En EspaŅol

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
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

Saturday - March 14, 2009

From: Sydney, Nova Scoti
Region: Canada
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Flowers or plants for no-sun area in Nova Scotia
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What kind of flowers or plants can I plant in my rock garden that gets virtually no sun? I have wasted so much money on plants that were guaranteed to grow.


We can't guarantee our recommendations will grow, either, but we'll make a best effort. The first thing we would suggest is that you use plants native to Nova Scotia. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we focus on the use and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. The next suggestion is to select plants adapted to low light. We define less than 2 hours of sun a day as "shade." You need to consider, too, that the construction, soil or exposure of the rock garden might need some changes. This Virginia Cooperative Extension website Rock Gardens has a lot of good information on what you need for a successful garden. 

Because we are not that familiar with gardening in Canada, we went to Northscaping.com for the Interactive Climatic Map for Nova Scotia; when we clicked on Sydney, we learned that you are in Hardiness Zone 5, your average last spring frost is May 6, first fall frost November 6 and you have a typical growing season of 184 days. 

There are plants that will grow in only filtered light or limited full sunlight, and we will go to our Native Plant Database and select some plants that we hope will work for you via a Combination Search for Nova Scotia native plants, selecting on dry soil and shade as Soil Moisture and Light Requirements, respectively. We found 7 herbaceous flowering plants and 2 ferns that fit those requirements. Follow each plant link below to find out about that plant's culture and propagation.

These plants are all commercially available, but if you have difficulty finding them, you can go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and province in the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape and environment consultants in your general area. When we tested that, we only got suppliers in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which just means no native plants suppliers in Nova Scotia have registered with us yet. However, all those listed in our database have contact information, including websites, and you might be able to get more information from them, or to find a nursery that specializes in native plants in Nova Scotia. 

HERBS (herbaceous flowering plants) for dry shade in Nova Scotia

Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower)

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower)

Corallorhiza maculata (summer coralroot)

Desmodium canadense (showy ticktrefoil)

Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa (roundlobe hepatica)

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)

Viola adunca (hookedspur violet)


Polypodium virginianum (rock polypody)

Pteridium aquilinum (western brackenfern)

Aquilegia canadensis

Campanula rotundifolia

Corallorhiza maculata

Desmodium canadense

Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa

Mitchella repens

Viola adunca

Polypodium virginianum

Pteridium aquilinum





More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Hummingbird Bushes for Broken Arrow OK
August 27, 2014 - I am looking for bushes that attract hummingbirds. I live in Broken Arrow, OK. Can you recommend some?
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep bank in Pennsylvania
July 12, 2011 - What do I do with a very steep bank with hard clay soil to stop erosion and to look nice. Is there a ground cover that would help?
view the full question and answer

Slope Erosion control for Fairview NC
August 19, 2012 - Please recommend plants to help with soil erosion on a slope. The soil is red clay and area gets full sun. The slope is approximately 12' x 12'. I live in Fairview, NC
view the full question and answer

Non-toxic plants for dog yard from Freeport PA
June 24, 2012 - I'm looking for wildlife-friendly native plants that aren't toxic to dogs. I have a place for some small shrubs and/or flowers. And a climbing vine that I could train on a trellis would work espec...
view the full question and answer

More questions about Asclepias spp.
December 24, 2008 - Hi. Thank-you for replying to my message. What does Emory's Milkweed look like? I have been trying to find out, but no luck. Also What Milkweeds did you find for sale as seeds and plants? Does Texas ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center