One of the most commonly asked questions of horticulturists is what evergreens will grow in dry shade. As straightforward as this question may seem, it is tricky to give people a satisfactory answer. There are certainly some plants that will do better than others, but even those plants will need some help to get established.
Quite a few shrubs will grow well under these tough conditions since this is where they grow naturally in the wild. Surprisingly, many of these plants are evergreen shrubs which add color and texture to the shade garden all through the year. Some of my favorites are exceptionally fragrant plants that flower at unusual times of the year. Daphne odora has long been a top choice among gardeners. It grows very well beneath oaks and other thirsty trees. Although it is short-lived, a drier spot seems to lengthen its life span and even if it only persists for 4–8 years, the incredibly fragrant winter flowers are well worth the effort of replanting. Another fragrant shrub is Osmanthus fragrans. Although this wonderful plant performs its best in the sun, it is remarkably shade and drought tolerant. The fall through winter flowers are especially nice on the orange (O.f. var. aurantiacus) and yellow (O.f. var. thunbergii) forms. Boxwoods (Buxus spp.) are exceptional shrubs in the shade where they can attain a grace that seems to elude them when grown in full sun. The slightly more open character usually has people scratching their heads when they come across it in the shade garden. Stick with the larger types rather than the dwarfs for best results. Other evergreen shrubs for dry shade include: Aucuba japonica, Danae racemosa, Fatsia japonica, Mahonia spp., Ruscus aculeatus, Sabal minor, and Serissa foetida.
Dry shade tolerant perennials are, of course, necessary in the well-proportioned woodland garden. There are quite a few evergreen perennials that will thrive beneath the shade giving trees and shrubs in the landscape. Hellebores are well known plants for dry shade, but others like Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae add different types of texture. This spurge will spread to form colonies of deep green leafed plants that resemble Pittosporum tobira. In spring, they are topped with bright chartreuse “flowers” which last for a long period. The flowering stems can be cut to the ground after their color fades. Another great textural plant that is woefully underused is the grass-like Reineckia carnosa. It slowly spreads to form dense, low patches of upright, strappy leaves. Lavender flower spikes rise among the foliage. It is great for creating a weed-proof carpet under trees and shrubs or for edging a woodland pathway. Heuchera is well known as a shade loving perennial, but it will grow not only in rich soils, but dry ones also. The various color forms and leaf shapes make this a very good plant for brightening the shade and contrasting with other plants. Be aware that they hate being covered by damp leaves, so keep them cleared of falling foliage. A few other evergreen shade perennials are: Asarum splendens, Aspidistra elatior, Pyrrosia lingua, and Rohdea japonica.
Knowing these plants are tolerant of dry shade does not mean they can be planted and forgotten but still expected to live and thrive. Like all newly installed plants, they will need to be watered regularly and deeply for a couple of seasons so they can send roots out to compete for the soil moisture once they are on their own. Also, contrary to what many people think, small plants will establish much better than large ones. When planting amongst tree roots, 1 gallon or smaller plants will have a much better chance of survival than large container shrubs. During exceptionally dry times, these plants will benefit from a timely application of water to see them through to when times are better. With a little work up front and proper plant selection, the shade garden can be an inviting and lush place even under tough conditions. – Mark Weathington, Assistant Director and Curator of Collections
Klein-Pringle White Garden
Callicarpa japonica 'Leucocarpa' – white Japanese beautyberry
Kosteletzkya virginica 'Immaculate’ – white seashore mallow
Lespedeza thunbergii 'White Fountain' – white bush clover
Sedum alboroseum 'Frosty Morn' – variegated blush stonecrop
Aster ericoides 'Schneegitter' – white heath aster
Farfugium japonicum – green leopard plant
Gentiana saponaria – soapwort gentian
Rhododendron Autumn Coral™ – Encore azalea™
Amsonia hubrichtii – Ozark blue-star
Ilex 'Carolina Cardinal' – hybrid winterberry holly
Rhododendron Autumn Cheer™ – Encore azalea™
Tetradium baberi – Baber's bee-bee tree
Viburnum nudum – possumhaw viburnum
Salvia elegans – pineapple sage
Ziziphus jujuba var. inermis – Chinese date
Aster tataricus – Tatarian aster
Chrysanthemum 'Gethsemane Moonlight' – garden mum
Helianthus salicifolius – willow-leaf sunflower
Lespedeza thunbergii 'Pink Fountain' – pink bush clover
Muhlenbergia capillaris – Muhly grass
Salvia leucantha – Mexican bush sage
Salvia mexicana 'Limelight' – lime-calyx Mexican sage
Other Areas of the Arboretum
Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome' – New England aster
Callicarpa species and cultivars – purple and white beautyberries
Camellia olerifera – tea-oil camellia
Camellia 'Snow Flurry' – Ackerman hybrid camellia
Canna species and cultivars
Osmanthus ×fortunei – Fortune's osmanthus
Osmanthus fragrans – sweet-olive
This show is free. Visit often. – Nancy Doubrava, Interpretive Specialist
Friends of the Arboretum Lecture – October 2, 2008 (Thursday) – 7:30 PM – Free for members, $5.00 for nonmembers
"Asian Adventures: Plant Hunting in China and Taiwan" presented by Mark Weathington, Assistant Director and Curator of Collections, JC Raulston Arboretum. Mark Weathington will discuss his recent trips to eastern China and Taiwan focusing on the people, culture, and of course the plants.
Pi Alpha Xi Plant Sale at the JCRA – October 4, 2008 (Saturday) – 8:00 AM-4:00 PM and October 5, 2008 (Sunday) – 10:00 AM-3:00 PM
Come to purchase rare finds and drought-tolerant woodies, perennials, and annuals. For more information, contact a Pi Alpha Xi member at (919) 515-3178 or visit http://www.ncsu.edu/project/pialphaxi/.
Guided Tours – October 5, and 12, 2008 (Sundays) – 2:00 PM – Free
We invite you and your friends to join us for free guided tours through the Arboretum. Learn about the Arboretum's history, plants, and more. Tours are available to the public free of charge every Sunday (with few exceptions) at 2:00 PM from March-October. Tours are led by a dedicated group of volunteers and last approximately one hour (rain or shine).
Plantsmen's Tour – October 7, 2008 (Tuesday) – 1:00 PM – Free
"2008 New Accessions" led by Mark Weathington, Assistant Director and Curator of Collections. This tour will focus on the newest plants in our collection. Only plants installed during the past year will be featured on this round-up of our latest acquisitions, including new plants from our own Denny Werner's breeding program.
Friends of the Arboretum Annual Plant Distribution – October 11, 2008 (Saturday) – 9:00 AM – Free for members (members only event)
The epic event of public horticulture where thousands of choice and rare plants are freely given away to the Arboretum's members. A list of available plants will be posted on the Arboretum's Web site the week of the event.
Friends of the Arboretum Lecture – October 15, 2008 (Wednesday) – 7:30 PM – Free for members, $5.00 for nonmembers
"Pens, Plants, Weeds, and Words: The Thrills and Chills of Writing a Garden Book" presented by Pam Baggett and Roy Dicks, Authors. Spend an entertaining evening with two Timber Press authors – Roy Dicks and Pam Baggett – as they discuss the exhilarating process of writing garden books, as well as the paths their books have taken on their way to publication. Your questions about writing and publishing (or the subjects of the books themselves) are welcome.
Please visit the "Calendar of Events" section on the JCRA Web site for a complete listing of our upcoming programs.
One new video was added to the Members Only section on the Arboretum's Web site in September and is now available for viewing.
The Fall 2008 – Volume 12, Number 2 newsletter will be posted shortly.
Content in the Members Only section is password protected and is only available to Arboretum members. In order to access these special features, members will need to know the password that was printed on the label of their latest Friends of the Arboretum Newsletter or included at the end of the e-mail with the latest monthly JCRA e-Update attached to it. The end of the e-mail is after Chris's signature line. The user name needed to log in is always "jcra."
JC Raulston Arboretum e-Updates are published electronically every month for everyone interested in the Arboretum and are e-mailed to the Arboretum's members. If you are a member and need to update your contact information or wish to be removed from this mailing, please contact Chris Glenn.
© October 2008, JC Raulston Arboretum