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?

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

Wednesday - April 29, 2009

From: Durham, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Foundation garden in shade in Durham, NC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm trying to replant a 3'x8' garden near the foundation of our house in Durham, NC. This part of the yard gets little, if any, sun and is mostly clay. I've tried adding compost and soil conditioner but it hasn't seemed to help. I would love to find some evergreen shrubs and some drought resistant plants that would do well there. Any recommendations please?

ANSWER:

You are going in the right direction adding compost to the soil in your bed. Another step you can take is to mulch the plants, once you have them in, with a good quality shredded hardwood mulch. This will protect the roots from heat and cold, help to hold in moisture and, as it decomposes, will contribute to improving the texture of your soil. Both compost and mulch will need to be added again from time to time. This practice also helps to address the problem of the clay soil. Clay does not drain well, and almost any plant that is not a wetlands plant needs good drainage. The continuous addition of organic materials will help keep your plant roots from drowning. A larger problem could be the amount of sun your bed is getting. We consider "sun" to be 6 or more hours of sun daily, "part shade", 2 to 6 hours of sun, and "shade", less than 2 hours daily. And if the shade is because of overhanging trees, there could be the issue of allelopathy, by which some mature trees emit substances toxic to competing plants beneath them. Even the twigs and leaves of some trees have this property, so your bed should always be kept clean of any tree debris. While there is not much we can do about the allelopathy, we can suggest some plants that tolerate clay soil, shade and require less water. We will, of course, be recommending only plants native not only to North America, but to North Carolina. Plants already accustomed to the rainfall, climate and soils of an area will need less fertilizer, water and maintenance.

To find plants for your garden, we are going to our Recommended Species section, click on North Carolina on the map, and then use Narrow Your Search to select first on "herbs" (herbaceous flowering plants) under Habit, "shade" and "part shade" under Light Requirements, and "dry" under Soil Moisture. We will repeat this with "shrubs" and then "ferns" under Habit. We have tried to select plants that are considered "woodland" plants, so they will be more likely to withstand having trees over them. Follow the plant links below and read all of the page about each individual plant, to help you make your decision about whether that one will work for you.

Herbaceous flowering plants

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine) - perennial to 2 ft. tall, blooms red, pink, yellow February to July, part shade to shade, low to medium water use

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed) - perennial to 2-1/2 ft. tall, evergreen, blooms yellow April to June, sun to shade, medium water use

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan) - annual or short-lived perennial, to 2 ft. tall, blooms yellow June to October, sun to shade, medium water use

Shrubs

Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush) - deciduous, blooms white, yellow April, sun to shade, medium water use

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) - deciduous, to 4 ft. tall, blooms white, green April to July, part shade to shade, low to medium water use

Ferns

Adiantum pedatum (northern maidenhair) - perennial, deciduous, part shade, shade, medium water use

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern) - perennial, deciduous, part shade, shade, medium water use

Osmunda regalis (royal fern) - perennial, deciduous, part shade, shade, high water use


Aquilegia canadensis

Coreopsis lanceolata

Rudbeckia hirta

Lindera benzoin

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Adiantum pedatum

Athyrium filix-femina

Osmunda regalis

 

 

 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Difficulty of watering at drip line of trees from The Woodlands TX
August 18, 2011 - I'm watering my couple dozen native mature trees to make sure they survive this drought and its aftermath..and I'm reading about how to water at the drip line. But..all of my trees' drip lines ext...
view the full question and answer

Allowing oak leaves to pile up at base of tree from San Jose CA
December 26, 2010 - Greetings, Is it a good idea to allow oak leaves to pile up at the base of our California live oak? Will that cause fungus, mold and rot that hurts the tree? Thanks for your advice.
view the full question and answer

Care of Ixora by lowering soil pH
March 24, 2007 - I have a bunch of Ixoras that the leaves are turning brown, before I pull them out, is there any kind of treatment to save them? I have used insecticidal soap several times but there has been no impro...
view the full question and answer

Possibility of growing plants in St. Peter Sandstone
April 02, 2008 - Can you grow plants or native plants in St. Peter Sandstone or amend it?
view the full question and answer

Spreading compost from Kyle TX
January 22, 2012 - I'm trying to find if there is some type of "implement" to help spread compost in my yard that is easier than a shovel and rake. Any ideas?
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