Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Silverleaf Nightshade, Happy in El Paso Texas
June 14, 2011 - Trying to identify a small wildflower all over in our El Paso neighborhood. Lavender bloom, five pointed petals, Star pattern inside, five bright yellow pistols. Beautiful. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Tree and vine for shade and privacy
June 03, 2008 - We recently added a deck in our backyard which faces west, we live in Circle C (southwest Austin). The afternoon sun is intense so we're looking to plant something along our fence line to provide sh...
view the full question and answer

Watering newly planted woodland plants in VA
June 12, 2011 - How frequently should newly planted, native plants, growing in wooded areas be watered? Is it better to not water at all than to use sprinklers in which case the water rarely saturates the leaf...
view the full question and answer

Plants for xeriscape and shade
August 20, 2008 - I live in Jones county, Texas. I would like to xeriscape portions of my lawn. The soil is sandy, I have a lot of shaded lawn area. What plants do you recommend that would be low maintenace, low water ...
view the full question and answer

Shade tolerant groundcover plants for Tarrant County, Texas
November 01, 2011 - I live in far NE Tarrant County (Ft Worth), TX and need a groundcover that can tolerate complete shade and poor, rocky, clay soil. I need mostly for erosion control, and needs to be relatively low
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.