Shade-tolerant, drought-tolerant attractive shrubs?

jeanjeanvaljean(8b)March 26, 2013

Do such a thing exist? My front bed is about 15 ft long and 5-7 ft deep, only the 2-3 ft which border the yard get any sun, the rest of the bed (by the house) is total shade. I'm in Austin, so it still gets indecently hot.

Any suggestions? I am really desperate, the previous owner ripped out everything he had (why?????) and so I'm starting without any idea of what to grow. I don't want to water a whole lot, though I might for the right plant (ie, something scented or flowered.)


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surfbreeze(9 TX)

Eleagnus, though you have to prune it to keep it shaped every once in awhile will grow in shade and has a great sweet fragrance in late fall. Dwarf Buford Holly takes less maintenance and has nice red berries. Both can handle drought okay

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:24PM
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I've had many disappointments trying to grow shrubs in shade. I tried both elaeagnus and Burfords. They just weren't happy, and got very leggy. Japanese Aralia and aucuba do very well in shade, but can't survive a serious drought without occasional irrigation (same for dwarf and Pride of Houston yaupons). I've had the most satisfactory results with nandina and Japanese ligustrum (not waxleaf). Both are considered, by many, to be invasive. I've got 6 or 7 ligustrums, and they have never formed berries, presumably for want of sunlight. The "hard" evidence for the "invasive" characteristics of the nandina is hardly compelling. Both of these plants, once established, thrive on neglect. For a ground cover, I highly recommend Blue Shade, which will tolerate a little direct light.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 8:55AM
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Thanks very much to the both of you! I have one spot that does get a little sun where I could potentially plant an eleagnus, I like the idea of scent in Autumn. I think I might try for either/or both Japanese ligustrum and nandina ... I had tried earlier with Japanese Aralia, but they just needed too much water. I'm planning on renting out my house in a few years and I don't want anything that can be easily killed by neglectful tenants!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 9:40AM
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ExoticRGVNativesTy(10a TX)

I would try Fragrant Sumac. It suckers, but that wouldn't be too much of a problem for the bed you describe. This native shrub is adaptable to both sun and shade and drought tolerant. The leaves are fragrant, hence the name.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 9:55AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Mock orange for areas that are in the shade with a touch of sun Cherry laurel, the same. Evegreen sumac likes a thin shade (that is what I have mostly. Partshade.Salvia regla likes shade but it wants well draining soil. Garrya , any of the mexican silk tassels. Some of the viburnums will take a lot of shade. how about oak leaf hydrangia and rice plant. I would go to Barton sorings nursery in Westlake. They have a shady area in back and many of their people are very knowledgeable about the situation. I loved growing greek pattern plant (not a shrub but very interesting. I used to live in west of mopac by the river area. Miss that fertile dirt. Sleeping hybiscus ( or the large mexican turkscap did well in shade.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 2:50PM
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Would you consider camelias for your area? After they get established they can be very drought tolerant. But i do understand they aren't for all soils. I have seen them survive in shady yards of houses that sat empty for a long time. In one case 3 years. c

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 5:30PM
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I have holly fern, variegated ginger, with red leaf ti plants inbetween and it is just beautiful. It looks very tropical, Barbra

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 5:37PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Camellias are not very drought tolerant in many ares of Austin. I think the alkaline soil makes it more thirsty. It really depends where in austin. In east austin the soil is blackland prairie and more conducive to it but in the limestone hills and any area west of the Balcones Fault and the chalk and caliche areas they are touchy unless one does a lot of amending. Are you on clay? I have seen them in East Austin.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 6:11PM
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Hi all, thanks for more suggestions - my soil is alkaline, very very rocky, and there's (in many areas of the yard, and especially where I need to plant these) there's bedrock about 12 inches under.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 8:47AM
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artvandelay999(Zone 8 TX)

Surfbreeze has the correct answer. Elaeagnus or Dwarf Burford Holly. Another thing that would work is Viburnum Suspensum.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 9:56AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Your lucky that it is 12". . you have some soil to work with. I have hired a friend with a jack hammer to cut in large shrubs. It made all the difference. He dug that large hole in 10 minutes. I suggest the salvia regla. It will love your soil. Blooms in spring and fall and if happy can get 6' tall. I had one go 8' but now it got trimmed back because it is by a path. I am out now in the uplands west of Austin and rocky limy bedrocky is what I have . My shade is thin shade from not very tall live oaks. I grow salvia madrensis, evergreen sumac, aromatic sumac, salvia gregii in the shade.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 2:01PM
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Red tip photenia

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 7:25PM
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My mexican fire bush has never been a problem with any drought or living in my backyard. I does die back if frozen but usually grows to well over 6 feet by summer. If not frozen back it can get much larger. It gets mostly afternoon sun.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 2:32PM
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I have a similar area planted with beautyberry, yarrow, and irises. Beautyberry can be very shrub like if you prune it. The irises bloom before the beautyberry leaves grow back, so there is both spring and fall interests.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 12:27PM
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For total shade Holly Fern is a good choice, evergreen and lush looking. I also have inland sea oats in a very shaded area and is also very lush looking. Turks caps do well in both shade and sun.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 11:28AM
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I have some very attractive cleyera growing in complete shade on the north side of my house. The cleyera have quite a bit of variation in the leaves to add some interest.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 11:22AM
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