Plants for dry shade – for Radio Live listeners and others

Scadoxus multiflorus ssp katherinae, beneath a canopy of rimu, pine and nikau

Scadoxus multiflorus ssp katherinae, beneath a canopy of rimu, pine and nikau

After talking to Tony Murrell on Radio Live this morning, here is the quick list of some of the plants we have found we can grow in our dry shade areas.

Bulk cheapie fillers (and many gardeners need these to get some quick coverage)
ajuga
phlomis
francoa (the bridal veil plant) – both ramosa and sonchifolia
impatiens
pulmonaria
mondo grass and lirope
scuttellaria

Triffids (for those who have B I G space to fill
Fruit salad plant (monstera delicosa)
various plectranthus but they need to be kept under control
philodendron
(short list – we are not too keen on many triffids here)

Shrubs
evergreen azaleas
vireya rhododendrons
cordylines – both natives and some of the more tropical varieties
hydrangeas – on the outer margins
some of the small palms – Lytocaryum weddellianum (the wedding palm or feather palm) is one that is performing well in our shade in several places.

Building up the planting areas beneath huge rimu trees

Building up the planting areas beneath huge rimu trees

Natives
renga renga lilies (arthropodium)
ferns – many and varied
dracophyllum latifolia
parsonsia (native jasmine)
tree ferns or pongas which just arrive these days
nikau palms (we planted the first ones, now they just seed down and we keep those which are not in the wrong places)
astelias – bush species including A. fragrans
widow-makers – collospermum which also just arrive of their own accord
cordyline – particularly banksii

“Backbone” plants
ferns
clivias
farfugium and ligularia of various species
ferns
hostas
helleborus – particularly x sternii and also foetidus (better than the more common orientalis in full shade)
dicentra (can’t keep D.spectabilis going here but D.eximia does very well
zygocactus
and did I mention ferns? Lots of different ferns, both native and exotic.

Choice treasures and bulbs and high interest plants
scadoxus – puniceus and multiflorus ssp katherinae
cyclamen on the margins but not into the deeper shade
Soloman Seal – Polygonatum multiflorum
arisaemas
veltheimias
hippeastrum – particularly aulicum but papilio is also looking promising
trilliums
haemanthus albifloss
Crinum moorei – even better is the variegated form of C. moorei
bromeliads
orchids – cymbidiums, dendrobiums, calanthes
Paris polyphylla
streptocarpus

Other points from my conversation with Tony Murrell (love that man – he is so easy to talk with and so enthusiastic about plants):

  1. If you want bluebell or snowdrop woods in the English style, remember they are mostly beneath deciduous trees. In New Zealand, evergreens dominate and our shady areas remain shaded all year round.
  2. Lift and limb the canopy trees. There is not a lot that grows in deepest shade so you need to keep the canopy higher to allow light.
  3. We are completely frost free in our shade areas but even gardeners in colder parts of the country may be surprised what they can get away with in terms of more tender material beneath evergreen trees.
  4. While many of the plants we grow are epiphytic or have epiphytic origins (in other words, they don’t have big root systems below ground but will often be happy settling in forks in the trees), it is still necessary to build up soil at ground level to allow many plants to get established. The big trees suck up all the moisture and goodness from the ground and small plants find it very hard to compete. If you find it hard to dig into the ground because of the existing roots, plants will find it equally hard to get their roots in.
  5. We raise beds by using mostly found items like old tree trunks, ponga logs, rounds of sawn timber – anything that looks natural (NEVER tanalised timber!) In dry shade conditions, they last a long time.

Our shade areas are low maintenance and generally self sustaining, We don’t water, we don’t spray, we don’t add fertiliser. Very few weeds grow in the shade, especially with the thick mulch that builds up over time. All we have to do is tidy up bigger bits of falling debris and carry out a bit of general maintenance.

I have written about many of these plants in earlier posts – use the search engine box on the right hand side if you want to check them out in more detail.

Again, building up beds beneath the rimu trees, using ponga logs in this case that have already lasted decades

Again, building up beds beneath the rimu trees, using ponga logs in this case that have already lasted decades

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Plants for dry shade – for Radio Live listeners and others

  1. Philippa Foes-Lamb

    Hi Abbie, love this because I am a major lover of woodland and shade loving plants! Eeeeek I didn’t see hardy cranesbill geraniums (my specialty) on that list. G. phaeum, G. macrorrhizum in all their varieties, G. versicolor and especially G. nodosum (a true treasure!) all THRIVE in dry shade.. Ahem, just saying.. Can you tell I’m passionate about them? Giggle…

Comments are closed.