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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - April 16, 2010

From: Huntley, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Plants for a shady spot in Illinois
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I live in a new development in Huntley, IL. I am looking for native trees, shrubs, plants and/or flowers to plant on the North side of my house. Fairly shaded. Hopefully something attractive and colorful?? Maybe some different plants to bloom at different times of the year? I like the idea of arborvitae's and maybe forsythia's with some ground evergreens and flowers??? Any ideas?


This looks like a fun project even though you are describing a situation that can be quite elusive for most gardeners (attractive and colorful with blooms throughout the season).

It's not impossible, though, and you will be able to devise your own scheme using our Native Plant Database .  You can do a Combination Search for Illinois and then select the conditions (shade/part shade and wet/dry?) for shrubs, perennials and so on.  You can narrow down the search according to bloom time and color.

For instance, when I selected shade/part shade, moist soil, shrubs and white flowers, blooming in June, a list of 37 plants is generated.  Each plant on the list is linked to a detailed plant information page.

A few that I like from that list are:

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick) (this is a ground cover)

Cornus alternifolia (alternateleaf dogwood)

Hydrangea arborescens (wild hydrangea)

When selecting the same conditions but perennials (herbs) that bloom blue in August & September, there are 16 to choose from.

Gentianopsis crinita (greater fringed gentian)

Iris versicolor (harlequin blueflag)

Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia)

And so on ... you can do a number of searches for the various plant types and bloom color/time.  Ultimately, your choices will be limited by the plants you can find in the nurseries in your area (and the fact that you won't really find any yellow flowering plants ... generally, sunny colored flowers like full sun!).  I'm sure you'll quickly get the hang of it and will soon have a lengthy wish list and a great garden plan.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Cornus alternifolia

Hydrangea arborescens

Iris versicolor

Lobelia siphilitica






More Shade Tolerant Questions

Need evergreen hedge and groundcover for shade in Carmel, Indiana
September 27, 2010 - Our property is bounded by a fencerow that is wooded and mostly shaded by mulberry and hackberry trees during the growing months. We'd like to create a 5'+ tall evergreen barrier on the property li...
view the full question and answer

Ornamental plants for under live oaks
September 08, 2008 - What ornamental plant will do well under Live Oak trees?
view the full question and answer

Correct cultural conditions for liatris
April 15, 2008 - I recently bought some gayfeather (liatris pycnostachya) and planted in my yard in a nice full sun spot. Gets sun for roughly 10 hours a day. However, it's also the single driest spot in my yard (jus...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade in Abilene TX
October 29, 2011 - I live in Abilene, Texas. I am trying to find the best plants to fill in an area on the North side of my home, which gets absolutely no sun. The area is sprinklered, and stays fairly moist. I really d...
view the full question and answer

Is Phyla lanceolata (frogfruit) poisonous to dogs fromTitusville FL?
June 01, 2014 - Is Phyla lanceolata, also called Fogfruit, Lanceleaf Fogfruit, or Northern Fogfruit, toxic to dogs? We have it growing amongst our grass. I can't find it on any toxic plant list.
view the full question and answer

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