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
2 ratings

Wednesday - April 28, 2010

From: Toledo, OH
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Plants for a shady front border in Ohio
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

My front flower bed faces the North. For the past 2 yrs. I lost 5-6 perennials. What can I plant that will make it with little sun. I don't want hostas nor ferns, nor short ground covers. I want colorful flowers that will show from the road in various heights. I already have 1 hydrangea, 2 daylilies, 1 salvia, 1 veronica & 2 bleeding hearts that all came back.

ANSWER:

You have already learned from experience that not all plants do well in full shade and you do not mention whether your soil conditions are wet, dry or moist; that will have a huge impact on your plant choices.  If your soil is pretty damp, your salvia and veronica will probably struggle for a few years and then give up the ghost.

Native plants are very well adapted to the conditions where they originate.  So the trick for you is to find plants that are native to conditions like those at the front of your house.  You can start by visiting our Native Plant database. If you do a Combination Search for Ohio, selecting full shade, the appropriate soil conditions and then shrubs or herbs (herbaceous plants: perennials & annuals) it will generate a list of plants (with links to detailed information pages and images).

You can also select bloom color and time, but you will have to realize that there are regional differences that can skew computer generated results.  For instance, a yellow sunflower that will want to grow out in the middle of a sunny field in the north might actually do well in the shade/part shade in Texas where the sun can be blazing hot and relentless.

You may be disappointed by the lists our database generates.  You will not find many plants with large, colorful flowers.  That is simply because there is not enough light available in the shade for a plant to expend the energy required to produce such flowers. For instance native woodland shade plants have a short flowering season in early spring, to take advantage of the sunlight available before the forest leafs out. Many of them then go dormant for the summer while there is little light and water available to them. It might be helpful for you to investigate parks and gardens in your area to see what plants growing in the shade you find attractive; nature can be a great inspiration.

Sorry we cannot be more helpful. As that famous English philospher (Mick Jagger) said, "You can't always get what you want"!

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Flowers under pine trees from Elkhart Indiana
May 02, 2013 - I have a number of pine trees at the back of my lot and would like to plant flowers under the tree. What can I plant?
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shady area in north Texas
July 29, 2013 - I'm looking for a ground cover for a mostly shady area where St. Augustine won't grow. I don't want the ground cover to overtake my established St. Augustine in the rest of the yard. The area is un...
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control in Bartlesville OK
May 10, 2012 - What kind of plants can we use to stop erosion and loss of bank on a creek that is mostly shaded? Is there any free advice/plants for people that are losing land due to water levels rising/dropping?
view the full question and answer

Recovering neglected garden space from Grapevine TX
March 22, 2014 - I live in Grapevine TX (Dallas). I just moved into a house where almost the entire large backyard is covered by oak trees that shed tons of leaves throughout our mild falls/winters. The yard has not...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses to accompany buffalograss in shade
May 01, 2008 - What grass goes with buffalo for shade/partial shade?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center