Tag Archives: plants for dry shade

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

Plant Collector: Gesneria cardinalis

Gesneria cardinalis, or maybe Sinningia cardinalis

Gesneria cardinalis, or maybe Sinningia cardinalis

The tuber in growth. I have cut chunks from it to grow new plants.

The tuber in growth. I have cut chunks from it to grow new plants.

Gesneria or sinningia? We have always known it as a gesneria but it appears that Sinningia cardinalis is equally valid as a name. Whatever, this is a comparatively rare plant which comes from the same family as both African violets and gloxinias – the family having the near unpronounceable name of Gesneriaceae. Most hail from South America and cardinalis is from Brazil.

Unlike most members of the family (and there are somewhere over 40 of them), cardinalis grows from a tuber which pushes itself above the ground. We have described it in the past as developing a football-like tuber, but with the passage of time, ours are getting closer to exercise ball in size. The leaves are soft and somewhat hairy while the tubular red bells sit above the foliage and flower over a long season in late spring. Come autumn, all the leaves will fall off. This is a plant for dry shade but needs to be frost free.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Flowering this week: Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katherinae

Scadoxus ssp. katherinae is very happy in dry shade

Scadoxus ssp. katherinae is very happy in dry shade

This particular patch of scadoxus is looking very fine this week and stands around 140cm tall which is fairly remarkable given that it is growing in quite hard condtions. But then, scadoxus like dry shade and that is one thing we have in abundance in our garden.

These are very large bulbs, hailing yet again from the bulb wonderland of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Mark has always described the flowers as being like the chimney brush of the bulb world because they resemble the round brushes used by old fashioned chimney sweeps. Katherinae flowers red in mid summer. Her cousin from Natal, Scadoxus puniceus, flowers orange in spring with a similar flower form. The foliage of both is large and lush. If you know of anybody with either variety, the seed will germinate readily. It is very slow to increase from the bulb (no doubt you could twin scale it) so it is normally done from seed. You are more likely to find bulbs of katherinae for sale rather than the rarer puniceus.