Woody Plants for Shade Part 2

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

The very showy flowers of redvein enkianthus, Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Princeton Red Bells’.

My nursery specializes in herbaceous flowering plants for shade.   However, although no shade garden is complete without trees, shrubs, and vines, our local nurseries seem to ignore woody plants for shade.  To fill this gap, I offer shade-loving woodies from a wholesale grower whose quality meets my exacting standards.  To view the catalogue, click here.   As in Woody Plants for Shade Part One, I thought my blog readers who are not customers might be interested in learning about the woody plants that I would recommend they add to their shade gardens.  And doing an article in addition to the catalogue allows me to add more information so customers might be interested also.

Included in my offering are six shrubs and two vines.  Of the eight plants I have chosen, five are native.  Please read my article My Thanksgiving Oak Forest to see why I think planting native plants is crucial to our environment.  My article New Native Shade Perennials for 2011 explains why I think native cultivars are valuable native plants.  With that introduction, here are the plants I am highlighting:

Native bottlebrush buckeye, Aesculus parviflora

Native bottlebrush buckeye is a wonderful shrub for making a majestic stand in full shade.  I grow it deep in my woods, and it performs beautifully.   It grows to 10’ tall in  full sun to full shade in any location and soil type.  It is also deer resistant.  The  creamy white flowers on long upright brush-like panicles in early summer and the bold textured leaves give it a dramatic tropical look.  It has excellent yellow fall color and attracts hummingbirds.

The lovely yellow fall color of bottlebrush buckeye.

Bottlebrush buckeye is native to parts of the eastern US, including Pennsylvania.  It is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant, click here for details.  It is also a Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit, click here  for details (photos courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder).


 Dwarf slender deutzia, Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’

‘Nikko’ dwarf slender deutzia is another shrub that can grow anywhere from  full sun to full shade and is deer resistant.  In April and May, it is covered with delicate white flowers, and the fine-textured and neat green leaves turn purple in the fall.  This deutzia makes an excellent specimen, growing 2’ tall by 5’ wide, or a superior flowering groundcover for shade.  I grow it in full shade at the base of my winterberry hollies.  It is native to Japan and is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant, click here for details.

I use ‘Nikko’ dwarf slender deutzia as a groundcover in full shade under winterberry hollies.

Redvein enkianthus, Enkianthus campaulatus ‘Princeton Red Bells’

In May ‘Princeton Red Bells’ redvein enkianthus is covered with a multitude of spectacular deep red, pendant bell-like flowers.  Its elegantly arranged blue-green leaves turn an excellent dark red in the fall.  It has a very unique and graceful habit (see photo of species below) and grows to 8’ tall by 4’ wide in full sun to full shade.  It is deer resistant and likes average to moist soil, although I grow it in my dry woodland.  It is native to Japan.  For more information about the species, click here.

This photo of the straight species of redvein enkianthus growing in my woodland shows its elegant habit and abundance of flowers.  The flowers of ‘Princeton Red Bells’ are much more eye-catching.

The amazing flowers of native smooth hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’.

Native ‘Annabelle’ smooth hydrangea has won numerous awards for its very showy, huge (up to 1’) snowball flowers, which appear from June into September.  It grows 5’ tall by 5’ wide in part to full shade (full sun is not recommended).  It is supposed to be deer resistant for a hydrangea.  A gentle pruning in late spring produces optimum growth.

‘Annabelle’ produces copious, long lasting flowers.

Smooth hydrangea is native to the eastern U.S., including Pennsylvania.  It is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant, click here for details.  It is also a Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit, click here for details (photos courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder).


The gorgeous and delicious fruit of native northern highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Jersey’.

Gardeners might not think of northern highbush blueberry as an ornamental, but it has everything you could want in a shrub.   Its pretty bell-shaped white flowers appear in May and are followed by delicious and beautiful powder blue fruit in summer.  It has excellent scarlet fall color and is native and wet site tolerant.  What more could you ask for?  It grows to 6’ tall in full sun to part shade.

The flowers of northern highbush blueberry

Northern highbush blueberry is native to all of eastern North America, including Pennsylvania.  I am offering two cultivars: ‘Jersey’ is an early midseason producer, and ‘Berkley’ is late midseason.  Planting two different cultivars produces better fruit.  For more information, click here  (photos of berries and fall color courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder).

The fall color of northern highbush blueberry.

Doublefile viburnum, Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum

My doublefile viburnum, pictured above, is one of the showiest and most talked about plants in my display gardens.  ‘Mariesii’ is a superior cultivar of doublefile viburnum.  Its large, white lacecap flowers in May and June and elegant, pleated medium green leaves are an unbeatable combination.  It grows quickly up to 12’ tall and 10’ wide in part to full shade and is deer resistant.   It is native to China and Japan.  For more information, click here.

The flowers of doublefile viburnum.

Native trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens ‘Crimson Cascade’

Native ‘Crimson Cascade’ trumpet honeysuckle produces bright coral red tubular flowers that invite hummingbirds from miles around in late spring and reblooms through fall.  Its shiny dark green leaves with red stems remain attractive through the season.  It is native to all of eastern North America, including Pennsylvania.  I grow mine mixed with my wisteria on my front porch and in an even shadier location along my front stairs.

Trumpet honeysuckle climbs my Chinese wisteria and blooms before, during, and after the wisteria is done.

Native American wisteria, Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’

The copious fragrant, lavender-blue flower clusters of  Amethyst Falls’ American wisteria are almost as beautiful in bud as in bloom from June to August.  This wisteria has fine-textured attractive foliage and is less rampant than Asian wisteria.  It grows to 20′ at maturity in full sun to part sun (it is technically not a shade plant).  It is native to the eastern U.S., including Pennsylvania.  ‘Amethyst Falls’ is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant,  click here for details.

The flowers and foliage of American wisteria.

I grow every one of these shrubs and vines in my gardens so I know you can’t go wrong by adding them to yours!  If you are a customer, you have until May 25 to place an order by clicking here.  If not, now you have some plants to ask for at your local independent nursery.


Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), just click here.

Nursery Happenings: Orders for woody shade plants will be accepted until  noon on Wednesday, May 25.  We will have our traditional open hours over Memorial Day Weekend on Saturday from 9 am to noon and Sunday from noon to 3pm.  You don’t need an appointment, just show up.  But remember you can make an appointment to shop 24/7 by sending me an email at carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  There is  still a great selection of hostas, ferns, and hardy geraniums.

65 Responses to “Woody Plants for Shade Part 2”

  1. gardeningasylum Says:

    I hadn’t seen that dwarf deutzia until last week, where it was planted en masse along the entry to a church facility – so fresh and clean and utterly charming! My ‘Mariesi’ are having a really nice year too, holding their blossoms thanks to the cold rainy weather. Love all those woodies you’ve highlighted – outstanding selections!

    • GA, ‘Nikko’ makes a great groundcover. I first saw it used this way in the Longwood Gardens parking lot many years ago. I love this spring’s weather because I like all my flowers to last a long time. I know I am in the minority though. Carolyn

  2. Incredible flowers, Carolyn. Gone are the snow drop days. 🙂 I especially love the sight of the tree which is filled with white blooms.

  3. Thank you for sharing all that well rounded information as I have many shade areas it need to look out from a mixed planting standpoint. Your awesome..

    • Greggo, I love all plants, not just the perennials I sell at my nursery. Flowering trees are probably my favorite type of plant, which is unfortunate because there’s only so much space for them. Carolyn

      • Carolyn thanks so much for the kind comments on my “mornin glory” post. Be positive and kind should be easier than it is. I suppose it’s fear of rejection. Thanks again.

  4. I like Aesculus, but sadly our native form, Aesculus californica, is toxic to honey bees (native bees evolved with the plant and are more tolerant). I wonder if the same toxins exist in Aesculus parviflora, just in differing concentrations? I’ve always loved the look of the Doublefile viburnums though, I’ve often wished they’d grow here, I just have to be content to see them when I travel to the east coast instead.

  5. I did not know Annabelle was a native, always assumed it a hybrid. I too have the same Viburnum in my small yard and look forward to is every year, but not half as much as the birds do. I could suggest so many Virburnum that my business partner grows on the nursery farm. I hope to get photos this week of the acres of blooming lilac if it ever stops raining. The smell is intoxicating and the bees are in their glory.

  6. Your blog is a terrific resource! ‘Annabelle’ is one of my favorite hydrangeas. I planted a number of them in memory of my mother, whose name was Anna Belle, and I have been pleased with their growth and bloom. Also, I have always loved wisteria. It is nice to see there is a native, non aggressive choice!

    • Deb, I just planted ‘Annabelle’ in my woodland garden this spring so I don’t have much experience with it yet. I am very excited to see how it grows and blooms. Carolyn

      • Pam DiMuzio Says:

        I have had Annabelle bushes in my garden for 5 years now. They are not deer-resistant at all, but they are forgiving in that they are remontant. If the deer browse on them before I get around with Liquid Fence to keep them off, they will bloom on regrowth the same season.

      • Pam, Thanks for mentioning this. I have not grown ‘Annabelle’ in an area accessible to deer, and it is being promoted as a deer resistant hydrangea. I was skeptical so that’s why I said “supposed to be”. Carolyn

  7. As alwasy when I read your posts I wish I had more shade in my garden. I grow a Viburnum Maresii under a mulberry tree which gives quite deep shade during the summer, I like the idea of adding some dwarf Deutzia, certainly not one I’d thoguht of. I also need something climbing or a wall shrub for a client so thank you for your informative post. Christina

  8. Carolyn your garden is like a wishlist of wondrous plants – the sort of coffee-table glossy book that one can drool over on rainy days. It is your groupings though that are the most remarkable – showing how to plant, with what and where.

    • Laura, Well, I am blushing as I type this. I am so glad to be able to make all the information that I have learned over the years available to such a receptive and appreciative audience of my customers and garden bloggers in the US and abroad. It forces me to take lots of photos and record everything in writing. Carolyn

  9. You have some great choices here. I did not know the Deutzia good take full shade, which is good news. I need to move one that is not in the best spot.

  10. Hi. Another lovely selection of things! Like Donna, I had not realised that Annabelle was a native of the eastern US. It is widely grown in Europe (including beautiful swathes at the Rodin museum here in Paris) but I don’t think I have ever seen the flowers quite reach 1 ft in diameter. At that size, they must be in danger of toppling over…
    Can I ask how many of these plants require an acid soil? I think of blueberries needing very acidic conditions – is that the case for many of these woodland beauties? Jill

    • Jill, I believe that our soil here in southeastern PA is slightly acidic. However, at my house, which is quite old relatively speaking, they dumped all the coal, slate, and rubble into the garden beds so I don’t think they are acidic. Everything grows well. Even blueberries are good in average soil and really don’t require very acidic conditions. You can always mulch them with pine needles. So I would say no, none of them require an acid soil. See my response to Donna for the USDA map for Hydrangea arborescens. Carolyn

      • Thanks. That’ s interesting about the blueberries. They are certainly sold in the UK as requiring a distinctly acid soil (the RHS for instance says pH 4.5 – 5.5). I wonder if we are just too cautious, or whether there is something about our milder, wetter climate that means blueberries struggle more with us than at home unless the soil is acid?

      • I am certainly not an expert on this. I will have to stay tuned to see if I come across anything, but the blueberries I planted last year in ordinary soil with just compost added are thriving this year.

  11. Great plants for shade Carolyn, I particularly like Viburnum Mariesii’ we planted this one a few years ago but true to form we did not give it the room in which it deserves. Of course the result has been a plant that does not have the look which it should have.

  12. Well, this post has me practically drooling. And wondering “just how soon can I rent a car and get to PA?” Sigh.

    We were fortunate to have an enormous, robust Annabelle hydrangea in the yard that we moved into last summer. It is glorious! White, then blush pink, then a crisp light green. It handles our shade quite well.

    I love the changing fall-foliage colors on the bottle brush and the blueberries – just gorgeous. The deutzia and the Redvein enkianthus have positively bewitched me. We have plenty of shade, and I am starting to full up my wish list with “Carolyn’s Shade Garden” plants, that’s for sure.

  13. as usual I will be looking for a few more of these plants to add….I love visiting your blog for great ideas although my hubby knows it means I will be spending more money…

  14. Oh my goodness, I kept reading and viewing and ooohing and ahhing as moved through this post. It just kept getting better until the end–Wisteria! I love Wisteria, but I haven’t had much luck trying to grow it. I think it needs more sun than my garden can provide. Lovely!

  15. Hi Carolyn, I have been looking to add shrubs to the back of some of my borders and so was very interested in your post. I just bought a compact lemoine deutzia ‘deutzia x lemoinei compacta’, which is not the variety you recommend in the post. The tag says sun. Could it take some shade like the variety you have recommended in this post ( I had planed to put it in sun, but would love to consider it for shade)?

    • Jennifer, The deutzia you are talking about is a cross between D. gracilis and another deutzia. I really don’t know anything about it. My quick on line search indicates that full sun is recommended and it’s much bigger than ‘Nikko’. Carolyn

  16. You have given me more great suggestions for my shade garden!

  17. Thank you Carloyn – I learn from you every time! I will look out for the Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’ and I’m contemplating growing Wisteria.

    • Christine, Wisteria is quite beautiful. I have to warn you though that Asian (Japanese and Chinese) wisterias are thugs that are considered invasive here. They require constant work. American wisteria is less rampant, but who knows what it would be like in South Africa. Carolyn

  18. I did not realize that Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ was a native… or that there were any American wisterias at all.

    I planted blueberries right in our front yard a couple of years ago. They are still tiny, but much anticipated by me & my girls!

    I so enjoy reading and learning along with your posts. Thank you for your thoroughness in description. You are a plant lover for sure! Just the sort of person I love to be around to soak up.

    Wonderful post!

  19. Hi, I just discovered your blog! Thank you for sharing the wonderful photos and information. I have grown several of these in past gardens but had forgot about some of them. The timing is perfect because I am working on creating a shade bed right now. I love enkianthius! How do you like the American Wisteria? Do you have any ‘Forest Pansy’ red buds? I’m starting with them as trees for my area and will go from there. Thanks again for sharing your beautiful talents!

  20. One more thing…are you in PA? I used to live and garden there but now live in the Intermountain West. Very different but still zone 6. Just curious…PA is beautiful!

  21. Yes, that is true it is not a great place for tomatoes (unless you like green ones) because it just doesn’t get enough heat. However, no Japanese beetles! It’s a trade off…

  22. Awesome! The viburnum is stunning, what with its form and color. And the enkianthus is something with which I am not familiar, but I may consider that as an addition to my garden…lovely. Thank you for highlighting all of these wonderful plants.

  23. I have instantly fallen in love with Mariesii. I followed your link and am delighted it is suited for zone 5. I have never seen this viburnum before. Two problems I foresee… where to find it and where will I find room to plant it? Oh it is beautiful!

  24. Great display of shrubs and vines! Especially that Enkianthus. With luck, I’m looking forward to visiting your garden on your June 4th Spring Sale. We’re coming up to Chanticleer the day before and it looks like Saturday would an opportune time for us to stop by.

  25. Very very nice woodies for the shade. I have all of them here except the enkianthus and ‘Nikko’. I love the idea of Nikko as a filler under shrubs. On the enkianthus I have been seriously drooling over it. I’m not sure if it will grow here though because no one seems to have heard of it and no one grows it. I do have a source in NC at a native nursery though so I might give it a try. Can I give you one more woody to add to your wonderful list? I find the species type ninebark does well in the shade. Mine have grown quite big and flowered nicely this year. It is one of my favorite shrubs for its toughness and drought tolerance. It’s roots are huge and go down really deep. That fall color of the bottlebrush is to die for. So glad the doublefiles take shade. I planted several last summer and so far they are doing well.

  26. No need to respond Carolyn, just another drooling admirer. Lots of great ideas as usual.

  27. I’m not quite sure how I found you, but I’m glad I did! Your gardens are marvelous!

  28. Thank you for such an informative and colorful post. You offer such an amazing variety of plants of different colors and textures. I love the skirt of deutzia, and your picture of the doublefile viburnum is the most impressive I have seen in a long time.

  29. Caarolyn, I love the way you use deutzia (actually I love ALL of it) and also the way you have the honeysuckle and wisteria growing together! We have several shade gardens in our collection of gardens, and the deutzia would make a lovely addition.

  30. Carolyn, two thumbs up for the gorgeous hydrangeas and blueberries! I really like the red leaves of the northern highbush. We have blueberry bushes too, but they’re not producing well this year. I’ll just have to enjoy them vicariously through you. Thanks for stopping by my garden site.

  31. Danna Longino Says:

    i would love to plant a few shade loving flowering plants by the living room and bedroom. love eyou site. hope you can help me out.


    danna longino

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