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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - April 29, 2013

From: Bryson City, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Lists, Drought Tolerant, Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Vines, Wildflowers
Title: Smoky Mountains Shaded Slope Plant Suggestions
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

We live in a very shady spot in Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina. We would like to plant vegetation on a sloped area behind our cottage to stop erosion after building an addition. Our home sits at an elevation of approx. 3,800 ft. and the area is shaded most of the day in the summer months, and much of the day the rest of the year. In other words, very little direct sunlight. Any help or advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database.  Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: North Carolina, Habit – all habits, Duration – perennial, Light requirement – shade, Soil moisture – dry (because of the slope), Size characteristics – 0-1 ft. and 1-3 ft.

Some of the more drought and shade tolerant possibilities that could be used as steep slope plants include:

Apocynum androsaemifolium (spreading dogbane) 2-5 ft. groundcover, small pink flowers in summer. Very aggressive.

Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginia snakeroot) a showy groundcover with purple blooms in early summer.

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea) a low deciduous shrub to 3 ft. White flowers in spring.

Diervilla lonicera (Northern bush honeysuckle) a low shrub to 3 ft. with yellow flowers in summer. Reddish fall color.

Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry) 1-2 ft. tall with white tubular flowers. Edible berries follow. Leaves turn orange and crimson in the fall.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) low, attractive evergreen groundcover. Some drought tolerance if in shade. White blooms in summer followed by showy red fruit. Needs acidic soil.

Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum (bracken fern) most tolerant fern for dry shade. Needs water to become established then quite drought tolerant.

 

From the Image Gallery


Spreading dogbane
Apocynum androsaemifolium

Virginia snakeroot
Aristolochia serpentaria

Virginia snakeroot
Aristolochia serpentaria

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Northern bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

Northern bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum

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