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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.

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Monday - September 14, 2009

From: Lincoln, NH
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Fast-growing evergreen shade shrub for Lincoln NH
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need a fast-growing, shade loving evergreen shrub that will give us privacy and grow in and around some White Pines whose branches were pruned to 4 - 6 ft above the ground. The house is in Lincoln New Hampshire. We need the shrub to grow to at least 8 feet. I understand that we can use Rhododendron Maximus (spelling?), but these are often very leggy and not all that attractive compared to other rhodies or other shrubs. We do get at least 2 hours of sun per day in the area. Some spots get even more. A speedy reply would be very much appreciated as the planting season is already upon us.

ANSWER:

We believe you are referring to Rhododendron maximum (great laurel),  which is indeed an evergreen shrub, grows 4 to 15 ft. tall, blooms white, pink in June. It has medium water use, and can tolerate shade (less than 2 hours of sun a day) or part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun). Warning: Rhododendrons contain poisonous substances and should not be ingested by humans or animals. Honey made from flowers also may be toxic. POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Highly Toxic, May be Fatal if eaten.

Finding any evergreen shrub that will grow that tall and do well in that much shade is not easy, especially in Grafton County, New Hampshire, in the western mid-section of the state. The USDA Hardiness Zone for that area is 4b, which means you can expect an average annual minimum temperature of -25 to -20 deg. F. In addition to the great laurel listed above, we found three more evergreen (or semi-evergreen, in one case) shrubs that are native to Grafton Co., so you know that the soils, climate and rainfall are suitable for those plants. Hopefully, one or more of them will serve your purposes. Follow the links to the page on each individual plant for more information on growing conditions and propagation. 

We also hope we got this answer to you in a timely enough manner. If you will notice on the front page for "Ask Mr. Smarty Plants" , we try to answer questions within one or two weeks of receipt. We receive many, many questions from literally all over the world, and they are answered by a small group of volunteers who answer questions in the order they are received. Since we received your question on Sept. 9, we trust this is sufficient.

Evergreen shrubs for New Hampshire:

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush) - 6 to 12 ft. tall, evergreen, blooms white, pink June to September, high water use, moist soil

Ilex glabra (inkberry) - 6 to 12 ft. tall, evergreen, high water use, moist soil, blooms white May to July

Morella pensylvanica (northern bayberry) - 3 to 12 ft. tall, semi-evergreen in North, medium water use

From the Native Plant Image Gallery:


Rhododendron maximum

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Ilex glabra

Morella pensylvanica

 

 

 


 

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