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September 1, 2018


I have a problem I would like some help with, I am trying to become more habitat friendly with my yard, and have been successful except for two shady flower beds in my back yard. This faces north, and the beds are raised and are located under the eaves of the house.  One of them gets mid-day sun, but the other doesn't, as there is a large oak tree to the west of it.  I have hostas planted there now and they do very well, the other has ferns and seem to be well suited for this bed. I enjoy these plants, but would like to replace them with something that would attract birds, butterflies, and or bees.  Any suggestions?



There are actually several perennials and even a few shrubs you could try that thrive in the shade, but bloom and attract pollinators.  For some shrubs, there are several varieties of dwarf cherry laurel –including Otto Luyken and ‘Nana’.  They are evergreen and produce spikes of fragrant white blooms which attract bees and butterflies.  Abelia will grow in light shade and blooms all summer, there are several varieties which vary in mature height and foliage color—some green, other yellow, silver, or other variegated patterns. Clethra is a deciduous shrub which blooms in mid-summer with white or pink flowers and again, variety will determine mature height.  For perennials, consider evergreen hellebores which bloom in the winter and are a source of pollen and nectar for bees in a season they lack many blooming plants. Also columbine is an early spring bloomer for shade, and cranesbill geraniums come in white, pink or purple and are a good shade bloomer.  Heuchera plants are grown more for their foliage, but they do produce spikes of flowers in late spring.  Toad lilies also bloom well in the shade and attract bees. Monarda or bee balm will bloom well in light shade and attracts a host of pollinators but do be cautious, it is in the mint family and can spread.


December 2012

QuestionRecently my neighbor on the east side of my home had at least four 70 foot oak trees cut down from his side yard (on my east side.) When I asked him why he did it he said with a big grin on his face, "because I wanted to." Sounded like something that my two-year-old grandson would say. Needless to say, I was very sad to see the tree removed. In addition he mutilated two other oaks. My concern besides the removal of the trees is my shade-planted garden. I still have trees on my side of the fence; however I have hydrangea, camellia, and other shade plants planted. What differences should I expect come next summer? I am tempted to plant bamboo for a quick shade, privacy! I'm sure come next July (if it's anything like this past one,) he'll regret the sun coming into his west-faced-bedrooms in the afternoon. We remember Joyce Kilmer's line from the poem, "...only God can make a tree."


AnswerDo not plant bamboo—that would be almost as bad as removing healthy mature trees. I think there are many homeowners out there that basically have done the same thing as your neighbor by not watering for the past two summers. When their trees are dead and gone, their utility bills are going to go up without shade for their homes. I would consider a couple of options—one, plant some young trees, and start growing some shade. You can also put up a trellis with fast growing help with your shade garden. But pay attention to the garden next spring and don’t forget to water. Good luck!vines to aid in shade production until your trees grow up, and hopefully you will have enough shade from your own yard too.

May 2012

QuestionSome neighbors and I in our Stagecoach Village community near Otter Creek have side yards on the north sides of our homes that are exposed to the public, so we'd like to put some shrubs against those north walls. However, the areas get no sun, even during summer months. Do you know of any shrubs, bloom-producers or not, that will live and grow in areas where they get no direct sunlight? I've read that caladiums for lower growth can live in total shade, but we'd like to have some shrubs for some north windowless walls.


AnswerThere are numerous shrubs that do well in deep shade. Aucuba or gold dust plant, and fatsia is hardy through central Arkansas are both shade tolerant evergreen plants. Leucothoe comes in variegated or green, and standards and dwarf varieties are available. Otto Luyken laurel, boxwoods and hollies are also pretty variable and will take shade. Illicium is a native shrub that will bloom in the shade, and for light shade with filtered sun or morning sun, you can grow hydrangeas, camellias, azaleas and gardenias, but they do need some sunlight to bloom. The previous plants can take pretty heavy shade quite well.

February 2012

QuestionI have built a raised bed on the North side of my home. It gets sunshine in the afternoon, especially in the summer. What vegetables can be planted in a mostly shaded area for this in the spring?


AnswerMost vegetables need a minimum of six hours of sunlight to produce well. If you have less than that, your best bet would be herbs and leafy greens like kale, lettuce, chard, etc. They would prefer six hours of sun, but will usually produce in as few as 4-5, albeit not as thrifty or full. We are in the cool season planting arena now—so you can start all of the above and plant from now through mid April. Mid April through mid June is the warm season crop time, but most do need a bit more sunlight. With ample sunlight, all vegetables can be grown in containers or raised beds.

May 2008

QuestionI live in Northwest Arkansas and would like to plant some shrubs and trees in my new yard, but I will be leaving soon to spend the summer back up north. Is it ok to plant now, water well and mulch and still have plants left when I return, or should I wait until I come back this fall to plant? Since I am gone all summer, I prefer plants that bloom in the spring or fall. I love azaleas, dogwoods and rhododendrons.


AnswerIf you plan to leave every summer, then invest in a good sprinkler system with a timer, and have a friend or neighbor check to make sure it is working. While there are drought tolerant plants, it is a rare summer that we can go an entire summer season without supplemental watering. New plants, regardless of their drought hardiness once established, must have regular watering the first year they are planted. I prefer to plant azaleas in the spring and early summer, however, no newly planted plant would survive a month without water in the summer, much less the entire summer, if we have no natural rainfall. Rhododendrons are best planted in the fall, as are dogwood trees. Fall planting is preferable for many plants, but don’t plant any of these unless you have an irrigation system. None of the plants you mentioned are drought tolerant.

April 2010

QuestionAre there shrubs (besides azalea, rhododendron, and camellia)that will grow well under pine trees?


AnswerPines tend to have a high enough canopy that most shade and partial shade tolerant shrubs do well. Cleyera, aucuba, fatsia, hollies and boxwoods are all possible choices, but there are numerous others. Soil acidity can be a long-term concern under pines, but most of these plants are pretty tolerant.

February 2010

QuestionIs there clematis that does not require full sun? Mine has been shadowed by a tree and is not blooming well.


AnswerThe large showy clematis do need full sun, but the fall blooming sweet autumn Clematis terniflora, with small white flowers blooms nicely in partial shade. Some native woodland clematis with smaller purple flowers also do well in the shade or woodland garden, but may not be as easy to find. Clematis pitcheri is one example.      


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