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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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Saturday - September 28, 2013

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Shade Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Shade tolerant low shrub for Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Please suggest a shade loving shrub that doesn't get more than 3' tall for a foundation planting along a front porch in Houston, TX. I prefer native, drought resistant if possible. No nursery person has any idea what to plant.

ANSWER:

We will go to our Native Plant Database, scroll down that page to the Combination Search, specify Texas as the state, "shrub" as the Habit, and both "part shade" (two to six hours a day of sun) and "shade" under Light Requirements, and 1-3 ft. under Height. When we clicked on Submit Search we got a list of 28 species of shrub native to Texas, but on checking the USDA Native Plant Database for counties in which those shrubs grew natively, there were only three that grow even close to Harris County. They are:

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Prunus gracilis (Oklahoma plum)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

We were wondering if perhaps the low height may be the limiting factor in your request; most shrubs tend to grow more in the 3 to 6 ft. range. So, we would like to suggest a possible alternatve - there are a few really attractive native grasses that can tolerate that much shade and remain below 3 ft. tall. They are:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Eragrostis intermedia (Plains lovegrass)

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass)

Please follow each plant link to our webpage to learn growing conditions, projected height, amount of shade tolerated, etc.

We will also go slightly off the recommendations in the Native Plant Database. Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) definitely grows in Harriss County, is evergreen and tolerates part shade. It is, however, ordinarily much taller than 3 ft. There are dwarf versions of the yaupon which you should be able to find in local nurseries. Here is an article from the South Florida Plant Guide on Schillings Dwarf Holly. The picture of Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) from our Image Gallery is not a dwarf but has the same growing conditions and light requirements.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Oklahoma plum
Prunus gracilis

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Plains lovegrass
Eragrostis intermedia

Texas bluegrass
Poa arachnifera

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

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