Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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

Thursday - May 20, 2010

From: Nampa, ID
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Shade Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Plant for part sun in Nampa Idaho
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What could I plant in arid SW Idaho on the northwest side of my house along a border against the house? Most of the day this area is in shade, but at the hottest time of the day it gets a couple of hours of intense sun--can get to 100 degrees in mid-summer?

ANSWER:

This presents us with an interesting climatic problem. Canyon County is on the southwest border of Idaho with Oregon, and is in a USDA Hardiness Zone of 5b to 6a. That means that any plant there must be able to withstand pretty intense cold in the winter, with probably harsh winds on the northwest side of your house. Then, when summer comes along, a plant that is accustomed to part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day, is suddenly confronted with blistering heat, including the heat reflected from the walls of the house.

We're thinking this should probably be some sort of shrub, if we can find one we think can take the two extremes of temperature it will be subjected to. Whatever we locate, you must be aware of that heat, and irrigate the plant accordingly. And don't spray water on the leaves during the sunny times of the day, as you will end up with scorched leaves. Water going into the soil early in the day, giving time for moisture to move through the limbs to the leaves and compensate for the transpiration from those leaves during the hot hours, will both cool the roots and support the rest of the plant. We will go to our Native Plant Database, select on Idaho, shrubs and part shade, and Combination Search. Then it will be necessary to read each page on the individual plants to see if it can adapt to the conditions you describe. We were surprised to find 8 good candidates for this spot, and checked the USDA Profile Map on each to determine that it grew natively either in Canyon County or nearby. Some, but not all, of these were described as tolerating sun (6 hours or more of sun), part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun) or shade (less than 2 hours of shade), which means they should be able to adapt to the space.

We would urge you to wait until Fall to plant these shrubs, because you don't want to put a small, newly transplanted bush into that sudden blast of heat every day. That is almost a guarantee for transplant shock. While you wait for Fall, we suggest you prepare the bed for the planned garden by working in a lot of compost and other organic material. This will build the bed up a little bit, greatly improve drainage so your frequent waterings won't leave the roots drowning, and will help the new little rootlets access the nutrients in the soil. When you actually put the plants in the ground, immediately mulch the area with 2 to 4 inches of a good shredded hardwood mulch. This will protect the roots from the intense temperatures at both ends of the scale that your bushes will be subjected to. Follow each link to the page on that plant to determine if the projected size, appearance and other considerations suit your purposes. 

From Our Native Plant Database: 

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry)

Amorpha fruticosa (desert false indigo)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Ceanothus velutinus (snowbrush ceanothus)

Holodiscus discolor (oceanspray)

Lonicera involucrata (twinberry honeysuckle)

Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry)

Mahonia repens (creeping barberry)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Amelanchier alnifolia

Amorpha fruticosa

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Ceanothus velutinus

Holodiscus discolor

Lonicera involucrata

Mahonia aquifolium

Mahonia repens

 

 

 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Deer-resistant groundcover for New Braunfels, TX
September 24, 2011 - Could you recommend some deer resistant ground cover plants for the New Braunfels area? We have tried Ajuga and Katie's Ruellia and they have been eaten.
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

Browning leaves on recently planted chinkapin oak in Rockwall TX
June 09, 2010 - I just planted a chinkapin oak that is about 1 1\2 inches thick last week and now some of the leaves are turning brown. Does that mean its dying? Do you have any tips that I could use to protect it?
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing vine for cinder block wall in Albuquerque
July 26, 2010 - I live in Albuquerque, N.M. and have a cement/cinder block wall and was wondering if there is a vine I can plant which will be easy to grow, grow fast and cover my wall without any type of help like a...
view the full question and answer

Annual for poor drainage area in Temple TX
October 08, 2009 - What annual would you recommend for a bed with poor drainage for summer color ?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.