Any plants for a full shade, shallow soil site?

colleenrk(6 MA)March 7, 2013


I couldn't find any recommendations for any plant (seriously, anything, including ground cover) for a full shade site that has shallow soil. Shallow soil? Well, the backyard has three 'raised beds' made of concrete. They are about a foot high, and three feet wide, and run the length of the yard. The one side that is giving me trouble has three significant plantings already, from left to right: a giant maple, a rose of sharon and a random shrub that's about 8' high. There is also our neighbor's garage that runs in between the rose of sharon and the shrub for about 10', hence the full shade. The roots of...something, are very close to the surface, and I am reluctant to dig deeply for fear of disturbing the roots. Any ideas? Or, if nothing can grow, what could I do with this space?

Thank you!

This post was edited by colleenrk on Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 17:56

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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

If the maple roots are in there, you may be in for a tough fight. Maple roots will seek out (or, in this case, up) and into any nice rich soil they find.

Perhaps a large decorative stone or three?

Do you have any pix of the area?


    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 7:22PM
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If you aren't in a dry climate, ferns would probably work.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 6:23PM
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lily of the valley, spiderwort. you may need to plant them in bottom open containers to keep roots out

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 1:16PM
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periwinkle (vinca minor) will grow there. Their roots are very shallow & they'll tolerate just about any soil that's not too compact. Loosen the top inch, or throw a half inch of garden soil on top to get them started.

They like to send runners out to conquer new territory. Fortunately they are shallow rooted & can be kept in check with a twice annual trim & pull.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 12:07PM
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colleenrk(6 MA)

oh periwinkle sounds lovely! i hope i can loosen even the top inch though. otherwise, i was thinking...moss? i'll try to get outside and take some photos when all the snow has melted.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 12:16PM
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Ferns and hostas are your best choices.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 1:35PM
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I hear the Cardinal Climbing vine will do ok in shade. I have some planted in front of a trellised window, part shade/indirect sun. I'll let you know how they come out once they start sprouting. I also have some in hanging pots in the front (full sun) so that's how I'll know if they are thriving or not :)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 9:37PM
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Cardinal climber needs sun.....and full, hot sun at that.

Any shade tolerant groundcover will work in your shallow beds. And you can always add a few shade loving annuals for some summer color.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 6:28PM
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we had a concrete yard with a foot high layer of soil in a raised bed and we raised rocket lettuce basil spinach and chard in there. if you have about two or three foot you could try anything just buy some seeds and see how they fair seeds are fairly cheap and if nothing comes of it theres little lost. just top up whats already there with a good layer of compost and sprikle your seeds on top. wildflowers native to your area will grow almost anywhere they can find footing even out of walls and many are shade loving you could try collecting seeds from wildflowers along shaded woods that take your fancy or if your permitted taking the plants and a good chunk of soil with them and replanting beside your trees. beans will also grow in shade and climbers will creep up the trees and find light something like honeysuckle or jasmine so long as they have enough food to feed the roots while they are climbing up. you may get less of a crop of flowers or fruit from anything in shade like kale will grow much smaller but it will still grow.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 9:01AM
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poseyplanter(5A IL)

If you a looking for ground cover, check out hardy Geranium machorrizum, AKA Big Root Geranium. It will grow in dry shade. I have found that I can just rough up the surface of the area where I want them to grow; lay the plants on the surface and cover the area with mulch. Water until established and occasionally if they are wilting. They have a mounding growth habit which suppresses weeds once they are established. I grow them primarily for their scented foliage, which while strong up close, is refreshing from a slight distance. The fragrance makes me think of an iced tea combining mint and ginger.

Here is a link for Ingwersen's Variety, which has cotton-candy pink flowers. Other varieties have carmine or white flowers.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 11:01AM
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