Choosing the right shrubs for dry shade requires some planning and research. You want to select something that will thrive in a relatively dry area, but doesn’t require too much water. There are several shrubs you can choose, including Hydrangeas quercifolia, Bigroot geranium, Aucuba, and Thujopsis. Below you’ll find some recommendations. Read on to learn about these plants and choose your favorite one.
The woody, shrub-like leaves of Hydrangeas quercifolie add texture to a garden space. The beautiful autumn color changes add interest and uniqueness throughout the year. The graceful panicles of flowers form on old wood. They change from a pale green color in spring to a deep russet red in the fall. These shrubs are suitable for areas with dry shade.
This medium-size cultivar is a wonderful foundation plant in a border bed of other shade-loving perennials. When grown in containers, H. quercifolia is easier to maintain than in-ground plantings. In the winter, you can bring the container indoors. A medium-sized cultivar makes a great container plant, making it easier to control than in-ground plantings.
Another hydrangea is the oakleaf. This deciduous shrub grows to eight feet tall. It has attractive, exfoliating bark. These shrubs thrive in part shade or full sun and are drought-tolerant once established. They also look good growing near large trees and shrubs in the yard. In addition to oakleaf hydrangea, this variety grows well with Heuchera villosa and Pachysandra procumbens.
Hydrangeas quercifoliacea is one of the most popular ornamental plants in the US. It thrives in partial to full shade and needs slightly acidic soil. In addition to their flowering ability, H. quercifolia can tolerate a wide range of conditions and even withstand some levels of drought. Despite their drought-tolerant nature, they aren’t likely to flower very often. Some species of this shrub have been given the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Thujopsis are native to temperate regions and may have been cultivated in China longer than westerners realized. In 1853, Thomas Lobb imported a plant from Java to England. There is no information about the origin of the plant at Bogor, but it was likely an early import from Japan. It died almost immediately when it disembarked at Exeter. Its small, narrow, green leaves have a unique shine to them.
This slow-growing conifer is native to moist forests in central Japan. In cultivation, mature trees grow thirty to fifty feet tall; however, in their natural habitat, they can reach a height of 100 feet. They grow slowly and uniformly, developing conical crowns with horizontal branching. Although they’re slow-growing, the tree often assumes the form of a shrub in dry shade.
A variety of cultivars are available. The Variegated Elkhorn Cedar grows three to four inches annually and looks particularly attractive next to low-growing conifers. Its attractive glossy leaves make it ideal for a rockery or container. A thujopsis plant needs moderate watering and a well-drained soil. They’re hardy to 0 degrees F. If you have a dry shade garden, consider using a Thujopsis variety.
In addition to its distinctive foliage, this species is excellent for a dry shade garden. Its arching green stems support yellow flowers in spring. Pruning the shrub after initial flowering will encourage reblooming. A Japanese rose can also be pruned to provide winter interest like a red twig dogwood. Both Kerria and Fatsia tolerate full shade. The Japanese rose and the Fatsia are great for shade gardens.
A few perennials thrive in the dry shade of your garden. One of them is the bigroot geranium. This shrub forms a carpet of deeply lobed leaves that are slightly fuzzy. Its foliage is apple-scented when crushed, and it’s also deer resistant. Bigroot geraniums bloom in late spring and early summer and are attractive in fall. They are relatively carefree, though they do need shearing after the initial flush of bloom.
If you want a plant with bright blooms and a low maintenance requirement, try the bigroot geranium. The flowers bloom in spring and continue through the summer. In fall, these shrubs turn a buttery yellow. You can find ‘Purple Passion’ at most gardening centers. This geranium can also be used as a groundcover. Bigroot geranium shrubs for dry shade are also excellent in containers.
Another hardy variety of geraniums is the oakleaf hydrangea, which is happy in both full sun and part shade. It grows to six to eight feet tall and produces panicles of white flowers in late spring. The flowers turn pink and then brown by fall, and the bark is exfoliated. This shrub may lose some leaves in the first few months, but it will recover with time.
Another shade-loving plant is the lungwort. The silvery foliage of this perennial earns it its name, and it makes an attractive accent plant in the spring. The foliage is also somewhat hairy, so deer and rabbits tend to avoid it. This plant requires regular watering but is drought tolerant when kept out of direct sun. You can divide the plant to keep it from wilting.
In addition to its beautiful leaves, Aucuba also tolerates a wide range of soil pH. It grows best in soil that is neutral to moderately acidic, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. Most garden soils fall between these pH levels. However, if your Aucuba shrub does not get enough moisture during the growing season, you can reduce watering and fertilization. Aucuba is a good choice for gardeners who want a plant that thrives in dry shade.
There are three cultivars of Aucuba: golden king, green dwarf. The Golden King aucuba is the tallest cultivar with gold-spotted foliage and a height of six to ten feet. It produces berries in the fall and is highly drought-tolerant. The Green Dwarf Aucuba grows slowly, topping out at four feet. Its sword-shaped leaves turn purple in the spring and produce small red fruits in the fall if pollinated.
After removing the pot, plant the Aucuba plant in the hole. Care should be taken not to damage the plant while removing it from the container. Once the plant is in the hole, gently loosen feeder roots around the root ball and place it in the planting soil mixture. Make sure the soil mixture is even and sits at least one inch below the rim of the container. Once the plant has been planted, you can add backfill soil mix to the bottom of the hole.
When growing Aucuba in containers, make sure to choose a pot with drainage holes. It will be happy in a pot filled with potting soil that is moist but not soggy. A constantly soggy pot can lead to root rot and other damaging plant diseases. It is recommended to use a 50/50 mix of potting soil and perlite for a good drainage. If you don’t have drainage holes in the soil, you can add pumice or perlite to help it drain better.
One of the easiest types of honeysuckle shrubs to grow is the Diervilla. This shrub is named for the French surgeon who first set sail for the New World in 1699. In 1708, he published an account of his sojourn in Rouen. A later name for this type of honeysuckle was given to the bush by Joseph Pitton de Tourneforte.
The Bush Honeysuckle is a popular variety with its dense dark green foliage that changes to copper or bronze in the winter. Its flowers are golden yellow and remain open throughout the year, attracting bees and other pollinators. The fruit capsules of this type of honeysuckle are also attractive to many songbirds. The plant is a host plant for the Fawn Sphinx moth’s larva.
Climbing honeysuckles should be pruned to one third after flowering in spring or early summer. After flowering, evergreen shrubby honeysuckles can be pruned in late winter or early spring to shape and size. During winter, prune out old growth and remove damaged stems. Pruning in early spring encourages new growth and flowering. For most types of honeysuckle, the plant can be pruned to the desired size in two to three years.
The bush honeysuckle is another type of honeysuckle shrub that will thrive in a dry shade garden. It grows to six to 10 feet in height and bears small, delicate white flowers through the winter. The shrubs are not particularly hardy and will not flower in excessively dry or waterlogged conditions. The bush variety can be planted under early flowering bulbs and create low-growing hedges. They also produce attractive autumn fruit.