The Q&A Archives: A Shrub That Loves Shade.

Question: We are making a screen out of shrubs which will cover a chain-linked fence in our back yard. We have very large maple trees beside this fence. We would like to plant shrubs that like shade, and will not require lots of water. We will water these shrubs, but, the tree will compete with the shrubs. Also, the soil is the good old Kentucky red clay. I did some research and found two shrubs that fit this description, but it can't find any nursery that had these plants. They are the Heavenly Bamboo, and the Stewartia Ovata. We want something that will grow about five feet, and stay green all the year. Will these make a good choice, or do you recommend something else for the spot?

Answer: Heavenly bamboo or nandina is a lovely plant but it drops its leaves in the spring and tends to break under snow. The stewartia is not evergreen and also requires a moist soil, so I do not think that will suit your location either. Your growing spot is a very difficult one under maple trees and instead of shrubs I would suggest you try the evergreen vine English Ivy (Hedera helix) and allow it to climb the fence. It will also grow as a ground cover in areas where the tree roots and shade make lawn impossible. You may need to dig individual planting holes among the roots for the ivy starts, and improve the soil as best you can for each plant. Keep them watered until they take hold. Eventually once established it should become a virtually carefree planting.

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