Shade Perennial Plant Selections (part 2)
We covered some great shade perennial groups in “Shade perennial plant selections (part 1).” Here in part two we’ll discuss some Texas native shade-loving plants. As natives, these perennials have few if any insect or disease problems making them virtually care free.
American beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) makes a beautiful understory shrub that needs lots of space because it does not respond kindly to hedging. This native Texan has a mature height and spread of 4 feet. Its long arching branches are best in the fall when they are weighed down with glossy purple fruits. These fruits are an important food source for migrating birds.
Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) is a stunning native medium-sized shrub that tolerates even the deepest shade. It works well as an accent or mass planting. In North Texas, it dies to the ground in the winter emerging in late spring to reach a height and spread of four feet. It has unique vermillion red flowers that give the plant its name. Hummingbirds can’t resist its blooms that continue all summer.
Soapwort, aka Bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) is an easy to grow Texas herb that loves partial shade. It grows to about 2 feet high and has a spreading habit. It has pretty pink and white flowers from late spring through early fall. Soapwort gets its name because cleaning materials can be made from its roots and stems. In the past it was used to clean old lace, tapestries, and beer mugs. It will have some die back in the winter, but usually maintains some green leaves. It spreads by rhizomes, but is easy to keep under control by simply pulling up the unwanted offspring.
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is another Texas herb that makes a great shade groundcover. It will even grow beneath a Magnolia. It may suffer a little winter damage in North Texas, but mulching will help minimize this. It gets 6 to 12” high with a 12-15” spread. Clusters of tiny white flowers float above its whorls of pointed leaves in the spring. It adds a wonderful fine texture to the shade garden.
Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is a low-growing native groundcover with tiny white flowers smaller than the bees that feed on them. It’s mostly evergreen in North Texas, reaching a height of 3-4” with a 12” spread. Because it tolerates foot traffic, it makes a great choice for planting between stepping stones. It does not tolerate being cut back and will require supplemental watering in our hot summers.
Inland seaoats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is a great plant if you want to add grassy texture and movement to your shade garden. After winter makes it unsightly, cut it back to four inches tall. You’ll see new growth in March. In the fall, its big drooping seeds are a lovely color somewhere between gold and white. It’s a manageable height for ornamental grass at only 2-3 feet and makes a great mass or accent plant.
For low-maintenance shade success you can’t beat these Texas natives. Happy planting!