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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - February 26, 2011

From: Chicago, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Wildflowers for a shady spot in IL
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I have a low-sun spot on the side of my house in Chicago, IL. I would really like to turn this spot into a wildflower garden. Could you suggest some native IL flowers that might work in this spot? My plan was to grow them from seed this Spring.

ANSWER:

Because you are living in the mid-West you probably have images in your head of the iconic tall grass prairie wildflowers like the blanket flowers, black eyed Susans and Mexican hats in this image. It is unlikely, however, that the conditions on the side of your house mimic the sunny, deep soil conditions of the prairie.

That is not to say that you cannot have a wildflower garden.  You can create a garden of native Illinois herbaceous perennials whose habitat is most like the shady side of your house.  To create a list of such plants visit our Native Plant Database and perform a Combination Search.  Select Illinois, herbaceous plants and shady conditions.  You can also select the natural soil moisture in your garden as well as bloom colour and time preferences to narrow the search further.  You can create separate lists for annuals and perennials.  The list that is generated has links to detailed plant information pages that will give you an idea of how difficult (or easy) each plant is to grow from seed.

You will find that most of the plants in the list are woodland or woodland edge plants so the garden you create will very much have that "sense of place". Many woodland plants flower early (before the leaf canopy fills in to shade them) and go dormant in the summertime so if you select those, you will need to have companion plants that will take over once they go dormant.  Do not overlook ferns as they perform that task quite well.  You might also want to include some woodland shrubs (just search for shrubs instead of herbaceous plants) to complete the garden.

You can check for seed suppliers on our Suppliers page.

Some of the plants from the list that you might try are:

Anemone canadensis (Canadian anemone) (this one is so easy to grow, it can be aggressive)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Dicentra eximia (Turkey corn)

Geranium maculatum (Spotted geranium)

Iris cristata (Dwarf crested iris)

Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan) (this will take some shade)


Anemone canadensis


Aquilegia canadensis


Coreopsis lanceolata


Dicentra eximia


Geranium maculatum


Iris cristata


Phlox divaricata


Rudbeckia hirta

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Ground cover for shade that is drought tolerant
August 02, 2010 - Can you suggest a ground cover or plant that loves shade and is drought tolerant in the Austin Region? If the two do not coexist can you suggest a ground cover for shade.
view the full question and answer

Shade-loving plants for a long, narrow bed.
October 31, 2007 - We are installing a bed with a student-made sculpture dedicated to mothers at our high school in Austin, Texas. The bed is against the two-story school, east facing,and shaded by cedar elm. What can...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover to control erosion in Montgomery County, Texas
February 24, 2014 - I am looking for some kind of ground cover to control erosion on a north facing slope in Montgomery County, Texas. The area gets very little direct sunlight. I need something that will establish quick...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant, shade tolerant plants for Austin, TX
April 16, 2007 - I am looking for plants to put in my front yard--very shaded, and need to be deer resistant. I would love some things in the blue family. Also want blues in my back yard that is a combination of ful...
view the full question and answer

Shade tree for horses in North Virginia
October 16, 2009 - I need to plant a shade tree for my horses and am considering a fast growing tree called an Empress Tree(paulownia). It would be outside of their fenced area but close enough to provide shade for the...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center