These plants brighten shaded landscapes (Plantman Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 09/12/04 - 09/18/04 (679 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones
These plants brighten shaded landscapes
Recently in this column I suggested a few ideas for trees that could provide some much-needed shade to your sun-drenched landscape. But what if your property is ALREADY quite shady?
Perhaps you want to add some attractive shrubbery but don’t want to remove the trees that cast a long shadow over your chosen planting site. Or maybe a neighboring structure, over which you have no control, means that direct sunlight doesn’t spend much time on your side of the fence.
A hopeless situation?
No, not at all! Today I’ll share with you some of my favorite plants that seem to do very well even when planted in shady locations.
But first, if you missed the column on fast-growing shade trees, you can find it archived at my web site. Go to click on the “Plant Man” heading, then scroll down to the column titled “These trees have it made in the shade.”
Now on to those “shade loving” plants...
Viburnum shoshoni Let’s start with one that can thrive in anything from almost full sun to partial shade. A lot of people favorably compare this Viburnum to a Dogwood, and I can see why! In spring, the blooms create an effect of white lace on green velvet, and in summer birds will be attracted by the red berries. The fall colors range from yellow-orange to pink and purple. It will grow to about 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide and is fairly low maintenance: prune back the dead bits or just leave it alone.
French Pussy Willow (Salix caprea) If your site is not only somewhat shady but also quite wet, the French Pussy Willow could be a very attractive choice. The silvery, furry catkins appear in late winter or very early spring and look spectacular when ‘forced’ for early season flower arrangements. There is a delightful legend about how the Pussy Willow got its name, and cat lovers all go “Awwwwww....!” when they hear it! If you’d like to read it, send me an e-mail at and I’ll send it to you!
Brilliant Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’) Although this Chokeberry does well in direct sun, it’s another option if your chosen spot is not only shady but somewhat wet. In fact it is often selected by landscapers to border the boggy areas near ponds and streams. It’s a fairly slow grower, topping out at around 6 to 8 feet, and as you might guess from its name, is renowned for its attractive glossy red berries and red fall foliage. I like this particular Chokeberry because it is more compact, produces more lustrous foliage with superior red fall color and produces larger, glossier and more abundant fruit than some others.
Fragrant honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) You might not think of this as a shade-loving plant, but in fact it is quite tolerant of partial sun and shade conditions. In the spring, it comes alive with pink and white blossoms that produce a delightful fragrance! It has a high tolerance for various soil conditions and has low water requirements. Fragrant honeysuckle can create a very attractive screen in front of an ugly fence, or you can ‘soften’ the hard appearance of a brick wall or the side of a garage.
There are a number of other plants that can brighten up the shady parts of your landscape, and I’ll have some more suggestions in a future column. Meanwhile, if you need some specific suggestions, drop me an e-mail and I’ll do my best to help.
Reminder: Saturday, September 18 is National Public Lands Day. This annual event brings together thousands of volunteers around the country to care for one of America’s most valuable resources: our public lands. To find out more or to volunteer, go to Or click on the link in this column archived at my web site.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit
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