The Plant Man column
for publication week of 09/12/04 - 09/18/04
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 www.landsteward.org 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...
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it
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
http://www.npld.com 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 email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit