The Q&A Archives: Shade Plants

Question: We go camping where there are lots of black walnut trees. The soil is not too good. We intend to bring in our own soil, but because of the shade, were not to sure what type of plants to grow. In the past we planted Hosta's which did well, but we would like some color. Can you help?

Answer: Black walnut trees exude a substance from their roots called juglone; some plants are very sensitive to it and will not grow in proximity to these trees. This means you are somewhat restricted in what you can grow there. Also, activities which change the grading, such as importing topsoil, are not usually a good idea under trees as their roots are very sensitive to such changes. Having said that, some ideas for color under those trees might include violets, daylilies (hemerocallis), spring bulbs, creeping myrtle (vinca minor) and blue, golden, and variegated or patterned hostas. These plants are not terribly demanding in terms of soil, so adding compost or other organic matter to the planting area should be sufficient to get them started, but you might also wish to run some basic soil tests to see exactly what other amendments might be helpful

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