Which plants would do well in a shady north-facing SF garden?

nmcaOctober 23, 2012

I have a sloped (about 30-45 degrees angle) space (about 4 feet by 8 feet) that needs love. The spot has tall buildings (3 stories) on west and south side, and partly on the east side, so the only open exposure is north. Right now moss grows well there but I would like something more decorative.

It is a mid-foggy part of San Francisco. I am curious about native plants but are they a lot of work? I am a very inexperienced gardener. Or should I just pick a few ferns?

I would greatly appreciate your advice.

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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

You make ferns sound like such a bummer. I love ferns and you can pick pretty any kind you want. The natives are Polypodium californicum, Polysticum californicum, and Polystichum munitum.

What do you want? Do you want larger shrubs, flowers, grass, groundcover, or trees?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 6:47PM
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Bob_B(Sunset 14, Ca.)

What about fuchsias. They should do well. Talk to your nurseryman about a variety that is resistant to the fuchsia mite. Oliver's snapweed should also do well and provide a little color.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:27PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

You make ferns sound like such a bummer. I love ferns and you can pick pretty any kind you want. The natives are Polypodium californicum, Polysticum californicum, and Polystichum munitum.

What do you want? Do you want larger shrubs, flowers, grass, groundcover, or trees?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:36PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

If you plan it out, different kinds of ferns would be beautiful. How about some hellebores? I like Cast Iron Plant too- nice deep green leaves.
Heucheras might do well there and there are a lot of native varieties to choose from. Hummingbird sage grows well in shady spots for me, but it mildews easily.
Renee

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:06AM
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nmca

thank you so much for your suggestions, though I had to google most of them as their names are unfamiliar to me.

Sorry, I did not mean any offense to ferns or those who like them. What I was trying to say is that I would like to have some color in addition to greenery, so something more like fuchsias mixed in with ferns. I do not even know what height I want - anything from groundcover to 12 feet high would actually work because the space is below the deck, so will be viewed mostly from above.

I guess my preference would be for something that would give me lush green year round but would also have splash of color at some point during the year. And something that is easy to care for (due to my lack of experience). And native is good because I am not California-native, so it is a nice chance for me to get to explore native plants.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 5:03PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

oooh- Camellias and azaleas for color. Not native, though. Most native shade plants don't have a ton of color.
Renee

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 12:07AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Aeonium canariense
Ribes sanguineum
Polystichum munitum
Impatiens soddenii
Impatiens 'Central Coast Rose'
Salvia elegans 'Chartreuse foliage form'
Acanthus spinosus spinossimus
Polypodium aureum glauca
Dicksonia antarctica
Dianella intermedia
Asparagus retrofractus
Asparagus densiflora 'Meyers'
Oxalis spiralis 'Molten Lava'
Oxalis oregana
Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy'
Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Aucuba japonica variegata
Choisya ternata 'Sundance'
Abutilon 'Victor Reiter'
Fatsia japonica
Francoa sonchifolia
Bergenia
Paperwhite narcissus
Billbergia nutans

These are some plants for shade to deep shade that give year round good looks and grow very well in San Francisco. Look up individual plants to see if you prefer things that mostly don't need much water, or those that prefer it, so you can design the garden with plants that are compatible water-wise.

You might also make a trip over to Annie's Annuals in Richmond, California to see her extensive selection of plants in 4 inch pots that are suitable for shade, including many more natives than I listed above. Her web site has a list on-line of shade plants, at www.anniesannuals.com

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 2:07PM
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sffog(10/SanFran)

San Francisco Golden Gate Park arboretum at 9th ave and Lincoln, plants are labeled so see something write the name down, they also have plant sales many california natives for sale, . get the dates for the sale from the kiosk. its a great place for information.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 5:08PM
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publickman

A lot of bromeliads will grow in that kind of light deprived environment, and many of them will have very colorful flowers seasonally, although you can also find varieties that simply have beautiful leaves. I have problems with bromeliads outside because I do not have enough shady areas, and I used up most of those areas for orchids. You can probably also grow epidendrums, which are hardy orchids and bloom most of the year.

Do you want to plant straight into the ground or do you want also to have pots?

Lars

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 5:43PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Don't underestimate the UV in foggy climates. It can actually be higher than one thinks.

Looking down at plants is very different than viewing them at eye level. I have a bed that I view more often looking down from above, out of my kitchen window, than I do while passing by to work in my front or furthermost back yards.

This is the triangular bed viewed as standing in my neighbor's yard on the left side of it:

This is the same bed viewed from above, although the coleonema (which surrounds the lamppost) isn't in bloom here:

Everything I plant in this bed is planned to look good from above. I have 15 separate beds and this is the only one I treat this way. I have fiddled a lot with the plants in it since it lives on runoff so is one of my few truly xeric beds. It gets very little direct sun but a lot of very bright shade (it looks south/southeast, instead of north like yours), so it can take even sun-lovers like the purple Lantana trailer on the RH side.

One small shrub I have in a north-facing bed MIGHT work for you, but I'm not sure. It is a regular water lover, not drought resistant. I love this plant! It is a variegated fuchsia, "Firecracker". A bit tender, so it would probably do better for you in SF than it does for me in the Oakland hills.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 8:00PM
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