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Evergreens for the Shade

New foliage of Japanese Plum Yew Photo credit: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Trying to grow turfgrass in shaded areas is a losing battle but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for mulch in those dark areas of the landscape.  There are many plants that will tolerate shady conditions found under the canopy of large trees, and some offer year round interest!

One of the most important aspects of site assessment is sun exposure. Plants need light, but do not all need the same amount or intensity.

If plants requiring full sun are planted in the shade, they tend to get leggy and do not flower well.  Although they may live, they will not perform at their peak.

Shade loving plants grown in the sun may be stunted, show leaf scorch, and will struggle.  Most shade plants can tolerate some filtered light or morning sun, but need to be protected from direct mid-day to afternoon sun.

So, what evergreen plants can add some color and texture to your shaded spots?

Golden tones of new foliage is what gives Autumn Fern its common name

Golden tones of new foliage is what gives Autumn Fern its common name. Photo credit: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Cast Iron Plants under a live oak tree

Cast Iron Plants under a live oak tree. Photo credit: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Japanese Plum Yew

Japanese Plum Yew. Photo credit: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Soft Caress Mahonia

Soft Caress Mahonia.  Photo Credit: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS



3 Comments on “Evergreens for the Shade

  1. Nice article Julie. Just a side note that occurred to me as I looked at the pictures. Please don’t recommend (I know you didn’t in this article) that people plant close to the flare roots of a tree. The first radial distance of 3x the DBH of the tree is very, very important root area and what the arborist needs access to for many treatments. As important, perhaps more important is: 1. the tree trunk and exposed flare roots need to be dry when it is not raining and having vegetation in close proximity eliminates the breeze and keeps the tree trunk damp creating a decay/fungi opportunity; 2. cast iron plant, Jasmine, fern, etc. are major competitors in that critical root area. If a tree is stressed one of the cultural remedies is to clear out plants in that critical root area and install organic mulch, preferably pine straw. Keep up the good work!!

  2. An evergreen shrub that does well in the shade for me is Aucuba japonica ‘Serratifolia’ An all green aucuba.

  3. For sure on the Aucuba! I love it and use it throughout my front yard along with the cast iron plants. One of my favorite shade plants however is the Apostle’s Iris, ‘Neomarica gracilis’. They have survived the coldest winters so far and have come back beautifully. Thanks for the article. I have 2 shady beds I am renovating right now so I look forward to finding the Japanese Plum Yew and the Mahonia!