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Monday - November 08, 2010

From: Rowlett, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Landscaping north facing wall
Answered by: Guy Thompson


We live in the Dallas area and have a north facing home with a large, bare wall. I would like to plant a tall, flowering shrub that will look nice all year round. Or are there flowering vines that are leafy all year round that would do well on a north face? It does get afternoon sun in the summer. What are your suggestions?


There are a number of Texas natives that should look great by your wall. The following summaries, along with the more detailed descriptions and photos on the Wildflower Center’s database web site (click on the Latin name), will hopefully be useful to you.

Shrubs (or small trees)

1.  Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) This evergreen shrub grows to about 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It has inconspicuous white flowers but beautiful red berries that persist throughout the winter, finally serving as excellent food for the birds. Yaupon grows slowly until it is about 3-4 feet high and then seems to take off. There are numerous cultivars available from plant nurseries, including dwarf, weeping, and more prolifically fruiting types. I should point out that female flowers (and later berries) occur on a separate plant from male flowers. If you have yaupon shrubs in your neighborhood that have numerous berries you must already have male plants nearby. Otherwise, buy one male plant, such as the ‘Will Fleming” variety, for every 6 or 8 of the female plants that the nurseries normally carry.

2. Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) Another member of the holly family. It is deciduous, dropping its shiny green leaves and leaving twiggy gray branches covered, on female plants, with showy red berries in winter. It grows to 15-30 feet in height. Requires the presence of a male plant to permit bee-mediated cross-pollination.

3. Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel)   This slow-growing evergreen ultimately reaches 15 feet or more in height. It has very fragrant clusters of lavender flowers in the spring. (Some say the fragrance reminds them of grape cool-aid.) The tree has an attractive shape and shiny dark green foliage.

4. Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac) Another evergreen, this one grows only about 8-12 feet tall. It is attractive year round, with clusters of white flowers and red fruit ripening on female plants in the fall.

5. Styphnolobium affine (Eve's necklace) is a small evergreen tree growing to about 20-30 feet. It is a little more open in its growth habit than Yaupon or Texas Mountain Laurel. In the spring it produces clusters of fragrant pink-tinged white flowers that remind one of wisteria.

6. Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo)   This is a plant for a different sort of landscape feeling. The foliage on the rounded 8-10 foot tall shrub is gray, suggestive of a more arid landscape. Cenizo becomes covered with lavender flowers about 10-14 days following a good rain. It needs sun, and I am not certain if it will flourish with the amount of afternoon sun that you get.

7. Dasylirion wheeleri (Common sotol) To achieve a real desert–like atmosphere try this yucca-like member of the lily family. Although it only grows to 4-5 feet, the flowering spires rapidly produced in the summer can rise to 12-15 feet. It should do well with the amount of sun that you have.


8. Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine) is a totally different idea for you. It is a vigorously growing evergreen vine that becomes covered with tangerine-colored flowers in the spring and sometimes later in the year, depending on rainfall. It should be placed on a trellis about 8-10 feet tall and at least 18 inches out from your house (otherwise its tendrils will climb right up the wall. If you need something that will provide cover in a hurry this would be my best suggestion.

9. Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) is another evergreen vine, one that does not grow so densely or so fast as crossvine. But it has rather delicate clusters of lovely red trumpet-shaped flowers.

Plants 1-7 on my list are quite drought-resistant, and the vines are somewhat less so. All are cold-hardy. Winter is a good time for putting these plants in the ground.

 If you have looked around your neighborhood recently you will have seen an impressive shrub bearing large clusters of bright red berries. This plant, Pyracantha, or Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea), is a non-native from Asia and is widely used as an ornamental, but we do not recommend its use. It grows rapidly, too rapidly, and forms dense woody masses with thorns that can give a painful prick (hence the name Firethorn). Unfortunately, it has escaped cultivation in many places and overwhelmed the native plant habitats. It is listed with Texasinvasives.org as an invasive plant in the state and therefore undesirable.

I show below representative photos of the 9 recommended plants in the order listed.


From the Image Gallery

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex decidua

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Eve's necklace
Styphnolobium affine

Leucophyllum frutescens

Common sotol
Dasylirion wheeleri

Bignonia capreolata

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

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