Georgia Gardener Newsletter Design Tip: November 30, 2006

Evergreen Foundation Plantings for Shade

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Florida Anise shrubs mixed with Autumn Fern, stones and mossy logs

Evergreen plants are still the standard along the foundations of structures in order to create a transition from the building to the landscape. With such a wide range of landscape plant material to choose from, there are almost endless designs and combinations to work the sun. Even in partial shade there are plenty of choices, but when the area in question is heavily shaded either by the building or nearby trees, the options become a bit more limited. However, there are choices in plants and hardscaping that can create a pleasing foundation in moderate to dense shade.

Use of Texture and Subtle Shades

Plants that grow in moderate to dense shade often do not flower as heavily or for as long as plants that grow in more sunlight. Flowering requires solar energy. However in the shade it's much easier to use subtle differences in color and texture that are often lost in bright sunlight. Combining the lacy texture and bright green (and orange) color of Autumn Fern with the bold texture and deeper green color of Lenten Rose makes a great foliage combination. Even better, the use of evergreen plants that are variegated can create eye-catching color combinations on the same plant.

Hardscaping Options

Unlike plants stones, logs, statues, water features, bird baths and other decorative items are not affected by a lack of sunlight and often make outstanding additions in shady foundation beds. Specimen boulders, particularly those covered with mosses or lichens, seem much more appealing in the shade where their subtle colors and textures aren't "washed out" by harsh sunlight. Light-colored stones used as edging or mixed with other hardscaping features can brighten even the darkest areas.

Evergreen Shrubs for Shade

Name Botanical Name Size (H x W)
Yellow Anise Illicium parviflorum 6-8' x 6'
Florida Anise Illicium floridanum 6-8' x 6'
Aucuba Aucuba japonica 8-10' x 8'
Rhododendron/Azalea* Rhododendron spp. Varies
Camellia* Camellia spp. 6-8' x 6'
Cleyera Cleyera japonica 8-10' x 8'
Carolina Cherry Laurel Prunus caroliniana 10-15' x 12'
Coast Doghobble Leucothoe axillaris 2-4' x 4'
Mountain Doghobble Leucothoe fontanesiana 3-5' x 5'
Florida Leucothoe Agarista populifolia 8-10' x 8'
Andromeda Pieris japonica 4-6' x 6'
Skimmia Skimmia japonica 2-5' x 5'
Prostrate Yew Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata' 2' x 4-5'

Evergreen Perennials and Ground Covers for Shade

Name Botanical Name Size (H x W)
Autumn Fern Dryopteris erythrosora 2-3' x 2'
Lungwort* Pulmonaria spp. 1-2' x 1'
Barrenwort* Epimedium spp. 2' x 2'
Foam Flower Tiarella spp. 1' x 1'
Lenten/Christmas Rose Helleborus spp. 1-2' x 2'
Ebony Spleenwort Fern Asplenium platyneuron 1' x 1'
Coral Bells* Heuchera spp. 1-2' x 1'
Green n Gold Chrysogonum virginianum 1-2" x 2-3'
Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens 1' x 2'
Sacred Lily Rohdea japonica 1' x 1-2'
Seersucker Sedge Carex plantaginea 1' x 1-2'
Cast Iron Plant Aspidistra elatior 2-3' x 2-3'
Spurge/Pachysandra Pachysandra spp. 1' spreading
Mosses Numerous species 1" or less

*Although these plants will grow in fairly dense shade, blooming may be reduced.

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