Rent Shop 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
1 rating

Friday - September 19, 2008

From: Philadelphia, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native plants for area shaded by crabapple in Philadelphia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you recommend native plants about 4' tall to plant under a crabapple in the corner of a yard in front of a fence? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Since you did not say which species of crabapple you were growing, we chose the Malus coronaria (sweet crabapple), which has native distribution in Pennsylvania, as our example. We would recommend that you think first of the health of your crabapple tree before you make decisions on planting under it. The crabapple needs moist, well-draining soil. Members of the Malus genus are susceptible to a number of diseases, including fire blight and various types of fungus. The use of too much fertilizer around the tree will increase its susceptibility to fire blight. If you have plants under it that you fertilize frequently, while the tree may only need fertilizing every few years, this could be a problem for your tree. The prevention of fungus diseases includes keeping good air circulation and raking up fallen leaves which might harbor the fungus. Remember that the roots of a tree will ordinarily extend somewhat beyond the dripline of the tree, and that the majority of tree roots are in the upper 6 to 12 inches of the soil. Whatever digging, watering or fertilizing you do for the new plants will affect the crabapple, also.

Having said that, we will try to find some plants that might suit your purposes. Since the foliage of the crabapple is usually pretty open, we will assume that the plants underneath will be in part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun.We think it preferable that you not have plants that will grow as tall as 6 ft., because this will reduce the air circulation.We will go to our Recommended Species section for Pennsylvania, and try to find plants that also need moist soil, can get by without very much sun, and won't interfere too much with your tree. You may make your own selections by Narrowing Your Search, searching on herbs for habit (or shrubs or ferns), part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun a day) and moist soil.We avoided any plants with poisonous parts.

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine) - up to 2 ft. tall, perennial

Campanulastrum americanum (American bellflower) - 3-4 ft, annual, easy germination from seed

Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty) - 4-12" stems, perennial

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower) - to 3: high, perennial, attracts butterflies

Delphinium tricorne (dwarf larkspur) - 12 to 30" perennial

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm) - 3 ft., perennial, attracts butterflies

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) - low, woody groundcover, evergreen

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea) - low, deciduous shrub, up to 3 ft. tall

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) - 1 to 2 ft., evergreen, perennial

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern) - 2-3 ft., perennial, deciduous

Botrychium virginianum (rattlesnake fern) - 3 ft., perennial, deciduous

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern) - 2-4 ft., perennial, leaves aromatic when crushed

When you have found some plants you are interested in, go to our Native Plant Suppliers, type in your city and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers, and landscape consultants in your general area.


Aquilegia canadensis

Campanulastrum americanum

Claytonia caroliniana

Conoclinium coelestinum

Delphinium tricorne

Monarda didyma

Gaultheria procumbens

Ceanothus americanus

Polystichum acrostichoides

Athyrium filix-femina

Botrychium virginianum

Comptonia peregrina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Container plant for shade in Austin
August 07, 2010 - I am very new to gardening (have already killed two plants on my front entryway), and I looking for a couple recommendations for for a potted plant that I can place on my entryway porch. It is shaded...
view the full question and answer

Advice for Texas Mountain Laurel in shady, narrow bed.
June 08, 2015 - My house faces N/NE and gets a lot of shade. I would like to plant a Texas Mountain Laurel in my narrow front bed, but what is the best way to amend my clay soil since it prefers rocky soil? What woul...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen Deck Plant for Oregon
May 29, 2011 - Need evergreen shrub to grow in shade in container 5ft tall for deck.
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for part shade/shade in Oklahoma.
September 14, 2009 - I am looking for perennial ground covers for shade to part shade under red oaks in central Oklahoma. Soil condition is usually dry. Can you recommend some natives in addition to creeper for xeriscape?...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade, poor soil in Park Ridge NJ
June 17, 2010 - Hello! I live in far northeast New Jersey, by the New York state border. I am looking for plants for areas of my lawn that nothing currently grows in - due to shade and poor soil quality - very rocky,...
view the full question and answer

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