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Tuesday - April 09, 2013

From: Waynvesville, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Soils, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Shade tolerant plants for Waynesville MO
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We moved to Waynesville, MO (gardening region 6) and when we bought our house there was a nice looking gardening area in front of the house. It is shaded moderately by a Redwood Tree and was "occupied" by 6 Elephant Ear (at least that is what I concluded was the was approx. 2 feet tall, with "ribbed" LARGE leaves, one side was whitish while the other was green). We had a very harsh summer in 2012 (very dry, very hot) and the Elephant Ears did not seem to survive; as of April 2013 they still were twigs. Either way, I did not like them anyway (I wanted more color) I wanted to "revive" our garden area. It is approximately 22x3 feet and come full spring it will be partly-to-fully shaded by our Redwood tree. My question is will azaleas do well in this environment? The Elephant Ears did well (they are just not to my liking) except for our recent very dry and "above normal" dry heat. This year seems to be a lot better than last year so I'm wondering will azaleas be okay in this area?


Let's deal first with what you already have and then move on to possibilities for new planting. You are correct that Colosia (Elephant Ears) is native to Polynesia and southeastern Asia. Here are some pictures of Elephant Ears to assure you that is what you have. So, we know those plants are in the wrong place. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildfower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants have evolved.

On to the redwood. Sequoia sempervirens (Coast redwood) is the only redwood in our Native Plant Database. It is VERY native, with some of the huge trees in California and Oregon having been there before Europeans came to North America. However, it is very native only to Oregon and California, as you will see from this USDA Plant Profile Map. How it got to Missouri is a real puzzle. If you follow the plant link above to our webpage on that plant, you will see these growing conditions:

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, acid, deep, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: The noble redwood should only be used where room to ascend and spread is ample. It grows 3-5 ft. a year when young, and suffers no serious disease or insect problems.

Note particularly that line under Conditions Comments. No matter how large your property, if the tree survives being in the wrong soil, it is going to send roots under your foundation, into the street and all over your neighborhood. Admittedly, it will be hundreds or thousands of years before it reaches full height, but a growth rate of 3 to 5 feet a year is still phenomenal.There is one other genus of sequoia, Metasequoia, native to China. From Wikipedia: "Metasequoia glyptostroboides, the dawn redwood, is a fast-growing, critically endangered deciduous tree, sole living species of the genus Metasequoia, and one of three species of conifers known as redwoods. It is native to the Sichuan-Hubei region of China. Although shortest of the redwoods, it grows to at least 200 ft (61 m) in height."

Now that we have said all that, we had a sudden revelation - could you have by any chance meant redBUD? Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) and Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) are both native to virtually every county in Missouri and are very nice moderate-sized garden trees.

For anyone purchasing a plant for their gardens, two trips to the nursery is recommended; the first to look at the plant and write down the scientific and/or common name, the second after research into what that plant really is and where it belongs. Only you can make the decision on what to do about that particular tree, so we will proceed to answer your question on whether an azalea can flourish there and other plants that are shade tolerant and native to Pulaski County, MO.

First, the azalea. Azaleas are all in the Ericacacea family, genus Rhododendron. When we searched our Native Plant Database on Rhododendron, we got a list of 24 of that genus native to North America; when we searched that list on Missouri, there was exactly one: Rhododendron prinophyllum (Early azalea). According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, it grows one county south of you, so you could reasonably expect to grow it in your area. This does not mean that this is the only azalea that you could grow in your garden, but you should follow that plant link to our webpage on the plant, to learn what kind of soil it needs, moisture, light requirements, etc. and compare that to the conditions in your yard. We would assume that azaleas you purchase in your area are either native to other (mostly southern) states or hybrids, and would have similar cultural needs.

Growing Conditions for Rhododendron prinophyllum (Early azalea):

Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Thin, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: This azalea is extremely hardy with marked tolerance to high pH. Good cultural practices reduce the incidence of disease and insect damage.

To help you make good plant choices in the future, go to our list of recommended Plants Native to Missouri. Please read this paragraph at the top of that page:

"Commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Missouri. Visit our Suppliers Directory to locate businesses that sell native plants or seeds or provide professional landscape or consulting services in this state. Visit the Organizations Directory to locate native plant societies, conservation groups, governmental agencies, botanical gardens, arboreta, and other plant-related organizations in this state."

Using the sidebar on the right-hand side of the page, we are going to select on "herb" (herabceous blooming plant), "part shade" ( 2 - 6 hours of sun a day) under Light Requirements and "Height" 1 to 3 ft; then click on SUBMIT. You can repeat this search choosing other Habits, Light Requirements, Heights, even color and time of blooming. Here is a list of some suggested blooming plants for shade:

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

Lobelia siphilitica (Great blue lobelia)

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

Phlox pilosa (Downy phlox)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan)

Tradescantia ohiensis (Bluejacket)


From the Image Gallery

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis var. canadensis

Early azalea
Rhododendron prinophyllum

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias tuberosa

Common lady fern
Athyrium filix-femina

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Great blue lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Downy phlox
Phlox pilosa

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Ohio spiderwort
Tradescantia ohiensis

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