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

Saturday - August 07, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Container plant for shade in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

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 all day, and it does get very hot. It would also be nice to find something that is fairly hardy and doesn't require constant watering, and that is attractive. I would like something that has some height to it - 3-4 feet if possible. If such a plant exists I would very thankful for any advice you can provide! Thanks,

ANSWER:

We have two How-To Articles we think will help you as a beginning gardener. The first one is A Guide to Native Plant Gardening, All the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will ever recommend will be plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. It is an eco-friendly practice to garden natively, and the plants are already adapted to the conditions they find here. The second article we think you would be interested in is Container Gardening with Native Plants

After you have read those articles, we hope you will understand when we say your requirements may have eliminated just about every possibility. In the first place, all plants need adequate light; there are some that can get along on less than 2 hours of sunlight a day, which we consider "shade," but not necessarily thrive. It is very difficult to get blooms on any plant without at least a little sunshine. The heat in the area you are concerned about and the desire to have low watering make plant choices even more difficult. A few desert plants can get along without much water, but not without sun. A few (non-native) tropicals can take that much heat and even a lot of shade, but not without a lot of water. 

Another problem is that no plant is going to be attractive year-round. If you are looking for a final solution to fit in a space all the time under all conditions, you need to consider a statue. The sub-tropicals that might be able to withstand the heat and shade would not live through winter without being brought inside. If you are determined to have a plant as a focal point, here are some suggestions: Be flexible, prepared to change and replace plants when they are no longer attractive. Water. We have terra cotta pots on an apartment balcony, and during the summer, we water them every single day. Consider a pedestal or small outdoor table to lend the height you need. We think your best bet is going to be ferns, so we will list some from our Native Plant Database and you can follow the plant links to learn their projected size, water requirements and growing conditions.

Ferns for a Shady Porch in Austin: 

Adiantum capillus-veneris (common maidenhair)

Dryopteris ludoviciana (southern woodfern)

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Adiantum capillus-veneris

Dryopteris ludoviciana

Osmunda cinnamomea

Polystichum acrostichoides

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Groundcover for sun/part shade in Austin
May 07, 2008 - I live in Southwest Austin and I have a small backyard that has part sun/part shade. I have no grass in the backyard and my soil is not the healthiest, so I would like to plant some groundcover versus...
view the full question and answer

Shade and Drought Tolerant Plants for Idaho Shade
March 18, 2016 - 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: Max...
view the full question and answer

Non-blooming crape myrtle in Italy, TX
June 25, 2008 - It's Italy, TX, again! Thanks for the advice and links, and I'll study those..but here's where I'm stumped on crape myrtle. I have two (almost) trees because they've been planted over 15 years ...
view the full question and answer

Shade, Heat, Drought and Acidic Soil Tolerant Perennials for Las Vegas?
November 28, 2015 - What can I grow under my pine trees that is shade and heat (and acidity) tolerant? I live in Las Vegas, NV and would like perennials to plant under my pine trees.
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant plants for Pittsburgh PA
January 30, 2012 - What shrubs can I plant on a wet slope that gets partial sun that will help control erosion? They need to be something the deer won't eat! We have lots of deer.
view the full question and answer

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