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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.

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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 - July 08, 2013

From: Charlottesville, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant
Title: Low-growing plants for a slope in the shade
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, I'm looking for native plants to put in the shade (within the drip-line) of a well-established American Holly. The area gets deep shade; it is also on a very gentle north-exposure slope. We have dry clay soil in this area. I would like a mix of species that would thrive with little care and eventually spread to cover the ground--but they don't have to be low-growing. Up to 3 feet tall would be fine. Many thanks for your help!

ANSWER:

The following plants will grow in the shade and are all less than 3 feet tall or can be maintained at that height by pruning.  All should do well in clay soil.   I found these plants by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database.  I chose "Virginia" from the Select State or Province slot, "Shade" from Light Requirement and "0-1 ft.", "1-3 ft." and"3-6 ft." from size characteristics.   You can do the same search to see more possibilities for plants.   Be sure the read the entries under GROWING CONDITIONS on each species' page, especially the Soil Description, to be sure the growing conditions meet your site's characteristics.

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis) is perennial with evergreen foliage and blooms April, May and June.

Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox) is perennial with evergreen foliage and blooms March, April and May.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry) may grow a little taller than you like, but it can be pruned to keep it low.  It does well in clay and full shade.  It has purple berries that persist into winter.  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden and Texas Gardening Info

Aralia nudicaulis (Wild sarsaparilla)  Here is more information from Plants for a Future.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) is low-growing, grass-like and semi-evergreen.  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden and Illinois Wildflowers.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) grows very well in shade and part shade and clay soil.  The dried seeds are attractive into the winter and can be removed in the spring when the new green leaves begin to form.  Here's more information from Nadia's Backyard.

Geum canadense (White avens) with evergreen foliage and blossoms in April, May and June.  Here's more  information from Plants for a Future.

Packera obovata (Golden groundsel) has evergreen foliage and blooms well in the shade.  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

 

From the Image Gallery


New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Wild sarsaparilla
Aralia nudicaulis

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

White avens
Geum canadense

Golden groundsel
Packera obovata

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