Shade tolerance for aloes, agaves etc?

vocal1April 16, 2010

I plan to landscape the north side of a 2-story building in Los Angeles, so the plants will be completely in the building's shade for about half the year, probably more. The summer months will be very sunny and warm in that spot though.

If they are feasible for so much shade, I want to include Aloe ferox, various Agave (gemniflora, bovicornuta, vilmoriniana), Senecio mandraliscae, Dasylirion wheeleri, Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire', Hesperaloe parviflora, Kalanchoe beharensis.

Is this a really bad idea? Or will the succulents just get a bit leggy and otherwise thrive?

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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Many of the succulents you list will tend to not look their best in half a year's shade. Of the ones you list, probably Senecio mandraliscae is going to look the best, and things like Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire' is unlikely to have the deeper range of color that makes it so attractive in sun. I'd steer more towards more shade tolerant succulents such as Crassula multicava, various Aeoniums, especially the larger green ones such as A. canariense, A. undulatum, variegated Aeoniums such as A. 'Sunburst'. Beschornerias can give you a bit of the look of an Agave, and all of them are much more tolerant of shaded conditions while still blooming well. Dasylirion wheeleri will tend to look more green than blue foliaged with too much shade. Of the Kalanchoes, I find that K. carnea 'Modoc', which is a very large foliaged and tall clumping type that can get 5 feet tall by across does well in shaded conditions. In my experience, Aloe arborescens probably blooms better than A. ferox in this situation, but may be too common for you. Agave attenuata and Agave bracteosa are two Agaves that do well with a north facing exposure. One of the ground cover Sedums that I really like to tie a succulent garden together is Sedum palmeri, which thrives in shade. Echeverias such as E. x imbricata will also like these conditions, as well as E. elegans and E. harmsii and E. 'Pulv-oliver. Bulbine frutescens is another succulent that still blooms with shade for me here in Berkeley, but much tighter habit and more blooms with more sun.

You may find that appearance of the plants you want is acceptable in your situation, but they won't look as nice/compact/colorful as they would with more year round sun.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 12:19PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Aloe maculata will grow in the shade here in Texas. It does make a longer strappy leaf than when it is more in the sun.) I have Aloe grandentada(? in part shade also. It is hot here in the sun so I need to give the certain aloes more sun than people do in other places.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 3:13PM
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I planted an aloe vera from a four-inch pot in a shady part of my garden and it grew to about three feet in diameter and very healthy looking within a couple years. I know A. ciliaris does quite well in shade, its natural habitat. Matter of fact, I have bought a lot of aloe species and planted them in full sun and they immediately started to suffer from sunburn, often fatal. So I'd say aloes are worth a try. Also I'd wait until the area was in shade before planting, so that they could have time to get established before the sun hits them.

I know K. daigramontiana and K. pinnata are not popular landscape species, but I can attest that they don't mind growing in shade. So I'd think other kalanchoes, including beharenis, might do well.

I wouldn't go with euphorbias, though, because in my experience they rot too easy in winter, even if they're getting sun.

Other succulents that might work: sansevieria, dudleya, echeveria, sedum, gasteria, haworthia, manfreda.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 11:13PM
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Yes, as long as these plants get a lot of indirect light (and in LA they might just get that, and bright indirect light at that) most succulents should do fine or better.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 1:26AM
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It depends on what species, Los Angeles is 60 miles wide and 60 miles across, so what side of the city are you talking about.
A Los Angeles resident. We are like San Francisco. They don't like to be refered to as Frisco. We don't like to be called L.A. either. Norma

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 2:26AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I wasn't aware that Angelenos didn't like hearing their town referred to as L.A! I don't know that San Franciscans really object all that much to hearing Frisco these days, but natives don't much use the term, mostly tourists and non-locals, so it does make one stand out as a non-local. The term that actually gets me riled up most is seeing from "Cali" as the description for Californian, but that may just be my age. Soucal as an abbreviation for southern California also strikes me as a bit nonsensical, but I guess it would be a better response to just imagine these abbreviations as another imaginary "alot" creature, and let it go... Life is just too short to get caught up with language, as long as the point is gotten across, verdad?

I think the pure size of Los Angeles and the variety of neighborhoods and people is what makes it so interesting, and it is hard to believe that since the 60's when it was so nearly uniformly white and middle class and mostly immigrants from the Midwest, it has become such a melting pot of nationalities and is predominantly Hispanic these days. I am thankful that Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn and speak, and being bilingual makes it easier to navigate there these days. If Mandarin were the predominant language, I would be out of luck!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 2:57PM
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Thanks for all the thoughtful suggestions! I'm familiar with some, but some not. So I'll be looking into them, as well as their availability. I did already suspect what Bahia said about color loss, especially w/ the E. Sticks on Fire. Too bad - such a great orange. Especially next to blue/gray such as the Senecio. I've certainly seen Kalanchoe carnea 'Modoc' but did not know its name until you suggested it and I looked it up. Nice suggestion. And I especially liked 1tecato's idea of Sansevieria with its great sculptural form.

One factor is that I want some nasty thorny plants in the mix, which is why I mentioned Aloe ferox, Dasylirion, and certain agaves. Any ideas for thorns?

And Norma, good question. The area is in the Basin, Sunset Zone 22. But I have to say, although I've lived here virtually all my life, I don't recall knowing anyone who was offended by "LA". At least not vocally so.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 2:43AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

You might consider seeking out the dwarfer growing Senecio serpens in lieu of S. mandraliscae, which can tend to sprawl and/or get leggy with too much shade; same blue foliage effect. I'd agree that Aloe maculata/saponaria is an ideal Aloe for more shaded conditions, but be aware that this is a fast clumper and may be more vigorous than you desire. Aloe striata, by comparison remains a single rosette. Your inland location probably means that the shaded conditions will not be as averse as they would be further north here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where succulents can even rot out with too much shade in winter if it is particularly wet that winter.

A nice thorny plant that actually thrives in shade might include Colletia hystrix rosea, which to my mind combines well with succulents, and can introduce a nice linear quality as an upright accent. Furcraea species have a similar look to Agaves, and also have that thorny edge to the leaves while also doing better with less than full sun. Agave guiengola is another larger growing Agave that tolerates shade well. Check out the Agave bracteosa as well, and there is a very cute new variegated cultivar of A. bracteosa called 'Monterrey Frost' available from San Marcos Growers or Tony Avent's Plant Delights Nursery back in North Carolina. Echeveria agavoides also does well in shaded conditions.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 5:17PM
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Thank you again Bahia for the excellent comments!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:00AM
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You might consider the monstrose versions of some of the regular thorny cacti. My understanding is that some of them prefer more shade than their non-monstrose relatives.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 6:56PM
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I've NEVER met an Angeleno who cares about Los Angeles being called L.A...actually that's how we call our city. I don't know where in L.A you live, must be the boonies, but in the westside, we call it L.A. BTW - Agave Attenuata will thrive in the shade here in L.A, they can live in full or partial sun and/or bright shade. I have tons living in both conditions (I'm in Santa Monica).

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 9:39PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Here 7 miles inlad Senecio serpens wants shade, so that would work. Agave attenuata does well in shade for years but gets stretched out eventually, though by that time it has bloomed.

I've always called it LA. If you have ever met anyone that came to LA a long time ago (they would be very senior citizens now) they pronounce Angeles with a hard "g" and "les" as "leeez". Ahng-ga-leeez. I always thought that was interesting, and curious as to why.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 3:00PM
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