Creating a landscape that thrives in shade in Texas may seem a bit challenging at first. Plants thrive when they’re in the right environment. The first step is choosing shade plants suited for the overall climate zone of our area (8b – 9a) – sunlight, moisture and soil conditions are the most important factors.
Before we get started with our list of shade plants, let’s review some basic design guidelines for a landscape bed.
- Clump like plantings together in masse.
- Avoid planting too many varieties in an area
- Strive for grouping textures together to create shapes, with smaller height plantings in front
- When planning the space, be sure to allow the proper spacing for the plantings at maturity, especially trees and shrubs.
Shade Plants for North Houston
With those tips in mind, we’ve put together our top 10 favorite shade plants for North Houston. These favorites will provide visual interest with a variety of textures and pops of color.
Azaleas (common name) are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron.
Azaleas are excellent shade plants, but prefer bright filtered light or an eastern sunny exposure for heavier blooms. They prefer well drained, sandy, acidic soil and benefit from composted leaves and organic matter. Azaleas are available in a variety of colors including white, pink, orange, red and purple.
Most varieties bloom in early spring, but Encore varieties will bloom more than once a year.
Hydrangeas are prized for their showy late summer flowers. They have larger leaves and prefer a moist fertile soil. These plants thrive in sandy, acidic soils. They are not suitable for alkaline, clay soils. The show stoppers are actually floral bracts (modified leaves). The actual flowers are tiny and are inside the floral bracts.
These versatile shrubs prefer the filtered light of a shady, woodland setting. Another benefit is they make an excellent choice for border plants. There are many varieties available for this area. The flower colors range from white to pink, red, purple and blue.
The acidity of the soil affects the flower color of the blue and pink varieties. An acidic soil yields bluer flowers and an alkaline soil yields more pinkish flowers.
Finally, hydrangeas also do well in large containers and make excellent shade plants.
In our East Texas winters, flowers are harder to find – that is where camellias can save the landscape! There are two species of camellias suited for our area — Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua.
Camellia japonica varieties blooming from early winter through spring and Camellia sasanqua blooms a bit earlier. While japonica has showier blooms, sasanqua has more of them. They prefer shade to partial shade, fertile, well-draining, acidic soil. Therefore, camellias are quite happy under a canopy of taller pines. They come in a variety of colors including white, pink, and red.
Finally, avoid planting too deep by digging a hole no deeper than the container they arrived in and 2 – 3 times as wide.
4 Aspidistra — Cast Iron plant
Aspidistra elatior (the “cast-iron plant”), like it’s name is a tough and drought tolerant shade plant (once it’s had a chance to get established). This variety thrives in shade and adds vertical interest. It grows about 24 inches tall. While cold winters might damage foliage, they are easily pruned. New growth will emerge from the base of the plant in spring. This variety has a nice clumping behavior. It does well in pots and as a low light houseplant.
This variety prefers a natural, acidic fertilizer like that provided by composted leaves and organic matter. Blooms are in the form of very inconspicuous brown flowers close to the base of the plant.
This is a low maintenance plant.
5 Japanese Maple
Acer palmatum (Japanese maples) are small trees (up to 14ft – 20ft) with deeply lobed green leaves that turn brilliant orange, red or yellow in autumn. They prefer morning sun but will adapt as understory trees with dappled, filtered sunlight.
These delicate trees often make beautiful focal points in the garden and add visual interest in the fall. The heat of summer can turn the edges of their leaves brown. It is important to provide adequate water during late summer, dry periods or before big temperature changes.
Many varieties are well suited for this area, while some smaller varieties may also be grown in large containers.
Japanese Maple: Tree
Plectranthus scutellarioide (Coleus) is such a versatile plant with varieties that thrive in shade and provide color for containers and the landscape. The foliage is main attraction here and they are truly works of art. Plants these en masse for a spectacular focal point. Coleus requires well drained, organic soil and prefers shade with filtered sunlight.
Tip: Pinch back the flowers to encourage foliage growth and a more compact shape.
Begonias come in many varieties and most are suited for shade. Begonia semperflorens (Wax Begonia) grow in mounds of 6 to 12 inches. They make excellent border plants with plentiful blooms in small white, pink or red in spring through summer. They prefer organic-rich, moist soil. Bronze leaved varieties are more tolerant of full sun.
Caladiums are tubers (similar to how potatoes grow) and have variegated foliage about 1 -2 feet tall and come in red, white, pink and green. They prefer moist well draining soil. Generally, the tubers should be lifted and stored in the fall, but some prefer to let them naturalize in an undisturbed area that is heavily mulched in winter. Cold wet soil may cause the tubers to rot.
Impatiens wallerana – A beautiful addition to a shade garden for that gorgeous pop of color. Impatiens are prolific bloomers and come in a wide variety of colors. Adding some white flowers will definitely make them pop in the shade. They prefer moist, organic soil. Impatiens are available in a variety of colors such as red, white, orange, pink, lavender or salmon. Blooms spring to frost. Pinch them back to encourage compact shape.t, organic soil. Impatiens available in red, white, orange, pink, lavender or salmon. Blooms spring to frost. Pinch them back to encourage a more compact shape.
Ferns thrive in the shade and need moist, organic-rich soil – just like that in a forest. As a result, they are perfect for a woodland garden, preferring dappled sunlight and shade. Their delicate and lighter texture contrasts well with the darker and broader leaves of other shade plants. They come in many varieties that are well suited for this area.
Interested in creating a shade garden?
Come visit Kingwood Garden Center and let us help you select the best shade plants for your garden.