The Q&A Archives: Pine Shade Planting Dilemma

Question: I've got a LARGE shade area to landscape, most of which is under very mature pines. It's mostly shade, but gets a little sun at the edges where I've framed in local stones. I've got purple wintercreeper, which isn't growing as the mat I'd thought I'd have. Now I've got an Autumn & Alaskan fern, burgendy vinca vine & a nicoletta. All but the nicoletta are Monrovia's product. My questions are: what can I grow directly under the pines-pretty much full shade-that won't die from the acid the pines drop when it rains? I'd also like to put some astilbes I've got growing in shade container pots, as well as ligularias, etc. The problem is, I don't want to kill them after devoting time, energy and money by planting them in this area. Can you give me as much guidance as possible? Can you suggest what plants would do best? I'd be willing to purchase new plants if my present ones are not going to thrive in this area. As I said, it's a large space that needs to be covered. It's also at the street, next to our entry drive, so I really want to "do" this area up, so it looks inviting/landscaped. I really don't want to plant annuals, unless they reseed. Thank you so much! Monrovia really has wonderful plants!

Answer: Unfortunately, based on your description, I am unable to make specific recommendations with any confidence as to plants that will do well in that location. I would strongly suggest you work with your local professional nursery staff, possibly also your local county extension staff, and even possibly consider hiring a garden designer with a good background in horticulture to help you. These professionals should be able, based on on-site information, make far more accurate recommendations that I ever could long distance.

That said, I would surmise that the location is both shady and also relatively dry. Astilbes and ligularias in paritcular, and many other shade plants as well, simply will not tolerate dry conditions. For this reason, you may need to reconsider some of your plans and mental images of what you want for that area.

It sounds like this is a tough site and you really want to achieve some significant results here. It's great that you are researching the options prior to planting. Since it is such a prominent part of your landscape, I really would suggest obtaining some serious professional design assistance. If you do not want to pay for a detailed plot plan, a designer might be willing to do an onsite consultation for an hourly fee.

I'm really sorry I can't be more helpful. Best of luck with your landscaping.

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