tall in low light when let to go wild in the muck of a big pond. In a two-gallon pot of dirt it can get 2 feet tall in low light and in 3 hours of morning sun or 2 hours of afternoon sun it can get 16-18 inches tall. It does need about an hour of sun or two hours of filtered light to do well.
Dark leaf Taro (Colocasia esculenta) also tolerates low-light areas with no direct sunlight. Good reflected light will help keep the taro more natural-looking since the leaves tend to face the sun. We carry a black and cranberry colored taro. If you get 2 -3 hours of sun, mixing in a green taro really gives you a nice group-planting with a lot of color.
White or Yellow Fringe (Nymphoides indica) will grow well with no direct sunlight and the pads can be up to 10” across and can look like water lily pads. Its blossoms look like miniature silk flowers that are one day blossoms, yet the bloom is a succession of sprigs, so you’ll get 10-16 blossoms, one after another. It can tolerate up to 4-5 hours of sun, but the pads will grow smaller.
Another flowering plant that we have had success with are Anthuriums (Anthurium andraeanum). We carry varieties that tolerate their ankles in water and will grow up out of the water as it matures. A red blossom with a yellow stamen creates an amazing tropical look in a shaded water container garden.
Umbrella palm (Cyperus alternifolius) with 1-2 hours of sun with mosses growing in a drilled lava rock fountain creates an amazing water feature. If you give it 4 hours of morning sun you can grow a dwarf horsetail, water cress, and mosses on a lava rock fountain and create a peaceful natural sound as it drips into your water container garden with low-light water lilies.
Honourable mentions go to Penny Wort, Sagitaria, Horse Tail, Zepher Lily, Water Poppy, Cardamom, and Water Lettuce, Acorus or ‘Sweet Flag’.
Be sure to stop by to find the perfect ceramic from our new shipment of pots for your shade-loving water garden today – and add life to a low light area.