Challenging grow area! Shade! Heat!

growbie(6)March 3, 2014

Hi all,

New to the forum but been gardening for several years now. But ever since I started, there is one area against the front of my south facing brick townhouse that I have been unable to cultivate "successfully." This is frustrating, because I can achieve gardening success in all other areas of the yard except this one bed that faces the street!

When I moved in there was some sort of ground cover that had taken over, and I ripped it all out to instead grow useful/beautiful plants, but nothing I try seems to thrive. The area is hot, dry, and shady.

I considered growing heat loving/rugged plants like rosemary or lavender in this space, but there is a large maple that blocks out just about all overhead sunlight during the summer and fall, except the afternoon sun, which directly impacts the bricks for about 3 or 4 hours in the late afternoon evening. During this time the space heats up and scorches everything, and there doesn't seem to be enough sun to grow most varieties.

Last year I tried planting astilbe, thinking it would thrive in the shady location, but it slowly scorched to death. The year before, I planted bush green beans and had mild success/small harvest, but the beans would not fill the space.

This year I'm thinking about trying ornamental grasses or succulents, perhaps a fig tree? Lemon grass?! Comfrey?!?

Any suggestions for this tricky spot? Bonus points for useful/edible plants.

Thank you for reading.

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three or four hours of hot afternoon sun is not what I consider shady. that afternoon sun is a killer after being shaded all morning. Morning sun is the absolute best.
it would help to see a picture of this area. Epimedium, Hellebore (Corsican or foetidus) , Christmas ferns, hakonechloa, carex, calamintha, >>>something like Astilbe, as you mentioned needs moisture which it sounds as if you do not have in this area.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 7:49AM
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Thanks for response.

It is helpful to know hours of afternoon sun bumps me out of the shade category. More options.

I'd love to post a picture but everything is under snow currently. I think part of the problem is that the soil is so poor that it doesn't retain moisture. One of my immediate spring goals is to add lots of organic matter and mulch in order to bolster moisture retention. Maybe then, I'll have success with whatever I plant.

Do you think Cleolus or Caladium (part shade to full shade) would be able to handle morning shade with afternoon sun heated brick wall?

BTW: hakonechloa and calamintha are both very nice options. I will consider them if I can find them, for part of the space.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 6:05PM
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not caladium...some coleus

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 7:48PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

Are the maple's roots part of the problem? They would use up nutrients and moisture.

Maybe hardy geraniums. Does oregano winter over in your zone? Herbs really do take appalling conditions.

Would a garden bench look acceptable in the area? A fountain?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 5:20PM
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I have golden oregano growing under a Jap Maple in this situation. Also Epimedium. Hostas have differing degrees of sun/shade hardiness. How about small daylilies--they're tough.
I have Trillium catesbii too. Some herbs would do too. I agree with Xmas fern. Hope these help.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:05AM
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forgot about hardy geraniums..I agree.they would work (also Heucheras)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:45AM
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Thank you all for the suggestions.

I think I will try some orange day lillies and encourage a carpet of oregano and thyme.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 4:13PM
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I grow passion vine in a similar area. It's a plant that seems to make enough runners and get enough energy that even just that afternoon sun is enough. In fact, I kind of like it that in such a condition, it still looks great. If it had actual ideal growing conditions, it might really take off.

I've also had rosemary in some shady area. It didn't grow well but it did keep growing (later removed to another spot). I wonder if there may be other considerations going on in that spot?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 1:56PM
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