Top Performers for our Hot Summers
As Lowcountry residents, we've grown accustomed to the waves of heat and humidity that occur during our Summer months. Whether you find our Summer season charming or you can't wait 'til Fall, as someone who enjoys gardening and beautiful landscapes, you will certainly agree that plants well-adapted to our climate are highly regarded! The following is just a small sampling of the popular heat tolerant plants we have here at the Nursery for sun and for shade.
Heat Tolerant Plants for Sun:
Coneflowers are heat and drought tolerant champions once established in a sunny location. Requiring minimal maintenance, these colorful perennial flowers return year after year much to the delight of gardeners and pollinators.
This sun-loving perennial blooms prolifically through the warm season, providing bright color and plentiful nectar for pollinators. Available in many colors and mature sizes to suit any sunny, well-drained spot.
Sweetgrass (Muhly Grass)
This native perennial grass is covered in fluffy pinkish-purple or white plumes during the Fall season and appreciates a sunny, well-drained location. Sweetgrass proves to be low maintenance and stands up to heat very well once it's settled into its place in the landscape.
Another pollinator-attracting plant, Bottlebrush is a sturdy, evergreen shrub that gets its name from the many bright red, bottle brush shaped flowers it produces for weeks during the warm season. Bottlebrush comes in a variety of sizes from dwarf (2-3' tall) to standard (8-12' tall), making it a popular selection for any sized garden space.
Ligustrum Jack Frost
Tried-and-true Ligustrum Jack Frost is versatile, performing well in bright sun or part shade throughout the heat of the Summer. Variegated evergreen foliage and creamy white Spring blooms make this selection an easy choice for any location that calls for a sun-tolerant shrub with attractive foliage.
Heat Tolerant Plants for Shade:
A Lowcountry favorite that enjoys our subtropical climate, evergreen Fatsia japonica offers large, palmate leaves and grows well in shaded spaces with rich, well-drained soil. Clusters of white flowers arise in Fall and are followed by berries that attract birds. Give this beauty lots of room as it will mature to a size of 6-10' tall and wide.
Another plant to round out a tropical oasis feel in the landscape is Philodendron selloum. This large-growing plant matures to 8-10' tall and wide and offers beautifully ornate split leaves. Though it looks as though it might not overwinter, this plant goes through our mild winters quite well as an evergreen.
Cast Iron Plant
As its name suggests, Cast Iron plant has a reputation for being virtually indestructible. Evergreen and tolerant of a variety of less-than-ideal growing conditions, including deep shade, the only thing this plant really asks is not to be exposed to direct sunlight. Matures slowly to 2' tall by 2-3' wide.
Anise is a popular evergreen shade shrub for its ability to tolerate heat and humidity and because it is not preferred by deer. Various foliage colors and mature sizes are available, allowing for flexibility when combining with companion plantings in shady garden spaces.
This dwarf Sabal Palm grows well in shade or sun. A great selection for areas that are low lying and tend to hold water, this native Palm will also tolerate drought once established. Small fruits that form after late-Spring flowers attract wildlife.
We highly recommend amending the soil in your planting area with a top-quality planting mix as well as a starter fertilizer such as Espoma Organic Bio-tone® Starter Plus to give your new plants their best start. On your next visit to our Garden Center, see one of our Nursery Professionals for a copy of our Planting Guide. It provides planting instructions and helpful information about watering and getting new plants established.
Plants That GROW in the Shade
If you're finding it challenging to fill a shady location in your landscape with plants, you are not alone. Luckily, there are many plants that love and can thrive in lower light locations in our climate. We'll highlight some of our favorite shade-loving plants in this article, but first, let's talk about the meaning of "shade" when describing a plant's light requirements.
Shade conditions mean something a little different to everyone, so let's simplify by describing what plant descriptions really mean when they include the light requirements "part shade," "shade," or "part shade to shade."
Generally, a part shade location is one that receives less than 6 hours of sunlight throughout the day. A good example would be an area that receives gentle morning sun and/or late evening sun, but no exposure to direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day (midday through afternoon), especially during the Summer months. Plants that thrive in part shade appreciate less intense direct sunlight when they happen to get it.
A shade location is one that receives less than 4 hours of sunlight throughout the day. For example, an area beneath canopy trees that receives filtered or dappled light throughout the day would be described as shade. Be mindful that areas that receive no sunlight at all, or dense shade locations, are not likely to support healthy plant growth.
Finally, "part shade to shade," simply means that the plant can tolerate either condition - "part shade" or "shade." Oftentimes, plants in this category may grow faster or larger when sited in part shade, but they will tolerate shade just fine.
Favorite Plants for Shade:
The following is a short list of some of our best-selling plants for shade. For a complete selection of shade trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals, we invite you to visit our Garden Center as our inventory changes often! All of these popular plant types can grow in part shade or shade conditions.
*Asterisk denotes plants that are typically deer non-preferred. However, deer will eat many non-preferred plants in heavily grazed areas where food is scarce.
Hostas feature large, textured leaves in cool shades of green, blue-green, cream, or yellow, plus blooms that attract pollinators. These warm-season perennials will die back to the ground in the Winter and produce fresh foliage every Spring.
Evergreen Ferns *
Evergreen ferns such as the Autumn Fern or Holly Fern hold up very well over our mild Winter season and provide a soft, delicate texture to the year-round shade garden.
Fatsia is a mound-shaped evergreen shrub that lends a tropical feel to the shade with large, palmate leaves. Spider's Web offers a unique twist on an old favorite with white speckles on its leaves and a small stature of just 4-5' tall x 3-4' wide!
Flax Lily *
The cream and green variegated foliage of this evergreen perennial brightens shadier spots and provides welcomed contrast to the green tones commonly found in the shade.
Loved for their large ball-shaped blooms ranging in color from pink to purple to blue, bigleaf hydrangeas are shade garden mainstays that pair well with hostas, ferns, and other shady companions.
Philodendron selloum *
A large-growing tropical beauty that loves the shade, Philodendron selloum has huge showy foliage and a lovely mounded habit that can fill up a generously-sized space of approximately 6-8' tall x 6-8' wide!
A privacy shrub with aromatic foliage that deer don't prefer. Space-saving varieties such as Miss Scarlett® bloom brilliant red flowers in Spring and have a mature size of just 4-6' tall x 3-4' wide.
Mahonia is an evergreen shade super star with varieties such as Soft Caress offering feathery foliage and yellow blooms in late winter.
Queens of the Fall and Winter garden, Camellias not only offers year-round glossy foliage, but they bear colorful blooms during Fall (Camellia sasanqua) and Winter (Camellia japonica) while the rest of the garden sleeps.
Dwarf Sabal Palms *
The Sabal minor, or "Dwarf Palmetto," is a versatile evergreen that tolerates a wide variety of conditions including damp soils and sea spray. Reaching 4-6' tall and wide, this is a choice palm for compact spaces.
Japanese Maple Trees
Japanese Maples are one of our most popular ornamental trees, well known for their colorful Spring and Fall foliage interest. Most Japanese Maple trees prefer shadier locations in our climate. There are many varieties to choose from, all of which appreciate well-draining soil.
For a successful shade garden, we highly recommend amending the soil in your planting area with a top-quality planting mix as well as a starter fertilizer such as Espoma Organic Bio-tone® Starter Plus to give your new plants their best start. We offer a Planting Guide with planting instructions at our Garden Center. A Nursery Professional will be happy to give you one on your next visit!
Enjoy a Bouquet on Every Stem!
Hydrangeas are one of our customers' favorite flowering shrubs. With big, bouquet-sized blooms in shades of blue and pink to lime and white, it's easy to see why! Visit our Garden Center soon to choose from dwarf and full-sized varieties for shade or sun!
Hydrangeas for shade in the Charleston area include Bigleaf, Mountain, and Smooth types.
Bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) bloom pink or blue (depending on soil pH) late Spring into Summer and are commonly described as mopheads due to their large, ball-shaped blooms. They have wide, textured leaves and sturdy, thick stems. These hydrangeas bloom on old wood, which means they form next season's flower buds on their stems before they bloom. Generally, it is okay to prune away spent flowers. However, to avoid cutting of next year's blooms, it's advisable to avoid pruning this type of hydrangea except for removal of dead branches in Spring once the plant starts to leaf out.
Mountain hydrangeas (Hydrangea serrata) bloom in Summer and are also referred to as lacecap hydrangeas as their blooms appear dainty and delicate like lace. Their leaves and stems look a lot like the bigleaf hydrangeas - in fact, it's hard to tell the difference when they are not blooming! These hydrangeas bloom first on old wood. Varieties in this category that rebloom form more flower buds on new growth and bloom again later in the season. If you're uncertain as to whether you have a variety that is reblooming, err on the side of caution when pruning - prune modestly during the growing season to remove spent flowerheads and then only to remove dead branches when leaves emerge in Spring.
Smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea aborescens) bloom in Spring with white or pink ball-shaped blooms. The foliage of these hydrangeas is thinner and more delicate than the bigleaf or mountain hydrangeas. These hydrangeas also have woody stems and bloom on new wood. This means buds form on the current season's growth, so it's okay to wait until the plant has gone dormant in the Fall or until early Spring to prune them.
All of these shade hydrangeas appreciate being shielded from intense, direct sunlight in the afternoon - especially during our hot summers. Gentle morning sun, dappled light throughout the day, or shade for the majority of the day are ideal sunlight situations for these varieties.
Hydrangeas for sun in the Lowcountry include Panicle and Oakleaf types.
Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) bloom mid to late Summer into early Fall. Their flowers first arise lime-green to white, filling out to a full cone shape that turns blush to red as the weather cools down in the Fall. These hydrangeas have woody stems and thinner, narrower leaves than the bigleaf hydrangeas. Panicle hydrangeas bloom on new wood with their buds and blooms occurring in the same season, so it is safe to prune in late Fall or early Spring while the plant is dormant without risk of removing flower buds.
Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are one of the more unique hydrangea types, offering showy, cone-shaped, white flowers in early summer. Oakleaf hydrangeas have woody stems, and as their name suggests, large, oak-shaped leaves. Like panicle hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangea blooms take on rosy tones as the weather cools down in Fall. And, BONUS! Oakleaf hydrangea foliage turns a beautiful red as the shrub prepares to go dormant in the Winter. Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on old wood, so take care to prune moderately, if at all, immediately after flowering for size and when new growth emerges in Spring to remove dead branches.
Of the sun hydrangeas, panicle hydrangeas are the toughest when it comes to full sun in our climate. Oakleaf hydrangeas come in second with the ability to handle full sun once acclimated.
When considering hydrangeas for your landscape, take note of the amount of space you have available and how much sunlight the area receives at what time of day. At our Garden Center, we carry dwarf hydrangeas and full-sized hydrangeas. Not sure which type is right for your landscape? Our Nursery Professionals will be happy to assist!