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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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Thursday - December 31, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Evergreen plants for shaded lawn in Austin, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I want to replace three scrawny ligustrums on the shady north front of my house with native plants. I'd like evergreen plants that don't need much maintenance. I'm not looking for a hedge, but some plants of different sizes and textures, ideally with flowers or other interest at different times of the year. Plants that are fast growing up to a maximum of 6-9 feet high would be great because I'll probably need to buy small young plants. There's very little sun in this area - it's shaded by the house and there's a large tree (Chinese Tallow maybe?) in the middle of the smallish front yard. I know I'm asking for the world! Any recommendations you have would really help. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants hopes your area can be classified as "part shade" because we're not going to be very successful in finding many evergreen plants of larger size that do well in the shade.  In our database, shade = less than 2 hours of sunlight per day, part shade = 2 to 6 hours of shade per day, and sun = more than 6 hours of sun per day. Many of the plants listed below will grow in shade, but growth tends to be slower or the plants tend to be leggy when in complete shade. 

First of all, here are some shrubs/small trees that could work.  All have flowers and/or berries that are attractive.  Please realize that with judicious pruning you can keep these shrubs to reasonable size even though they potentially will grow taller than you want.

Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto) sun, part shade, shade to 5 feet.  Here is more information.

Morella cerifera [syn. Myrica cerifera](wax myrtle) sun, part shade to 20 feet and moderate growth rate.  There are also dwarf varieties that grow to only 5 or 6 feet.

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) part shade and moderate to fast growing up to 25 feet

Malpighia glabra (wild crapemyrtle) part shade to 6 feet.

Garrya ovata ssp. lindheimeri (Lindheimer's silktassel) part shade and fast growth to 11 feet.  Here is more information.

Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) part shade and fast growing to 15 to 20 feet

Rhus virens (evergreen sumac) sun, part shade and moderate to fast growth to 8 feet.  Here is more information.

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) sun, part shade and slow to moderate growth to 35 feet and has beautiful flowers in the spring.  Here is more information.

Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita) sun, part shade up to 8 feet.  Here is more information.

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush) sun, part shade, 5 to 8 feet, and here is more information.

Here are some smaller evergreen plants.

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) part shade moderate growth to 3 feet.  Here is more information

Salvia penstemonoides (big red sage) sun, part shade to 6 feet.

Yucca rupicola (Texas yucca) sun, part shade with foliage up to 2 feet and with the blossom to 5 feet.

Here are photos of the above plants from our Image Gallery:


Sabal minor

Morella cerifera

Ilex vomitoria

Garrya ovata ssp. lindheimeri

Malpighia glabra

Prunus caroliniana

Rhus virens

Nolina texana

Mahonia trifoliolata

Leucophyllum frutescens

Sophora secundiflora

Salvia penstemonoides

Yucca rupicola

 

 

 



 

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