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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.

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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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Friday - March 18, 2016

From: Meridian, ID
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Shade and Drought Tolerant Plants for Idaho Shade
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I am looking for plants native to Idaho and/or the surrounding region (zone 6 or 7) that would do well in full shade conditions (adjacent to the north side of our house) and meet several criteria: Maximum height of about 3 feet; It cannot be poisonous (I have both young children and dogs running around my backyard); I strongly prefer something that does not spread by rhizome, stolon, or anything else that tends to colonize/form thickets; The more cold tolerant, the better; The more drought tolerant, the better. The soil conditions are either dry or moist (not wet) and generally well-drained. What suggestions do you have?

ANSWER:

After doing a search of the Native Plant Database on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, there are a few plants that area very shade and drought tolerant, grow to 3 feet or less, are not invasive, and non-toxic to children and pets. None of the following plants appear on the ASPCA animal poison control list.

Here are the results:

Antennaria parvifolia

From a small, grayish basal rosette rises an erect, sparsely-leaved flower stalk with clusters of small, rayless, whitish flower heads.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Red bearberry is a trailing, evergreen shrub with paddle-shaped leaves on flexible branches. The thick, leathery leaves, rolled under at the edges, are yellow-green in spring, dark-green in summer, and reddish-purple in the fall. Nodding clusters of small, bell-shaped, pink or white flowers occur on bright-red stems. Flowers in racemes on short branches. Bright-red berries succeed the flowers and persist into winter. This ground-trailing shrub has the papery, reddish, exfoliating bark typical of woody plants in northern climates. It is frequently seen as a ground cover in sandy areas such as the New Jersey pine barrens. It is very common on Cape Cod, where it covers vast areas in open, sandy, pine-studded communities. Its complete range is the largest of any in its genus, and it is the only Arctostaphylos species to occur outside of North America, ranging across northern Eurasia and across northern North America south to the mountains of Virginia, California, Arizona, and New Mexico

Geum triflorum

This is an attractive, 6-18 in. plant with foot-wide, basal clumps of ferny, blue-green, hairy leaves and reddish-purple, bell-shaped flowers that hang in groups of three. Clumps of feathery, plumed, pink-gray fruits stay on the plant much of the summer. The leaves of prairie smoke turn deep red in fall and are sometimes evergreen.

After fertilization, the bell-like flowers turn upward and plumes begin to grow from the pistils, ready to be caught by the wind or a passing animal and the seed so dispersed

Paxistima myrsinites

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.

Oregon Boxleaf is a member of the staff tree or bittersweet family (family Celastraceae), which includes shrubs, woody vines, and mostly small trees. Widespread, about 700 species; 7 native tree species and several shrub species in North America.

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Small-leaf pussytoes
Antennaria parvifolia

Small-leaf pussytoes
Antennaria parvifolia

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Old man's whiskers
Geum triflorum

Old man's whiskers
Geum triflorum

Oregon boxleaf
Paxistima myrsinites

Oregon boxleaf
Paxistima myrsinites

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