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 Herbs/Forbs Questions

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Shriveling and dying of non-native impatiens
July 14, 2008 - Several years now many of my impatiens after a month or so seem to shrivel up and eventually die. They are planted in a row and not all are affected. I am not noticing any slug evidence which I would...
view the full question and answer

How to Control Pests on Plants for Sale
May 15, 2014 - I am renting a closed spot at a flea market, and am having trouble with several infestations at once, and I am not sure how to control them. I am currently having trouble with aphids, whiteflies, and ...
view the full question and answer

Mildew in Phlox paniculata
October 13, 2008 - I planted garden phlox (phlox paniculata) in my front landscaping and it is suffering from mildew. It is wet on that side due to a down spout and it may benefit from being split. Does anyone know of...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a property near a conservation area in MD
July 18, 2011 - Can you tell me what native plants and the type of landscaping that would be good to plant in front of a forest conservation area that is on a steep hill behind our future house? It is located in Manc...
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