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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - May 26, 2010

From: Kents Store, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Balancing bloom in beds in Kents Store VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Our beds along a walkway in rural Central VA have replanted themselves - oenethera speciosa and dwarf yarrow have abandoned the north bed and are flourishing in the south bed. Sedums, lavender and candytuft seem to like both sides. The overall results are very unbalanced. We have poor clay soil, alkaline, some drought in the summer. What can we do to get some taller native flowers to grow on the north side of our walkway?


We don't seem to have enough information to answer your question, so we'll do some speculating. You have to figure out what is different between the two beds. Does one have more shade than the other, or less opportunity for irrigation or does water sometimes stand on one bed and not the other? If we understand you correctly, all the plants you named started out in both beds. In the Spring, 2 plants, the oenethera and the yarrow, didn't come up in the north bed. It's not that the plants in the north bed migrated, they just failed to re-emerge in the north bed when Spring came.

Good in the south bed but not in the north bed:

Oenothera speciosa (pinkladies) - needs full sun (6 or more hours of sun a day) and moist soil, native to your area

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) - sun or part shade, can withstand dry soil, prefers moist, native to your area

Good in both beds:

Sedum ternatum (woodland stonecrop) - sun or part shade, moist soil, native to your area

Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) - full sun, native to Africa, Asia, Europe

Lavender - native to the Meditteranean area, likes dry, sunny area

It looks to us like there was/is more shade than the plants that failed to come up in the north bed could withstand. Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower will only recommend plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plants are being grown, we will find some native blooming plants that are okay with part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun a day) or shade (2 hours or less of sun a day.) You can follow each native plant link to its database page to learn about its culture, light requirements, colors and so forth.  If both beds have full sun, you will have to examine other factors that might be different, going back to Recommended Species, clicking on Virginia on the map, and then selecting herbs (herbaceous blooming plants), perennial in Lifespan, sun in Light Requirements, and then Narrow Your Search. If you wish to change the Light Requirements or put in the soil moisture, that will narrow your choice down even more. 

Herbaceous Blooming Plants for part shade or shade in Virginia:

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Caltha palustris (yellow marsh marigold)

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower)

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Gentiana clausa (bottle gentian)

Iris versicolor (harlequin blueflag)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Oenothera speciosa

Achillea millefolium

Sedum ternatum

Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias tuberosa

Caltha palustris

Campanula rotundifolia

Conoclinium coelestinum

Coreopsis lanceolata

Gentiana clausa

Iris versicolor

Lobelia cardinalis












More Shade Tolerant Questions

Hanging flowering plants in part shade in Denton, TX
September 18, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'd like to hang 4"-6" pots with flowering plants from north-facing eaves. That area gets an hour or so of late-morning/noon sun. Also, my apt. faces a large courtyard so...
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control with perennials for a shady Dallas bank
July 25, 2013 - Thank you for your help with turf or perennials on a shaded bank, 4000 sq ft, for the Dallas area that has good roots, grows in semi shade to shade, is on a steep bank so cannot mow, and flowers the l...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Shaded Slope in Philadelphia
April 17, 2015 - I have a small slope along the North side of my house in a suburb of Philadelphia. A small maple tree grows there but most of it gets no sun at all (a large segment is under the tree). I had the soil ...
view the full question and answer

Deer Resistant Plants for Dry Shade in Manor, Texas
January 14, 2011 - What deer resistant blooming plants will do well under a huge oak tree?
view the full question and answer

Landscaping with wildflowers in shade in Maryland
January 11, 2008 - I'm an old White House Correspondent who covered LBJ as well as Mrs Johnson and knew and admired her. I visited the Wildflower Center with her on one occasion. I hope you will forward this to an appr...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center