The Q&A Archives: Low Light Plants

Question: Large trees filter out approximately 50% of the days light in my yard. I also have an area on the North side that maybe gets two hours direct sun a day, then full shade. My soil is clay-ee and dry in the yard, very rich and moist (not soggy though) on the North side with the worst light. Looking for shrubbery that has interesting foliage that will thrive in these two areas. I have a Forsythia that is thriving in the North side (moist dark) if that is any help. I also have a White Hibiscus that comes back great there every year.

Answer: If I read your question correctly you have an area of dry shade and an area of moist shade. Dry shade is a challenge for gardeners - moist shade not so much. For the shady, moist area with rich soil try: Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Clethra. I am banking on the fact that you are saying the soil there isn't soggy, these shrubs do need good drainage. I take it the dry area is only part shade and gets more light than the north side? If I am correct you could try Sunset Potentilla (smashing red flowers), Acanthopanax sieboldianus 'variegatus' (a rare but beautiful shrub, great as a specimen), Myrica pensylvanica (Northern Bayberry, has beautiful silvery white berries). How about another forsythia? Abeliophyllum distichum is a white variety. No matter what you choose, be sure to amend the soil with some organic matter such as compost, leaf mould or composted cow manure at planting time. This is especially important in the dry, clay area. Also be sure to "baby" the new shrubs with lots of water for the first season, it is essential in establishing new plantings.

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