Plants that thrive in Cobb County
If you have a large, shaded area, you just can’t beat Japanese Aralia to fill up space. It’s evergreen, too! The only thing about Japanese Aralia is that in spring, it loses every single leaf and forms bright green new ones, and while in that stage, it’s not attractive. I just spend half an hour pulling all the old yellowing leaves off and drop them under the tree so they provide organic material which continues to feed it. I don’t fertilize mine, and I don’t water it.
Everyone thinks of Hostas in a shade garden. What I don’t like about them is that they eventually become ratty and unattractive over the course of the summer. So I put mine way back where they are visible but not prominent.
Of course, the other staple of shade gardens is Azaleas. Mine are the evergreen azaleas that bloom only once, but goodness, how beautiful they are in April. I placed 13 all along my creek bed. The pine needles from the trees above keep them fertilized, and every so often I rake the pine needles all around the base of the plants to feed them and keep their roots cool. I also give them Nelson’s Azalea food which I’m sure helps. I don’t ever prune them, though I could if I needed to, but it would have to be immediately after flowering. Occasionally during dry periods I water them.
If you have a large shaded area, a little-used plant but one I just love is Japanese Kerria. It gets big, though, and is really hard to keep small, so only put this in a place where it can expand freely. It puts on quite a show in early April – hundreds of bright yellow blossoms the size of ping pong balls. I do think it helps to have some sun. Mine gets sun under a huge tree that does not produce leaves until May, so it gets plenty of sun in the early spring.
I had my Rhododendron in deep shade and it died. So I bought another and put it where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade and it has taken OFF! I don’t water it a whole lot, I don’t prune it (but if you need to, it’s best right after flowering) and I fertilize it with Nelson’s Azalea plant food. It just thrives in this new location.
Another really good shade plant is Spreading Japanese Plum Yew. The leaves are two-toned and it’s evergreen. It grows slowly to 2-3 feet high and 3-4 feet wide.
Oakleaf Hydrangea is a great plant for shade. You just need to make sure it’s in a place where it can expand. Proper siting is really important when planting shrubs. Mine is in shade, doesn’t need a lot of water, responds well to pruning, and benefits from slow-release fertilizer although I don’t think most people bother with fertilizer.
Another grade shade plant! I just don’t see how any garden could be complete without Pieris Japonica. There are many different kinds, and some get big and some stay 3 x 3 so choose carefully. They have so many attributes: evergreen, gorgeous flowers in spring, red and green leaves, and thrive in shady places that get a little sun. Mine deteriorated during the hot summer of 2015, but I wised up and started watering it regularly and it almost doubled in size with bright red new leaves.
Pieris Japonica blossom
Soft Caress Mahonia has taken the landscape industry by storm in recent years because it has so many attributes. It grows in shade (also handles part sun just fine), produces lovely little yellow flowers in fall that last for months, and doesn’t get too big - 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It is also evergreen! I don’t water this one much at all, but being in deep shade it doesn’t dry out.
I bought a dozen of these plants, called Selfheal (or Prunella), and planted them in shade under my Forest Pansy Redbud tree. I think the tree stole all the nutrients, because all twelve died. But, I got some more and planted them in a different spot where I can water them often and they are doing great! They love rain and regular watering and produce these lovely pale purple blooms June through October. They grow about a foot high, and 1½ feet wide. Missouri Botanical Gardens which is a great source of information on plants says they do well in part sun, but in Cobb County, it’s best to put them in shade or you’ll have to water them every single day in the summer.
Jerry French Landscaping – serving Cobb County since 1994