The Q&A Archives: Shaded Area

Question: We moved into our new house in Chicago last year. In the front we have a huge tree that shades the whole yard. We have two flower beds, one on each side of the front door. In the flower beds are 3 bushes on either side. The bushes are not full and look almost dead. If we replaced the bushes what would be a good replacement? How could we add some color too? Thank you so much for your time.

Answer: Shade gardening can be challenging, but here are some shrub suggestions: Spireas are tough to beat because they are so pest-free and durable. Fitch's spirea, also known as Korean spirea (Spiraea fritschiana), bears many large, white, flat clusters of flowers often tinged pink in late May to June. The leaves are somewhat larger than ?Snowmound?, and the plant has a more compact habit, growing 2 to 3 feet tall and up to 5 feet wide in a rounded form. The deep green leaves may have a bluish tinge. In fall, the leaves turn yellow, and sometimes even toss in a little orange, red or purple for good measure.

Hydrangea paniculata are extremely durable plants. Pink Diamond has long white flowers that turn a deep, rich pink (sometimes almost purple) as they age. It matures at about 9 feet tall with an equal spread. Tardiva is a prolific late-summer to early fall bloomer. Its white flowers have an airy, open look. This plant, similar in size to ?Pink Diamond?, can be trained to a tree form.

Unique is the earliest bloomer of the three, typically beginning its show in late July to early August. It has flowers similar to Tardiva, only bigger. Sometimes the flower clusters reach 12 inches in length. Over time, these flowers turn pink, although not as deep a color as Pink Diamond.

Viburnum sargentii Onondaga is another great selection. In May to June, this shrub develops reddish-purple flower buds that open to pink-tinged, white lace-cap flowers. Next come large clusters of bright red fruit that persist through winter. In fall, this shrub turns yellow to red. Onondaga matures to 12 feet tall with a 6-foot spread. Hardy in Zones 3 through 7, this shrub is free of pests and diseases and performs best in moist soil.

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum Summer Snowflake starts flowering in June and keeps going through the summer. If you're looking for a smaller viburnum, Newport Dwarf Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum ?Newzam?) is great. This rounded, compact dwarf grows 4 to 5 feet tall. In spring, it has showy, snowball-like flower clusters. Its leathery green foliage turns burgundy in fall. It is hardy in Zones 5 through 8.

Hope one of these is just right for your landscape!

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