The Q&A Archives: A difficult place to grow

Question: Will you suggest several shrubs that would be best suited to an area that is fully shaded until 2pm, at which time it receives hot sun (western exposure, I think)for the rest of the day.

I need a dense evergreen around the foundation to hide some pvc drainage pipes (hvac condensation lines)that run next to the house.

Answer: As you have noted, this really is a difficult place to plant. That hot blast in midafternoon is very stressful even on heat and sun tolerant plants, plus those that really like sun do not quite get enough of it .... and broadleaf evergreens in particular just can't withstand that kind of site.

You might try junipers that mature to an appropriate height, or perhaps work with a deciduous shrub such as privet -- this one holds its leaves late and will be densely branched (if pruned often) to at least blur the look of the utility pipes. A rugosa rose might also survive and look presentable although it would likely bloom only lightly compared to its potential. The smaller cultivars of Spirea nipponica such as "Norwegian Snow" or "Snowmound" might also work being somewhat in scale for a foundation, but again may be a bit thin and bloom a little less than they would in full sun.

Another option might be to try a different approach to the spot by placing an attractive high backed bench there to conceal the pipes -- this would also allow better access for maintenance if ever needed. YOu could add to the vignette by using a small paved area and a bird bath or similar elements and then plant on the outside of them -- sometimes by moving the planting bed out from the house you can get an increased amount of sun and thereby widen your plant palette. You might also consider planting a tree or erecting an arbor or similar structure to provide some shade in late afternoon, then you would have a steadily shaded area and could plant a shade lover there.

Your local professionally trained and certified nursery staff may have additional suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions and your design goals. In the meantime I hope this gives you some ideas.

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