En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - April 30, 2013

From: Greensboro, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Groundcovers & Shrubs for Shade in North Carolina
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Mr Smarty Pants, My neighbor planted cypress trees as a border between his yard and ours and it is sucking up every drop of water and nutrient. We also have a purple plum in the area which creates partial shade. What ground cover and shrubs can we plant here. I am very tired of looking at brown pine bark all summer. I know you are busy but please hurry with your answer. We are desperate.Thanks

ANSWER:

Don’t despair!  There are a number of good native groundcovers and shrubs that tolerate shade well.  I thought I’d check first the previous answers on similar topics from near to you and found these interesting question/answer pairs.

Groundcover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC 
Groundcover for Wildlife in VA 
Native Plants for Erosion Control in NC 

From those answers I found these plants, native to North Carolina, that should do well:

The first list are indicated to need moist or wet soil, depending on the exact conditions these may not do well with the cypress.

Herbs/Forb:     Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm), Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox), Hydrocotyle umbellata (Manyflower marshpennywort)Erythronium americanum (Yellow trout-lily), Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and gold)  

Groundcovers/Grass:  Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint), Adiantum capillus-veneris (Southern maidenhair fern), Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty)

You can also find plants that are also OK with dry soil.

Shrub: Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry), Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern)

Herbs/Forb:  Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis), Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), Hexastylis arifolia (Littlebrownjug)   

Groundcovers/Grass: Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge), Carex texensis (Texas sedge), Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry), Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

In any case, what you may want to do is search out your own possible shoices.  To do this, go to our Recommended Species site, click on North Carolina on the map, and then NARROW YOUR SEARCH, selecting "Herb" (herbaceous flowering plants) under Habit, and "Shade" under light requirements, or whatever you see as the habit, water need, height or a number of other aspects of the plant. You can repeat the process selecting “Shrub” or "Grass or Grass-like" under Habit, and similarly limit or not the resulting plant list.  As you do that, read the growth conditions and check out the pictures to get an indication of what your choice may look like at its peak.  I've included a few pictures from the ones mentioned above to give you a view of what they look like.

 

From the Image Gallery


Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Is there a recommended list for Texas Eastern Cross Timbers?
August 29, 2011 - Is there a recommended list for Texas Eastern Cross Timbers?
view the full question and answer

User comment on native grass mixes from Robstown TX
March 21, 2014 - As a followup to my question on seed spreaders, native grass and prairie seed mixes seem a good fit for my location in far western Nueces County which is more semi-arrid than 30 miles away in Corpus w...
view the full question and answer

Seep Muhly in limited sunlight.
July 01, 2015 - Can Seep Muhly withstand just 3 or 4 hours of direct sunlight in an urban setting?
view the full question and answer

Stabilizing a shale slope in Virginia
April 08, 2009 - I have family members who recently built a new home in Virginia. The site required extensive excavation resulting in a large 30 foot, nearly vertical, shale wall behind the house. They now want to r...
view the full question and answer

Plants for hanging flower boxes from Austin
July 27, 2013 - I have two long flower boxes 17" x 15" x 25 feet long one on the north side of the apt and one on the south made of metal suspended about four feet from the ground. One will get the morning sun and ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center