En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Shrubs for planting under hollies in DC

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
2 ratings

Friday - April 01, 2011

From: Washington, DC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Shrubs for planting under hollies in DC
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I would like shrub suggestions for planting under holly trees. I live in Washington, DC and have 2 very well-established large holly trees (2 story tall trees) in the front of our house, facing north. We have had trouble keeping any shrubs alive under these trees and would appreciate suggestions. We have tried a couple of different dwarf azaleas and rhododendrons with no success. We are looking for dwarf shrubs as this is along the stone wall lining our sidewalk. We currently also have pachysandra, coral bells and liriope growing under the tree with success; the shrubs seem to be the problem. Interesting foliage would be a plus, but at this point, anything that grows is welcome. A large, interesting perennial is an acceptable alternative. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Competition for water and nutrients in the soil under your hollies is fierce, as you have already observed, and there is no point in planting shrubs that need to be kept on "life support".

There are some shrubs native to your area that are adapted to dry shade.  You can generate a list of these by visiting our Native Plant database and doing a Combination Search.  Select DC, shrubs and dry & shady conditions.  The list generated has links to detailed plant information that will give you mature sizes.  You can repeat the exercise for herbaceous plants (perennials) if you decide to forego the shrubs (they are less expensive to replace if they don't survive!).

A few from this list that might work for you are:

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Gaultheria procumbens (Checkerberry)

Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby st. johnswort)

Mahonia repens (Creeping barberry)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

Viburnum acerifolium (Mapleleaf viburnum)

You may have to prune a few of these to keep them within bounds if they get established and thrive.


Ceanothus americanus


Gaultheria procumbens


Hypericum prolificum


Mahonia repens


Symphoricarpos orbiculatus


Viburnum acerifolium

 

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Suggestions for Texas native plants for memorial
June 30, 2005 - A dear friend of ours has passed and we would like some ideas of a native Texas plant we could plant in memory of her. It will be grown in the hill region near Houston. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Invasive, non-native Siberian peashrub for waller TX
February 02, 2012 - Good Morning Mr. Smarty Plants! I am trying to find out if the Siberian Pea Shrub is a good plant for Southeast Texas or if it is considered an invasive no no. It seems to have many qualities for wild...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Cleyera and Red-tip photinia
June 01, 2008 - I planted a row of Cleyera in a bed that receives sunlight for about 3 hours during the middle of the day. My problem is that a number of the plants are dying. It begins with the leaves on one small...
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen for barn from Washington TX
April 27, 2013 - We live on a large ranch and have someone now next to us that built a barn on our fence line that we want to make a tree barrier to hide it, so we need to plant trees that will grow at least 15-29 fee...
view the full question and answer

Did Mexican fire bush (Hamelia patens) survive winter cold?
May 05, 2010 - I have a Mexican fire bush that I planted last spring and it bloomed beautifully last summer. It browned and we cut it back to the ground. Right now it's showing no signs of life and I'm afraid it m...
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