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
7 ratings

Sunday - September 21, 2008

From: Rahway, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Plants for shade in New Jersey
Answered by: Nan Hampton


hi ,i live in rahway nj and i was wondering what are good plant and shrubs to plant for this area. we are doing all new landscaping and we have alot of shade areas. we like the ornamental grasses but they say they are full sun . would they still grow if we planted them in an area that gets more shade then sun. thank you d them in a shadey area?


Many of the ornamental grasses are not native grasses and since our focus here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is wth plants native to North America, we can't really advise you on non-natives.  However, I seriously doubt that plants that are recommended for full sun will flourish in shade or partial shade.  They might stay alive, but wouldn't be very attractive. 

You can find a list of native 'ornamental' grasses (at least Mr. Smarty Plants thinks they are ornamental) that will grow in the shade or partial shade by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database and selecting New Jersey from the "Select State or Province" option, 'Grass/Grass-like' from the "Habit (general appearance)" option, and 'Partial shade...' from the "Light requirement" option.  This will give you a list of more than 100 grasses or grass-like plants.  Here are a few ornamental native grasses that Mr. Smarty Plants recommends:

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Since you have abundant shade, you might consider ferns.  You can find a list by doing the same search above, but substituting 'Ferns' for 'Grass/Grass-like' from the "Habit (general appearance)" option.  Here are some recommendations:

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern)

Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)

Osmunda regalis (royal fern)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

Finally, you can find a list of native plants that are commercially available for landscaping in New Jersey by selecting the state from the map on our Recommended Species page.  When you reach the list, you can choose NARROW YOUR SEARCH and select 'Part shade...' from the "Light Requirement" option.   This list has nearly 95 species that will grow in the partial shade (2 to 6 of hours or sun per day).  The list includes trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.  For all the plants recommended (including the ones above) you will need to compare the requirements for soil moisture and type as well as available sunlight with those available for your area.

Carex pensylvanica

Carex blanda

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Athyrium filix-femina

Dryopteris marginalis

Osmunda cinnamomea

Polystichum acrostichoides

Osmunda regalis



More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plants for a moist, shady spot in central Texas
July 08, 2016 - I am looking for a plant that will grow in almost full shade with plenty of moisture along a fence. We are looking at putting down some flagstone with possibly some moss growing in between, but we don...
view the full question and answer

Turks cap not blooming in Austin
June 03, 2008 - Why is my Turks Cap not blooming? It gets about an hour of sun in the morning, then shade for the rest of the day. It gets watered with the sprinkler system that waters our lawn.
view the full question and answer

Fast growing shade tree for Phoenix, Arizona
November 07, 2007 - Would you recommend a fast growing shade tree for Phoenix, AZ that will grow at least 30 ft. high and with a similar canopy in clay soil?
view the full question and answer

Shade-loving plants for a long, narrow bed.
October 31, 2007 - 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...
view the full question and answer

Shrub for shade in Austin, Texas.
March 27, 2009 - Live in Austin, Texas and need to plant a shrub or plant that will grow well in little to no sun. Can grow 4 feet in height
view the full question and answer

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