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Saturday - August 07, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Container plant for shade in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am very new to gardening (have already killed two plants on my front entryway), and I looking for a couple recommendations for for a potted plant that I can place on my entryway porch. It is shaded all day, and it does get very hot. It would also be nice to find something that is fairly hardy and doesn't require constant watering, and that is attractive. I would like something that has some height to it - 3-4 feet if possible. If such a plant exists I would very thankful for any advice you can provide! Thanks,


We have two How-To Articles we think will help you as a beginning gardener. The first one is A Guide to Native Plant Gardening, All the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will ever recommend will be plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. It is an eco-friendly practice to garden natively, and the plants are already adapted to the conditions they find here. The second article we think you would be interested in is Container Gardening with Native Plants

After you have read those articles, we hope you will understand when we say your requirements may have eliminated just about every possibility. In the first place, all plants need adequate light; there are some that can get along on less than 2 hours of sunlight a day, which we consider "shade," but not necessarily thrive. It is very difficult to get blooms on any plant without at least a little sunshine. The heat in the area you are concerned about and the desire to have low watering make plant choices even more difficult. A few desert plants can get along without much water, but not without sun. A few (non-native) tropicals can take that much heat and even a lot of shade, but not without a lot of water. 

Another problem is that no plant is going to be attractive year-round. If you are looking for a final solution to fit in a space all the time under all conditions, you need to consider a statue. The sub-tropicals that might be able to withstand the heat and shade would not live through winter without being brought inside. If you are determined to have a plant as a focal point, here are some suggestions: Be flexible, prepared to change and replace plants when they are no longer attractive. Water. We have terra cotta pots on an apartment balcony, and during the summer, we water them every single day. Consider a pedestal or small outdoor table to lend the height you need. We think your best bet is going to be ferns, so we will list some from our Native Plant Database and you can follow the plant links to learn their projected size, water requirements and growing conditions.

Ferns for a Shady Porch in Austin: 

Adiantum capillus-veneris (common maidenhair)

Dryopteris ludoviciana (southern woodfern)

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Adiantum capillus-veneris

Dryopteris ludoviciana

Osmunda cinnamomea

Polystichum acrostichoides





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