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Shady Shrubs for North Foundations

Plant solutions for typically shady areas of the yard

By Maureen Gilmer, landscape designer, author and columnist

Foundation planting covers vents and utilities around a house. It is relatively uniform except on the north facing walls. Here little direct sunlight limits ordinary plants from surviving and these spaces tend to experience medium to dark shade. Too often the north facing foundations are treated as an afterthought or ignored altogether, but there are some outstanding plant solutions that your designer should not overlook.

Shade-Loving Shrubs

Acer palmatum 'Dissectum' Laceleaf Japanese Maple

Azalea hybrids Azalea

Brugmansia suaveolens Angels Trumpet

Camellia japonica Camellia Hybrids

Fuchsia hybrids Fuchsia

Pieris japonica Japanese Pieris

Ribes sanguineum Flowering Currant

Rhododendron hybrids Rhododendron

Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel

Hydrangea macrophylla Big Leaf Hydrangea

Kalmia latifolia Mountain Laurel

Prunus laurocerasus English Laurel

Foundation planting is created with shrubs that are long lived, sizeable and produce masses of foliage to cover unattractive foundations. If they flower, all the better, particularly when the blooms are visible from interior windows. Very few flowering shrubs thrive in shade, but those that do are among our most beautiful bloomers.

Azaleas, rhododendrons and Japanese maples are perfectly matched to the shady acidic conditions beneath this grove of redwood trees.

The Big 3 for Acidic Shade
Soils on the forest floor become acidic over time. They are the home of camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, the three most important shade loving shrubs. Provided your soil is acidic enough, they are the most reliable and colorful foundation plants. However, where soils and or water are alkaline, these will not be your best choice.

Shade Tree Solutions
Create the Illusion of Sun Dappling
Add Excitement to Shade With Perennials

Maureen "Mo" Gilmer is a landscape designer, author, and speaker about horticulture topics and landscape design.

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