Need flowering shrub for shade

ireneandjuliusAugust 10, 2007

I am so devastated - I was all set to order a few hydrangeas for my backyard and just learned that they are poisonous. I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter and since the backyard has been designed for her to roam free, I've decided not to risk it with the hydrangeas.

So here's where I need your help fellow shady gardeners...

I have a foundation area about 2 feet wide and eight feet across on the east side of my master bedroom. The area is pretty much shaded all year, except for a few hours of early morning sun in the Summer. The sun then goes behind a large redwood then over the house.

There's a window on that wall that's about four feet off the ground so I don't want anything too high or something that will require alot of maintenance to keep the height in check.

I'd like to find something fairly common so it's easy to locate either locally or online.

Suggestions are greatly appreciated.


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tracyvine(6 NE Ohio)

Hi Irene,

I also have a 2 1/2 year old daughter at home with me and I also have numerous hydrangea, and used to grow digitalis. She has never bothered them in the least. I really don't think it would be harmful to her as at this point the little one's don't stick things in their mouths like when they were crawling about. I say go ahead and get the hydrangea. I also have 4 other children and they are all older. None have ever bitten my plants. I commend you for being a cautious mommy and I would venture to guess that you supervise her very well while she plays outside. I think she will be fine, just help her learn how to care for the plants as she grows. I have lots of little helpers that have a healthy respect for mommy's plants!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 11:32AM
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Hi, Irene,
If you're still nixing hydrangea, clethra is a pretty, graceful plant with late summer white or pink spires. I love it. It grows very well in a woodland border in my yard. Smells beautiful, which children like!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 6:35AM
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Alternative suggestion, it's nice to look out your window in a shady area and see buddleia; that's months of serious color and butterflies. You do have to deadhead it and cut it down to a foot or two in early Spring. I love looking out the window and seeing both the flowers and the butterflies. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 9:54PM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

You know very few plants are poisonous enough to do any harm from eating a bite or two of a single leaf. And almost all of the poisonous plants taste very bad so few people would put more than one bite in their mouth without spitting it out. Many plants that are planted around homes all the time are actually considered poisonous: azaleas, milkweed, irses, cardinal flower, even wisteria.

But you usually need to eat a salad bowl of the leaves and they taste pretty bad. I would not avoid hydrangeas because they are on a toxic plant list.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 10:16AM
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Hi Paulallen, going back over the shade "department" for scrubs. I love the Alternative suggestion,

"see buddleia; that's months of serious color and butterflies. You do have to deadhead it and cut it down to a foot or two in early Spring"

I've looked at many of them....especially the "honeycomb". But they say sun to full sun. ???


    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 10:07AM
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You could try the shade azaleas, but they'd need a bit of pampering. What about camellia or gardenia?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 5:00PM
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Never heard of a hydrangea killing any one yet! How many kids go around eating shrubs? Usually people are concerned about animals and poisonous plants. I wish the dog that destroyed my Annabell last Fall would have suffered for it! So how much shade do you have. I have had some luck with a few different bushes that flower yellow or pink, but our zones are so different. Your best bet is to ask at your local garden center. Not the big box ones but at a real working nursery. MN zn 3/4

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 2:16PM
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I had the same concerns as you when my son was small...I would not worry about the hydranga like someone said most plants that are poisonous taste bad...I would avoid extremely poisonous/harmfull like foxglove or monkshood, helabors(sp?) ...ones with pretty flowers like these that attract little ones...especially the ones that like monkshood that you need to actually wash your hands after just touching...for the most part young children are supervised when outside and therefore don't get a chance to eat probably have some that are poisonous already...veggie plants such as tomato and potatos vines are very poisonous...

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 10:26AM
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I also don't think you should worry. This is a good time to start teaching your child about caring for plants (ie., you can help water, but don't tear off leaves and flowers). Hydrangea are wonderful shrubs. Depending on how much shade you get, there are roses that can do ok with shade. Check with a local nursery.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 6:18PM
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I think buddleia might require more sun than you say you have. I had to move mine this spring from shaded woodland edge to a sunnier spot. BUT if you want something that is only 4 feet tall, don't pick buddleia. I have some skimmia and cherry laurel otto luyken variety that are broad leaf evergreen (like rhododendron) with flowers in spring. They get only about 4-5 feet tall and are not poisonous as far as I know.



    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 8:12AM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Unless you have overhanging trees - which you might, I know you didn't mention it - partial sun in CA can be very much like full sun in other regions. I grow all kinds of sun-loving plants in what I consider medium shade; there are very, very few spots in my garden beds that are truly shade-plant territory. And I'm in Northern CA near the coast, not SoCal (used to live in the San Fernando Valley long ago).

Always teach your children never to put anything in their mouths without asking you or another adult first! This holds true whether they are in your backyard or a neighbor's, or at summer camp. "Never, ever, ever!"

Frankly, I would think you might want something evergreen. Otherwise you'll spend 3-6 months looking at a bunch of bare branches, which isn't terribly interesting. I adore hydrangeas, but even in Northern CA they spend at least three months dormant.

You'll have to exert some effort to keep rhodies or azaleas in your alkaline soil. And without sufficient water, of which there is less and less these days, they get leggy and rather unattractive.

Pelargoniums do surprisingly well on very moderate watering, and the many new fancy-leaf hybrids are quite beautiful, colorful even when out of bloom. Variegated aucuba tends to grow wider than tall, and is easily kept in bounds with pruning (plus the leaves are gorgeous in flower arrangements). There are several ferns that do well in dry shade, including Microlepia.

Bearded iris have beautiful sword-like leaves that stay evergreen; I have an unknown variety that was given to me and I've planted it everywhere. Dark purple blooms come at least twice a year. White callas are dynamite with it, but they only like cool soil so once it warms up, they're gone until the nighttime temps drop again.

Magilla perilla or Strobilanthes (Persian Shield) would be spectacular.

Clivia and New Guinea impatiens would also work.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 7:19PM
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