For those of us with shady yards, gardening can be frustrating. For years I beat my head against a wall planting things that might make it. After I grew up and stopped trying to force the gardens to look like I thought they should and let the conditions dictate what should be planted, I found that there are some very nice selections for shade. Some of these may take a little hunting, but the search is worth it.
AZALEA- Most found in this area are evergreen and bloom in the spring. These shrubs range in size from 3′ to 15′ tall, so check the variety before you plant. All Azaleas like acidic soil. If you live in East Texas and have pines or oak trees- you have the right soil most likely. Let the needles and leaves act as a natural mulch- these will break down and add acid to the soil, organic matter & retain moisture. Prune if needed just after blooming in late spring/early summer. Encore is a hybrid that will bloom more than once a year.
CAMELLIA- These beauties bloom in winter through early spring- depending on the variety. Being evergreen, these add a lot of color in winter and a lovely backdrop for summer flowers. The old standards can get quite large. Pruning will keep these to the size you need. The C. sasanqua hybrids are smaller and bloom in fall- September through December. Again, if you have oaks and pines you have the soil needed for these plants. Camellias do not do well if they are dry, so keep them moist. Letting nature do the mulching with fallen leaves and needles will take care of the moisture and acid.
MOUNTAIN LAUREL- A native woodland shrub does grow in full shade. However, the more sun it gets the more blooms that will cover the plant in spring. If the shrub gets too leggy, cut it back to the base branches of the shrub. You can also pinch back the new growth just after blooming.
PARTIAL SHADE: This means some light is hitting the plants. Full sun is defined as at least 6hrs/day. Any less than this is partial shade.
BARBERRY- Beautiful colored leaves, tiny blossoms and small edible berries make this shrub very useful. Heights range from 2′-6′ depending on the species. Thorns do line the stems of this shrub, so consider where you will be planting. The thorns and berries make this an excellent choice for wildlife planting. If the shrub gets too leggy, just prune it. Barberry responds well to pruning. The more sun the more dramatic the color you will have.
NANDINA- Versatile and easy going, this shrub grows well in woodland settings. There are many varities so pay close attention to the size of the variety you choose. Easy to grow, most species produce red berries in the fall. As trees shed their leaves and allow light to hit the leaves of the Nandina- the Nandina produce beautiful color on the leaves- these are evergreens.
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