Mid-sized flowering shrub for shade?

paul_(z5 MI)July 21, 2014

My sister has a bed running along the back of her house and is looking for ideas for an area in one of her beds. She lives in southern Michigan (Zone 6) -- not terribly far from the Ohio border.

The bed in question has an EAST exposure. Part of the bed gets full sun from early morning until around noon. The other part gets only an hour or two of early morning sun before being shaded by a large maple. The maple stands approximately 10-15ft outside of this area of the bed. Tree removal is not an option.

The sunny side of the bed is pretty much done containing various Hosta, a climbing rose, some sun loving annuals to add spots of color, etc. Once the Rose of Sharon stumps rot away enough to pull them out, several Weigelia (most probably 'Wine and Roses') will be planted against the house in that part of the bed.

The shady area is where the issue arises. This area runs about 12-15ft deep from front edge to the house. This side also contains numerous Hosta, as well as some low growing shady loving annuals. The problem lies further back in that shady area, closer to the house. Ideally, she would like either a shrub or a perennial that:
� grows up to 4ft or so (she'd like it tall and wide enough to hide the power meter box)
� not a rampant reseeder or spreader
� flowers (with a leaning towards summer bloomers but that's not written in stone)
� interesting foliage (colorful and/or interesting leaf shape)
� does not have high water needs (between the maple and no automatic sprinkler system, high water needs could prove difficult)

Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) does not interest her. While the leaf shape makes a decent divergence from the typical Hosta leaf form, the flower color is too bland.

Azalea or Rhododendron are considerations but I don't know of any that have any foliar interest.


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Wow you've really narrowed it down quite a bit. You might consider the Moonlit Lace Viburnum (Viburnum x 'sPg-3-024'). It is drought tolerant and deer resistant. It has rounded white flower clusters that appear in spring that rise above the glossy green foliage. The flower clusters are attached to the branches by burgundy colored stems. I donâÂÂt know how âÂÂshowyâ the foliage is. It grows 3-4 feet tall with a 4-5 foot spread.
Your sister might have to consider the possibility that she canâÂÂt get everything she wants in a shrub in the conditions that youâÂÂve listed. She might have to use a shrub that offers her the most qualities that she wants but may not get everything she wants in one shrub.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:08PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Wow you've really narrowed it down quite a bit.

She might have to use a shrub that offers her the most qualities that she wants but may not get everything she wants in one shrub.

Well narrowing things down helps to keep the list both reasonable and useful.

Oh, she's aware she may not be able to "get it all". But one can always dream, yes? heh While it may not be possible to find a plant that fits all the desired criteria, my hope it to find options that meet as many of the desired traits as possible.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:54PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Will camellia survive in zone 5? I know some of them survive in zone 6 and I have also read about them surviving as far north as Toronto, so there is hope! You would need to protect it if the temps go below 10F, but that is pretty easy if you follow the guidelines. They are also best planted on the north side of a house since they can burn in the winter sun. Still, it might be worth a try since it would meet all your criteria plus it is evergreen. You can get a variety of colors. They will grow taller tha 4 feet, but can be pruned to keep short if you want. Several of mine have reached 6-7 feet at this point.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:12PM
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Itea virginica 'Litte Henry', sweetspire
Fothergilla gardenii, dwarf fothergilla
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers', oakleaf hydrangea
Clethra alnifolia, summer sweet (not much fall color)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:39PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Thanks for the ideas, folks! Keep em coming!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 4:49PM
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I was going to suggest Ruby Spice Summersweet...it gets about 4-5 foot tall...blooms well in partial shade. Mine is just starting to tease me with a bit of color on the blooms.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 5:44PM
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Edit: To remove double post.

This post was edited by cadillactaste on Thu, Jul 24, 14 at 19:28

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 5:45PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

What about the rhododendron called PJM? It has nice flowers in the early spring and wonderful fall color for an evergreen.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:26AM
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