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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.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Thursday - April 03, 2014

From: Atlanta, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Soils, Drought Tolerant, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: Plants for a Narrow, Dry, Shaded Site in Georgia
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I am writing from Valdosta, GA. Could you please suggest three perennial shrubs and/or plants that flower at different times of the spring and summer? Also ones that can be planted in a 2 ft. wide strip between a concrete driveway and brick house foundation that is facing northeast, and is usually shaded. The plants have to be drought tolerant and native to the southeast Georgia and northeast Florida area. It is alright if one plant does not bloom, but I would like a grass type, ferny leaf type, and a larger leaf so that when it is not blooming the plants are interesting. They are being planted at a rental home for college students a block off campus in Valdosta. We reside in Atlanta and are not sure what plants are native south of us. We asked at Home Depot and Lowes, but no one was certain which are native. Please could you help?

ANSWER:

There are many shade-loving native shrubs and perennials that are candidates for your 2-foot wide house foundation strip that bloom at different times in the spring and summer. When considering plants, take a close look at the ultimate width to make sure they won’t encroach on the driveway.

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 – Georgia, Habit – Shrub (also search for Herb), Duration – Perennial, Leaf Retention – Evergreen & Deciduous, Light Requirement – Shade, Soil Moisture – Moist, Size – 0-6 ft. These search criteria will give you some evergreen and deciduous 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.

Here are some plants from the Native Plants Database search.

Spring blooms

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

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

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

Leucothoe axillaris (coastal doghobble), evergreen, white drooping bells in spring. Glossy, dark green foliage turns red-green and purple in winter.

Lyonia lucida (fetterbush lyonia), evergreen, pinkish-white blooms, glossy green foliage. 

Summer blooms

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

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

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

Geranium macumatum (spotted geranium), perennial, pinkish-white blooms.

Ferns

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern)

Dryopteris cristata (crested woodfern)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Running serviceberry
Amelanchier stolonifera

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Coastal doghobble
Leucothoe axillaris

Fetterbush lyonia
Lyonia lucida

Shrubby st. john's-wort
Hypericum prolificum

Turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Spotted geranium
Geranium maculatum

Common lady fern
Athyrium filix-femina

Crested woodfern
Dryopteris cristata

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