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
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

Planting under Pine Trees in Pocatello ID
April 08, 2014 - Hi I was wondering if you could give me some ideas of what I could plant under and near some pine trees for my area. The trees are huge and so it is also constant shade where I want to plant. Thanks f...
view the full question and answer

Different kinds of lantana in Wilmington, NC
July 19, 2009 - I live in Wilmington, NC. I spent a small fortune on three varieties of lantana--Cherry Sunrise, Ham & Eggs and Bandana Red. I live on a salt water tidal creek and most are in full sun. Some are i...
view the full question and answer

Hedge plant for Maui.
February 17, 2009 - Question: I live in Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii and would like to put a "living fence" around my yard for some privacy. Ideally, I want something that is going to grow fast and about 8+ feet tall for a h...
view the full question and answer

Fall shrub planting in Illinois
November 22, 2009 - I was given a Holly winterberry - Ilex Verticillata and it is now November. Should I plant it in a pot in the house for the winter or should I plant it outside now? Please give me some planting nstr...
view the full question and answer

Declining wax myrtles in Katy, TX
August 24, 2009 - My wax myrtle bushes were thick and green except for a few on the NE side 6 months ago when we bought the house. Now they are thin, leggy, and dropping leaves like crazy. They seem to be dying one bra...
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