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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 - February 28, 2015

From: College Station, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Shrubs
Title: Shrubs for a Shady Foundation Planting in Texas
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

We are looking for foundation shrubs, 2-4' mature height, for a totally shaded area which does receive bright light all day.

ANSWER:

There are several Texas native shrubs that will fit your height requirements and that can tolerate a shady site. A search through our Native Plant Database for Texas shrubs that are 1-3 feet tall and grow in the shade resulted in the following plants for your consideration.

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

New Jersey-tea is a low, upright, deciduous shrub that grows to only 3 ft. tall. Pubescent leaves give the entire plant a grayish cast. Small white flowers occur in 2 in., branch-tip clusters. A low shrub with tiny white flowers in oval clusters rising from the leaf axils on the new shoots. The base is woody, while the upper portion of the plant is made up of herbaceous, spreading branches. Fall color is insignificant. This is a butterfly attracting plant that is extremely adaptable and can withstand quite dry conditions.

Paxistima myrsinites (Oregon boxleaf)

Oregon boxleaf is a shiny, low-statured shrub, 8 in.- 2 ft. high, with small, glossy, dark-green leaves arrayed in pairs along ascending branches. The tiny, maroon flowers, appearing in the spring to the South and in summer to the North, are borne in axillary clusters. They are not conspicuous, but the evergreen leaves are attractive both in summer and winter.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

This small, mound-shaped, deciduous shrub with shredding bark on older wood and brown to purplish branchlets covered with short hairs visible under a 10x hand lens, usually grows to 4 ft. but can reach 6 ft. Its smooth, dull green leaves are opposite and roughly oval, tapering about equally to tip and base, up to 2 inches long but often less than 1 inch, with smooth, turned down margins and a rounded or broadly pointed tip. The greenish-white flower clusters are not as showy as the clusters of coral-pink to purple berries up to 1/4 inch in diameter which remain on the plant through winter.

Xanthorhiza simplicissima (shrub yellowroot)

A mat-like, spreading shrub with erect, leggy stems to 3 ft. The bark and long roots are deep-yellow and bitter. Attractive foliage is once- or twice-pinnate, glossy and green, turning yellow to reddish-purple in fall. Many tan-colored leaves persist into winter. The small, star-shaped, purplish-brown flowers are in crowded, terminal clusters. Fruit is a dry, yellowish follicle.

 

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