I love conifers but have part shade...any I can use?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAMarch 8, 2008


Most of my property is part shade. Anywhere from 3hrs of morning sun to 5 hrs of mid day and 4 hrs of afternoon sun. Can I try some of these conifers? Is there a chance they might do okay?



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Try Japanese Yew. That'll take shade OK.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 8:02PM
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Besides the aforementioned yews, arbor vitae, hemlock (Maybe you can't do those anymore), Norway spruce, balsam fir, and probably others will handle part-shade.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 10:40PM
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picea(6A Cinci- Oh)

If you are getting 5 hours of mid day sun or 4 hours of afternoon sun I would try about anything. I have oriental spruce, serbian spruce, umbrella pine, white pine(Both strobus and Parviflora),Hemlock, chamaecyparis and firs all growing in that type of situation. The one issue you may have thought is some plant are more open with less sun.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 11:32AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

shade does not equal shade ....

you MIGHT have high shade.. very bright ... and much more opportunity ...

and you have dark cave-like shade.. where nothing will grow ...

in the olden days .... way back before digital photography .. you actually had peeps who had photometers to measure ambient light ... go figure ....

anyway ... there is no way for us to tell you what if anything will grow in a given space/light .... you just have to take the suggestions... and buy some.. and give it a whirl ... its only money.. and we have all killed many many plants ...

what reduced sun does .. is that it decreases vigor.. which means that a plant that should grow 6 inches in full sun ... might only grow 3 inches in part sun ... but regardless ... it has to grow enough to feed itself .... and that is where the amount of sun/light becomes important ...

but be aware .. that slower top growth.. means slower root growth and extablishement ...

buy small ... buy cheap ... that probably means mail order ... and what the heck .. i would rather you tried and failed.. than lived your life in conifer-less misery ... whiling away in a lifelong funk ..

carpe coniferus .... seize the conifer.. and while you have it in hand.. plant the darn thing..

good luck


    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 12:05PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I received a 'sun calculator' for a Christmas gift and I am planning on getting a more exact idea of how much sun I have where. I am just trying to figure out when to do it. If I do it now, I am not going to get as accurate an idea of the actual growing season, I suppose. I probably will take the calculation once a month starting this month and see how it differs maybe. I hope it works well.

Yes...I agree, I have gone too long without conifers thinking I shouldn't plant them!! lol Small and cheap I can do. So I guess that will be mail order.

These are photos of my back property line where I am trying to add shrubs as a screen. The evergreens in the photos, if you can see, are in my neighbor's yard. The post and rail fence is ours and as you can see is very open to not one, but two neighbor's yards. One Norway Maple is to the left of the neighbor's evergreens, and the other trees are behind us in the other neighbor's yards. All Silver Maples. Not a very hospitable place to grow much of anything. The fence line is West of our house so it gets morning sun and afternoon shade. I know photos of when the trees are leafed out would have been better, but I don't usually take photos of that whole fence line like that. Just thought it would help to see where I am wanting to add shrubs. The photos are so small, it is hard to see, but I didn't want to make the thread hard to look at. If these are no help. I will try to post others later. Thanks..pm2

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 5:46PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hard to tell with all that snow.. but it sure looks like you ought to be able to grow conifers there ...

i have a cultivar named Pinus parviflora 'Arnold's Arboretum Dwarf' ... go figure...

they have conifers.. you just haven't found them ..


    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 6:02PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Yes, that is what I was afraid of. This week, I will try to find some other photos that are more useful. These were my most recent and didn't require any searching. [g]

That is very encouraging that they actually have a cultivar named for them. Will have to look for it. Well, I hope to get to the Arnold Arboretum this spring and if I do, I will be sure to take photos to post.

Thanks ken..I will be back later in the week, when I have had a chance to go through my old photos.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 6:10PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

one of the beauties of conifers.. is their year around interest ....

it took me about 6 years of collecting.. before it dawned on me .. to go to the tree farm/arb in winter...

any time you are in the area.. stop in ... in decent weather i mean ...


    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 8:41AM
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You should try:

Morning Sun:
Arborvitae (either Thuja occidentalis or Platycladus orientalis, also listed as Thuja orientalis) cultivars or species.
Picea orientalis 'Skylands' or 'Tom Thumb' - spruce
Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader' - fir
Chamaecyparis nootkatenis (Cupressus nootkatensis) cultivars or species - Alaskan Cypress
Chamaecyparis obtusa - cultivars or species
Deciduous Azalea/Rhododendron/Japanese Maple

I agree with David: both 5 hours mid-day or 4 of afternoon I'd lump into one group: A little more intense sun than your morning sun, however, not much of a difference. You should do well with any sun-loving conifer. Maybe add blueberries with more deciduous Azaleas, rhododendrons, or small garden maples.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 12:02PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA


I am back with more photos. I just took these about an hour ago. The first one is where the Maple tree meets the neighbor's Spruce. The Spruce is to the North of the yard. When the Maple is in leaf it screens out a lot but I would like to screen all along the post and rail fence to at least a 6ft height. Hoping to fill it in with a mix of evergreen and decidious shrubs.

Moving to the left along the fence line, which is about 90ft from end to end. Here is the sunniest areas of the back border. It also is the most out from under tree canopies with less root competition. The bed to the left of the arbor is about 16x16ft and gets sun in the morning and some again in the afternoon. You can see two more Silver Maples in the neighbor's yard. The mugo pine is in a container. I already have added a Sutherland's Gold Sambucus, an Amelanchier shrub and an Oakleaf Hydrangea, but they seem to disappear at the moment, they are young. The Sambucus is the vase shape shrub to the right of the mugo pine and it is the only one I am committed to keeping there. I would also like to save room for two Oakleaf hydrangeas. You can see the shadow of the next Silver Maple that is in the second neighbor's yard.

This view shows the chain link fence that intersects the two neighbor's yards behind us. We have a direct view of this area from the kitchen window. There is a wild cherry tree hiding in front of the Silver Maple. This is the third Silver Maple shading our property. You can see it is right up against our fence line. To the left of the mugo pine is a Viburnum maresii that is only two years old. Behind the mugo pine at the fence, there is another viburnum Wentworth. Two years old. This area gets sun in the morning and then a little more in the afternoon.

This area gets very little morning sun but a couple of hours in the afternoon. That is a holly on the left that has been there four years and has barely grown. A taxus in the middle is a Hicksii and I am thinking about adding two more if I can figure out where to put them.

This is the shadiest area on the property. You can see this massive Silver Maple, just on the other side of the fence. Only the edge of this bed gets much morning sun and a little bit more in the afternoon. The whole bed is under the canopy of that tree. There is a lindera and a cornus shrub with a couple of hydrangeas in the bed right now, but I do want to fill in more and screen so that you barely see the fences. The cornus has done amazingly well and tripled in size in two years. So I don't want to move it.

So that is about it. If this gives any more helpful information to offer some advise, I could use it. [g]

Thanks a lot!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 3:39PM
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If somebody asked my to suggest a large group of common plants which are generally tolerant of partial shade my first suggestion would be: Conifers!

Or said in another way: If anything tolerates partial shade it is conifers.

Taxus baccata and Thujopsis dolabrata as far as I know will tolerate what is called "full shade" which means no direct sunligt anytime a day, but of course they too won't grow in a cave!

I have my Thujopsis in a really dark and wet spot and it seems to be doing just fine. Can't rule out hough that it might grow faster with more light...

Apart from that small conifers are even more shade-tolerant because they have to grow up in the shade of large conifers - and for instance an old forrest of Norway Spruce can be pretty dark!

/Hans Olav

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 5:04PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

resin...I will be looking at the japanese yews. As a matter of fact, the Hicksii that I already have is a cross between the Japanese yew and the English yew. thanks..

wisconsitom...I have been afraid to get any hemlocks due to the serious pest problems they have here. I do enjoy them too, so it is too bad. I am an organic grower, so I try to avoid well known problems that might require spraying. Balsam fir is a favorite of mine and my neighbor has a Norway Spruce I think. thanks.

ken....again, thanks for your input. I am sure you are right, that in the end, I will just have to try them. I hope to get to the arboretum more often and winter to me is just as nice a time to go as spring.

Dax...Thanks, yes, morning sun is what I will be working with for the most part. I saw a couple of varieties of Thuja occidentalis that I like...'Linesville' and 'Red Chief'. Aren't the two popular versions..'Green Giant' and 'Emerald Green' Thuja occidentalis? I was considering trying to use some of those. I suppose I have little to lose, if I buy it small and cheap and see if it will survive my conditions. I really like the 'Skylands' and will look for that one too. Rhododendrons, I am hoping to add at least one. Love Japanese Maples and have one 'Bloodgood' in the garden, Blueberries I would have to supplement the soil for as my soil is not acidic enough for them, but I love them. Thanks

Hans Olav...I had not noticed that particular plant...Thujopsis dolabrata but if it will tolerate full shade, I am going to have to look for that one!

Thank you all for great ideas. Very encouraging and I am sure I will be able to find some conifers to fit.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 9:42AM
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Prairiemoon, yes the adelgid problem probably rules out Tsuga canadensis where you are. Though I might be mistaken, aren't some of the other hemlock species quite resistant to this pest?

At any rate, folks have certainly provided many fine suggestions.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 8:11PM
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I am going to try a Hinoki Cypress on the front of my house - facing North. The spot will get 3 or perhaps four hours direst sun im May through August give or take. Will this be too little sun?

As this is an expensive plant, if it turns out that there isnt enough light and I move it to a sunny spot - will it ever recoer?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 11:42AM
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coniferfreak(z6 PA)

What is up with all the irrelevant pics???

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 12:18PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

What the heck? I have no idea what is up with that and I am going to have to contact Tinypic to see how they got onto this thread. I certainly didn't post them.

Sorry chester, I think you may want to post a separate thread to ask your question.

I will try to get this straightened out.

Thanks conifer freak for bringing this to my attention.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 1:47PM
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