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

Thursday - June 25, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Shade groundcover under Magnolia in Austin, Texas
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe

QUESTION:

I have a 50' Magnolia grandiflora casting full shade underneath with very shallow and some exposed roots. I have Horseherb (calyptocarpus vialis)in the area and have been encouraging it to spread under the Magnolia but so far it has not made much progress. In addition to the Horseherb are there any other native grasses or ground covers that will survive/thrive under this tree?

ANSWER:

Your choice of Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) for groundcover in understory shade is a good one. It spreads both by root and seed and should gradually fill the area in. It is winter-dormant, so using it in combination with some other species helps fill the gaps, so to speak. We have several suggestions.

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) – I've seen this plant do surprisingly well in fairly shady sites. It doesn't bloom, or doesn't bloom much, as shade deepens, but it provides winter greenery and an attractive texture. It spreads by root and seed. In hot, dry settings, extra summer water is appreciated, but in the shade it will likely pull through on its own, although it may become semi-dormant at this time.

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage) – This is one tough and adaptable little plant. It thrives in shade and survives pretty large doses of sun. It WILL spread, mainly by seed, but also by root division. The rosette remains green all winter. The distinctive marking on the leaf – shaped like a lyre! – is distinguishing. The plant also tolerates both wet and dry conditions. Flower color seems to vary with seasonal climatic variations, one year quite periwinkle blue, another year paler and less conspicuous. Deadheading the spent spikes may be desireable for appearance.

Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata (heartleaf skullcap) – Another evergreen herbaceous perennial, this plant spreads by seed, but even more by root. It can be somewhat summer-dormant. This plant does become 1 to 3 feet tall.

Salvia coccinea (blood sage) – Scarlet or Tropical Sage does okay in shade and would be a pretty accent to other plants. Regular and fairly drastic pruning will keep it dense and promote repeat flowering.

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)  – You are correct in speculating that there are sedges that can serve well as understory groundcover. This one is better adapted to shade than some other Texas natives, according to our Native Plants Database, but other possibilities are: Carex planostachys (cedar sedge),which is found under our local  Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper), and Carex texensis (Texas sedge).

 

 


Calyptocarpus vialis

Achillea millefolium

Salvia lyrata


Salvia coccinea

Carex blanda

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Colorful flowering plants in shade of live oak in Louisiana
November 29, 2013 - What colorful flowering plants can be grown near the shady base of live oak trees in the Deep South?
view the full question and answer

Philadelphus ernestii under live oak in Pflugerville TX
April 05, 2010 - Will Philadelphus ernestii thrive in the root zone of live oak, or would the oak inhibit its growth? I'd like to plant it just at the edge of the canopy.
view the full question and answer

Part shade garden to attract hummingbirds in Texas
July 14, 2008 - We are inexperienced gardeners. We have a bed (2.5' x 6') with sun in the morning and shade in afternoon and want to attract hummingbirds. Salvia coccinea sounds easy, but what else could we plant...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for rock garden under large oak
October 02, 2012 - I am planning a small rock garden under a large oak tree. I would like a spreading evergreen ground cover that will grow in the shade. Drought-tolerant would be preferred as I live in the high plains...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for shade in Paris, Texas
November 02, 2009 - I have a south exposure with 2 large sycamore trees. Noon sun in patches and mainly dappled shade but not dense. I'm consideering planting asian ivy. The soil is "sandy loam" but it's very sand...
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