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?


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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - October 31, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Shade-loving plants for a long, narrow bed.
Answered by: Nan Hampton


We are installing a bed with a student-made sculpture dedicated to mothers at our high school in Austin, Texas. The bed is against the two-story school, east facing,and shaded by cedar elm. What can we plant in this long shallow bed that can a thrive in so little light? I was thinking of beauty berry, which has done well under live oak. What else? Groundcover and shrubs. White avens? Cedar Sedge?


Mr. Smarty Plants thinks you have several very attractive choices for your bed. For example:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) and Malvaviscus arboreus (Turk's cap) both grow very well in the shade. They both lose their leaves in the wintertime, however, and the Turk's cap essentially dies to the ground to resprout from the roots in the spring.

Geum canadense (white avens) and the sedges [Carex planostachys (cedar sedge) and Carex texensis (Texas sedge)] should do nicely in the shade and are evergreen.

There are a couple of native grasses (Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) and Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) that grow well in the shade and have foliage and seed heads that are attractive even after the grasses have died.

Another evergreen possibility is Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto) and two low groundcovers that grow in the shade, Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) and Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit), and both are evergreen in mild winters.

Finally, both Salvia coccinea (blood sage) and Ruellia nudiflora (violet wild petunia) are happy in the shade, bloom over a long period and retain their foliage well into the winter.

Callicarpa americana

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Geum canadense

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Sabal minor

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora

Salvia coccinea

Ruellia nudiflora





More Shade Tolerant Questions

Native grass for sandy soil and shade
May 27, 2011 - We have a sandy soil and lots of shade. Is there a native grass that would do well under these conditions?
view the full question and answer

Replacement for Love Grass in Michigan
July 27, 2015 - need a replacement for Love Grass at Shops of Willow Bend in Plano. The entire perimeter of this mall has Bermuda and Love Grass. The Elms and Oaks have grown so the Love Grass is mostly gone. Ther...
view the full question and answer

What will grow under neighbor's overhanging tree in Grosse Pointe Woods MI
May 29, 2011 - My next door neighbor has a beautiful tree that is easily 60 years old and thus not going anywhere. Unfortunately, for me the roots of this tree have extended under a large corner of my back yard. Add...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for shade in McKinney TX
August 19, 2010 - Dear Sir, We have lived in the same house for 25 years and when we originally moved in we had St. Augustine sod installed and for several years it did very well until my trees started getting bigge...
view the full question and answer

Deer-resistant, shade tolerant evergreens for privacy in Milford MI
April 12, 2010 - I'm looking for deer resistant evergreens that will be planted in the shade. I need the evergreens to hide an area I don't want to see from my home. Hence, they need to go tall. Can you give me a r...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center