Plants for Shade

Fall is finally here. We can look forward to cooler weather, more things to do in the lawn and garden, and football. Fall is a great time to plant a tree. When planting that tree, remember to plant it correctly and utilize the correct plants and mulches underneath the tree.

2013-06-03 14.51.07

Trees are vital to life. They change Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen for us to breath in. They are also a great advantage to our landscapes. Trees give us shade to reduce our cooling bills, block winds to reduce our heating bills, increase the value of our homes, and make us happier. Research has proven that hospital patients with a view of greenspace heal quicker than those without a view of landscaping.

When planting a tree, choose one that is well suited for our environment and for your particular needs of the tree, i.e. shade, flower, fruit, height, etc. Remember to check for clearance as that tree will grow, read the label for mature height and check for power lines and other objects that would impede the natural growth. Dig the hole to be twice as large and only as deep as the rootball that your tree has. Remove all burlap, twine, and wires from the rootball and backfill around the rootball with the soil that was removed for the hole. Water the tree in well after planting and if staking is used, make sure that it is loose around the tree and it is only left on for one growing season.

Even though trees are great to have in our landscapes, they can cause problems to the turfgrass growing underneath. Turf is not the best option to grow under heavy shade of trees as it constantly faces pressure from weeds and diseases and thins out quickly and often. Shady areas of your landscape do not have to be the part of your landscape that you have to constantly deal with, it can be a place to enjoy shade tolerant plants and escape from the sun on hot days outdoors.

There are many great plant choices for shade. To determine what will grow best in your shade location, you need to know just how shady the site is. You need to know when and how long the area is in sun and when and how long it is in shade. It might be necessary to re-visit the site several times during the day to document when and where the sun is received as the day progresses.

Just knowing that the area is in shade during the day does not give us enough information to know which plants will grow best in the area. It is also important to know whether the sun a plant receives is in the morning or in the afternoon. The intensity of the sun in these locations would differ greatly. For example, plants such as azaleas, holly, and clematis grow healthier in morning sun than they would in afternoon sun, even if the total hours of sunlight were the same.

Great choices for plantings of shady areas include the following

Shade perennial Collage


  • Anemone
  • Astilbe
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bergenia
  • Columbine
  • Foxglove
  • Coral Bells
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit
  • Helleborus
  • Toad Lily
  • Virginia Bluebells
  • Hostas
  • Hydrangea

shade groundcovers Collage

Ground Covers

  • Bugleweed
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Vinca
  • Purple leaf wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’)

Shade shrubs Collage


  • Alpine Currant
  • Chokeberry
  • Cotoneaster
  • Red twig, yellow twig, Cornelian Cherry, and Gray Dogwoods
  • Ninebark
  • Privet
  • Snowberry
  • Coralberry

As you can see, there are many different plants that can be planted underneath trees that will actually grow much better than turfgrass that will struggle and compete with weeds throughout the growing season. With any landscaping bed or area surrounding a tree, a nice layer of 2-3 inches of organic mulch, such as woodchips, will benefit the area by helping to conserve moisture, keep temperatures consistent, and combatting weeds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s