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
2 ratings

Saturday - May 02, 2009

From: Burlington, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Dwarf native plants for shade in Burlington, MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hi, I removed all of the evergreen shrubs in front of my house in Zone 6. It is in full shade all summer but has some sun during the spring because of a huge beech tree in front yard. there is 2 8' x4' garden area's separated by 5 foot stairs. I want dwarf native plants. Any suggestions? I do not want rhododendron's and I left two azalea bushes one of each side of the stairs(white and purple), which I can move to start new. thankyou in advance


We will certainly try to find some shrubs that will live in full shade (less than 2 hours of sun daily) in your area. However, we can't guarantee that there will be dwarf selections of those plants. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are focused on the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plants are being grown. Therefore, our Native Plant Database, when we select for shrubs, part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun daily) to shade (less than 2 hours of sun) and Massachusetts, will list appropriate shrubs for that much shade and your climate, but not the dwarf selections. We will attempt, after we locate appropriate plants, to see if any dwarves of those plants have been bred and if they are commercially available. As it turned out, only one plant was evergreen, Galium proliferum (limestone bedstraw), and it and two others,  Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea) and Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort) grow to less than 3 ft. tall. We could find no dwarf versions of the larger shrubs, but included them in case you had other spots where you could use them.

Shrubs for shade iin Burlington, MA

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea) - deciduous to 3 ft. tall, blooms white March and April, medium water use, part shade or shade

Cornus alternifolia (alternateleaf dogwood) - deciduous, 20 to 35 ft. tall, blooms white May and June, medium water use, part shade or shade

Galium proliferum (limestone bedstraw) - evergreen, low, woody ground cover, blooms white, pink June to August, low water use, part shade to shade

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort) - deciduous to 3 ft tall, blooms yellow June to August, high water use, part shade or shade

Rosa palustris (swamp rose) - deciduous, 6 to 8 ft. tall, blooms pink May and June, medium water use, part shade or shade

Viburnum lentago (nannyberry) - deciduous, 20 to 25 ft., blooms white in May, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Ceanothus americanus

Cornus alternifolia

Gaultheria procumbens

Hypericum prolificum

Rosa palustris



More Shade Tolerant Questions

Flowers or plants for no-sun area in Nova Scotia
March 14, 2009 - 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.
view the full question and answer

Low evergreen shrubs for shade in Spring TX
February 19, 2009 - I am looking for an evergreen plant that grows no taller than 2 feet and will grow in shade. I would love to have one that would also produce flowers. Please help and thanks.
view the full question and answer

Vine to cover fence from Haverhill MA
April 17, 2014 - Hello, I'm looking for a fast growing vine to cover a chain link fence. The area is sunny half of the day. I have 2 small children so I don't want something that attracts bees or could be dangerous ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Shade Under a Sweetgum
March 25, 2015 - I have 3 large sweetgum trees that produce so much shade each summer, and grass, even grass meant for shade, won't grow here. It's become a barren desert! I have English ivy but it only seems to gro...
view the full question and answer

Tree and vine for shade and privacy
June 03, 2008 - We recently added a deck in our backyard which faces west, we live in Circle C (southwest Austin). The afternoon sun is intense so we're looking to plant something along our fence line to provide sh...
view the full question and answer

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