En EspaÑol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - April 03, 2014

From: Montgomery, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: Plant Suggestions for Shady Site under Trees in Alabama
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I live in Montgomery, AL and have a bare area (20' x 5’) that's shady and soil erosion is a problem. Grass stops growing at the drip line of the trees here. Do you have any suggestions for growing something that is fast growing and evergreen? Also, we have a woodland area behind the above bare spot that opens to a lake. This area is shady with some moss but no grass. What can we plant under these trees (sweetgum and oaks) that's low growing? We love the view of the lake.

ANSWER:

It's quite a challenge to find shade-loving, fast-growing, evergreen, native plants for your bare area. This search criteria only resulted in 2 possible plants. So, to give you more of a selection, I have expanded the search to include deciduous shrubs too.

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plants Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: State – Alabama, Habit – Shrub, Duration – Perennial, Leaf Retention – Evergreen & Deciduous, Light Requirement – Shade, Soil Moisture – Dry (it’s usually very dry under trees), Size – 0-12 ft. These search criteria will give you some evergreen shrubs of varying heights to consider. Follow each plant link to our webpage for that plant to learn its growing conditions, bloom time, etc. At the bottom of each plant webpage, under Additional Resources, there is a link to the USDA webpage for that plant. Take a look there for more specific details about suitability before you put them on your final planting list.

The results have been put into height groupings below to make them easier for reviewing.

0-3 ft

Gaulteria procumbens (eastern teaberry or wintergreen), about 1 foot tall, evergreen, white blooms in the summer and showy red fruits in the winter. 

Diervilla lonicera (Northern bush honeysuckle), yellow blooms in summer, red fall leaf color. 

Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry), white flowers in early summer followed by purplish, edible berries.

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. John’s wort), showy yellow blooms in summer. 

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk’s cap), bright red, pendant blooms late spring through early

3-6 ft

Amelanchier stolonifera (running serviceberry), deciduous, white flowers, edible fruit.

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea), clusters of white blooms in spring. 

Dirca palustris (Eastern leatherwood), small yellow flowers in spring, yellow fall foliage color. 

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry), non-showy greenish white blooms are followed by clusters of coral-pink berries that remain through winter.

Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum), flat-topped cluster of white flowers followed by red to blue-black berries.

Viburnum rafinesqueanum (downy arrowwood), white flat-topped clusters of flowers followed by dark blue berries. Colorful fall foliage.

6-12 ft

Corylus americana (American hazelnut), edible nut, fall color from bright yellow to wine-red. 

Lindera benzoin (Northern spicebush), pale yellow blooms before the leaves emerge, followed by bright red fruit. Golden yellow fall color.

Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark), clusters of white flowers in early summer, yellow fall foliage color.

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac), orange, red, purple and yellow fall color. Dark red berries that persist through winter.

Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto), evergreen.

Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry), pinkish-white flowers are followed by edible, blue fruit. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Northern bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Shrubby st. johnswort
Hypericum prolificum

Turk's cap or turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Running serviceberry
Amelanchier stolonifera

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Eastern leatherwood
Dirca palustris

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Downy arrowwood
Viburnum rafinesquianum

American hazelnut
Corylus americana

Northern spicebush
Lindera benzoin

More Shrubs Questions

Replacement for waxleaf privet
December 15, 2014 - i just removed some waxleaf privet due to reading about the invasive and allergy problem to it. Is indian hawthorn blueberry muffin any better? what shrub do you recommend? I want it to grow about 6-1...
view the full question and answer

Can I Grow Beautyberry
December 30, 2011 - Will try to be brief. Beautyberry sprouted leaves in vase of branches in water. It's NYC beginning of winter. Can I plant it outside? If not will it grow in a pot inside? Thanks. Happy New Ye...
view the full question and answer

Vines and shrubs for wildlife cover and food
December 14, 2007 - I own property in Stephens County about 10 miles north of Breckenridge, TX along the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. I have 45 acres that is open field and I want to provide cover and food for wildli...
view the full question and answer

Windbreaks for Monterey County, CA
May 31, 2013 - I am trying to find good wind breakers for Monterey County area, very windy in the valley.
view the full question and answer

Florida shrub with tiny green pumpkin-like fruit
July 23, 2008 - I live in Central Florida and have a fast-growing shrub with long stems. The leaves are similar to sassafras and from a distance the red flowers resemble those of a geranium. It has pods that look l...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center