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Help Picking a Plant for area in backyard.

UcancallmeAl Herr
March 6, 2019
last modified: March 6, 2019

Hello All,

Need help picking a plant (s) for this area that gets full mid day sun for a few hours but the rest of the time it's filtered and medium shade. In the afternoon it gets some late sun also. I was thinking of just choosing ONE species that has some height to it to have more impact but I'm open to suggestions. It would be nice if it looks good from above; deck area. I will be filling the area with more garden soil. Yes the wall is amateur! For some reason only one photo actually makes it through to the final post so I'll post more if someone responds. Thanks

Comments (35)

  • Christopher C Nc

    You are wanting to choose a plant or plants for the bed created by the semi-circular wall? And people have to know where you are to offer appropriate choices.

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    Landscaping works that if you go to a garden center to pick plants they may... help if you bring in some pictures because you are buying the plants from them and the design fee is covered in the plants. But they only sell you the plants they have which often gives you a limited palette. Often if you have a design/build gardener they will charge you a design fee but your plants will cost less. So actually hiring a designer or going to the garden center evens out. Are you going to be installing it yourself? Have you tried digging in our southern CA soil? It's often very compacted and you also will need some sort of irrigation system. A good way to start is by browsing houzz professionals in your area and seeing if you like any of their designs .. add them to your ideabook and you have a start. I'm located in southern CA and have done hundreds of residential designs and can help you with some quick ideas and getting you the plants. You'll find the less headache and the price is quite compatible to your budget.
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    I wouldn't have a clue what to do with zone 9 - I'm zone 3..... Sorry! If I were you, I'd probably go to a local nursery and get their recommendations. Remember to think about how much moisture the area gets - I have a lot of dry shade in my garden and that's certainly limited what I can plant. Good luck - BTW, your home looks cute!
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  • UcancallmeAl Herr
    Yes the are within the wall.
    North Carolina. I thought my area was linked to my info.

  • biondanonima (Zone 7a Hudson Valley)

    Have you considered paniculata hydrangeas, like Vanilla Strawberry or Pinky Winky? They get quite large, so you would only need a few to fill that area. Vanilla Strawberry tends to have somewhat droopy stems that might look pretty bending over your wall.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked biondanonima (Zone 7a Hudson Valley)
  • UcancallmeAl Herr thanked Christopher C Nc
  • cyn427 (z. 7, N. VA)

    Not sure where you are in NC, but if you are near Winston-Salem, pop over to Reynolda Gardens for inspiration. If closer to Durham, check out Duke Gardens. You might see something that would work perfectly and we are coming into the spring, so you could see what flowering trees or shrubs would please you. Might have to wait a couple of weeks though.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked cyn427 (z. 7, N. VA)
  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    this area that gets full mid day sun for a few hours but the rest of the time it's filtered and medium shade.

    ==>>> you have no FULL SUN .... dont confuse yourself ... you need shade tolerant plants ...

    full sun for plants is considered 8 or more hours of direct sun ...

    the sun you do have.. is in the heat of the day.. so it might be a watering issue.. depending on how hot it is in the summer season ....

    the wall looks like a stacked stone wall ... good enough for me .... its the color of the shed that i wonder about.. lol ... though i have been toying with a periwinkle color if i ever paint again ... but.. i bet it looks a lot better with a sea of greenery around it in summer ...


    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
  • UcancallmeAl Herr
    Thanks everyone.
    I really like those suggestions.
    But I am semi amateur and worry about keeping hydrangeas alive! But I like that suggestion as well as the magnolia Jane. It looks like from google that I would only need one Jane as they get big. Both of those have big impact if they stay alive.

    As Ken discovered I have fool sun not full sun. Thanks for the reminder. Wife was in charge of shed color! I have been trying to cover it up! But it’s pretty.

    If y’all think I can keep em alive I’ll give one or the other a go.
  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs

    ideas: The plants are star magnolia & PJM rhododendrons.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked Dig Doug's Designs
  • violetsnapdragon

    Daylillies? Sounds like enough sun for the old fashioned orange kind.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked violetsnapdragon
  • laceyvail 6A, WV

    The grass Calamagrostis brachytricha would work there--can take full sun as well as considerable shade. You'd want several.

    But you don't need to be an expert gardener to grow Hydrangea paniculatas. They're easy.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked laceyvail 6A, WV
  • littlebug zone 5 Missouri

    Well I like the cute little she/he shed! I don’t know much about North Carolina, but it sounds to me like hydrangeas would be perfect. Plant where they can get maximum sun and in low spots so they get plenty of water. That’s what works for me, anyway.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked littlebug zone 5 Missouri
  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    Thanks everyone. Now if I can just find the plants. I've never ordered plants before.

    Doug, thanks for the photo but I don't know what plants those are.

  • skmom
    I’m going to guess that dig Doug’s pictured plants are a star magnolia with some type of azalea bushes. Another small tree selection you might look into is an eastern redbud tree, they are covered in bright, dark pink flowers in early spring, with heart shaped leaves in the summer which get a nice red color in fall, with nicely shaped branches for winter interest; they are an understory tree so they don’t need full sun and I’m pretty sure they’re native to your area.
    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked skmom
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    As others have suggested, your area is just about perfect for panicled hydrangeas/Hydrangea paniculata. Here I can grow them in full sun, but in your more southern location having a mix of sun and shade will work out fine. They are long blooming (here 4 months, though in your area it may differ), not fussy as to soil, and don’t need pruning if the cultivar is appropriarely chosen for the space, though I usually deadhead (remove old blooms) at season’s end. You don’t want one of the fussy kinds of hydrangeas that are more sensitive to cultural requirements like moisture and shade (macrophyllas/big leaf hydrangeas and arborescens/smooth hydrangeas).

    Look for Limelight, Vanilla Stawberry, Pinky Winky, Quickfire, Fire Light, Zinfan Doll, Bobo, Little Lime, etc. They vary quite a bit in size from 4’ to 12’, so choose a type and number of shrubs that fits your needs. Flower color starts chartreuse to cream to white and after several weeks starts to age to pink to tan.

    Another option to look at would be oak leaf hydrangeas, Hydrangea quercifolia. They tend to be large shrubs and in addition to spring flowers typically have stunning fall color.

    Your site may work for azaleas or Rhododendrons which are common in part sun in the south. If you might want a tree, check out flowering dogwoods.

    I might also plant a few daffodils for early spring bloom and an evergreen ground cover such as Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’ which is fine in sun or shade.

    Regardless of what you choose, you will want to keep a close eye on soil moisture for the first season or two. Actually dig down a few inches to see if the soil is moist. Most plants don’t like it either sodden or dry. When you do water, a long slow watering so that is can soak in deeply is important. Hand watering won’t do the trick. I also use something like 2 or three inches of shredded bark mulch covering the ground, though not against the shrub trunks. This will help keep soil moisture and temperature more even.

    I rarely have to water my panicled hydrangeas after they have been in the ground for a couple of years, only if we go for several weeks with no appreciable rain, and though in your warmer area they may need more attention to water than for me, they aren’t fussy prima donnas.

    Please let us know what you end up deciding on.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked NHBabs z4b-5a NH
  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis

    I completely respect NHBabs knowledge and opinion..what she says is good advice..but if I lived in your climate I would love to grow macrophylla hydrangeas..there are many that I think are absolutely beautiful..

    they would look so pretty with your shed..they would be smaller than a paniculata..they would demand more attention..require more water..but I would do it if I could..

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    Wow you all are really helping and inspiring. I love hydrangeas but have no experience with them so would think choosing one of the easier varieties would be best for me. So far both macro and the panicled float my boat equally. Something that goes with the loud shed is a good reminder.

    From what Babz is saying the Panicled sounds right because it blooms a long time and isn't fussy to soil. The one thing that I would worry about if I got a tall tree in there is that would cut off the late day sun to the yard to the left.

    The soil there is an above ground mixture of purchased landscape soil (something called 50/50) for plants and clay soil that I have dug up when doing hardscaping. I have yet to mix it all together as I know I need another delivery of soil to fill the bed area. I was going to till it up and level it out, add plants then mulch of bark on top. We have had a TON of rain but I was going to dig down into the surface clay to mix with the above ground soils. Anything else to do?

    Follow up questions:

    What color of paniculata would you suggest? I"m terrible with matching colors to a building or does it matter?

    And are these varieties easy to find?

    How many should I buy for that area?



  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    With the blue building behind, I think I would go for Limelight with perhaps a lower one like Bobo at its feet along with the bulbs and groundcover. How large is the area? Hard to judge from a photo and I didn’t see that info above.

    Don’t dig when the soil is sodden since it will make it pack down and clump.

    While I love blue macrophyllas like in nicholsworth’s photo, they need morning sun in the south, so the combo of midday and late day sun would not make them happy. Paniculatas don’t come in blue, just the creamy chartreuse to white to pink progression.

  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    The area is roughly 15' long by 8' wide if you were to draw a square around the wall.

    In case I can't find that variety I'll look for one of others mentioned.

    Do they need staking and what gallon pot/age?



  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    No staking. How patient are you? Midsized is often a good compromise between a slow start and having slower growth due to more planting shock, but it likely isn’t too crucial. (I planted a rooted twig of Quickfire that was less than a foot tall and within 4 years it was 5’ tall, pretty fast in plant time.

    Limelight can get 8’ or a bit more in all directions. So for that size bed, I would plant the Limelight in the middle and add a Bobo or Little Lime on each end. It will look sparse initially, but don’t plant them close. Plant them as far apart as possible and throw in the groundcover to get started and add some part shade annuals for this year to give it fill and color.

    One other suggestion; put in a buried edging on the grass side of the bed to discourage the grass from creeping in. Use the deepest you can find. If you run a line of bricks along the inside edge you may be able to run the mower wheels along there and avoid edging.

  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    How much do you think each mid size will cost?

    Gardening has taught me patience and how to lose it at times!

    There's no grass growing in front of the bed. All hard clay and I have to figure out if I'm going to pebble it or what? A real problems because it's right at the entrance to back yard and sloped. See pic.

    I wish I could get grass to grow there.

    Which ground cover would you recommend ?

    My original vision was just one plant filling up whole area to make impact but I guess I'll need some ground cover.

  • FrozeBudd_z4

    Paniculata hydrangeas are amazingly adaptable over a very large climatic range. Three of my favorites being 'Little Quickfire'. 'Fire Light' and 'Lava Lamp Moonrock'. The latter having heavier bloom substance than most selections and holding its flowers on strong upright stems covered in dark semi shiny foliage. Blooms go through a series of interesting color changes that finally end in beautiful antique rose shades. I'd also recommend a nice Japanese maple for that location of yours.

    'Lava Lamp Moonrock'

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked FrozeBudd_z4
  • rob333 (zone 7a)

    I just wanna say, I have a house that color blue because it goes well with every flower color. You'll love whatever you pick when it comes to playing well with the shed.

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked rob333 (zone 7a)
  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    Thanks Rob and FrozeBudd. Our house is the same color as the shed! I think color was called Lobelia! And it should have an ! after it. Our accent color for some decks is a basic red to go with it although I'd like to do the shed deck in something more manly! The more I hear about that hydrangea type the better. Just hope I can find several to fill in the spot. We have so much shade and this is the one area that gets a little sun so I'm hoping for some color.

  • peren.all Zone 5a Ontario Canada

    There are no shortage of colorful and interesting shade tolerant plants. Here are some ideas you may be interested in for your shaded areas. On the Hosta Forum we are finishing up the Alphabet and one of the catagories is Companion plants

    UcancallmeAl Herr thanked peren.all Zone 5a Ontario Canada
  • violetsnapdragon

    If you have deer, you will have to spray the hydrangea.

  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    We have a woods full of deer but the fence and the dogs are working.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    My suggestion for an edging was across the upper/back edge.

  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    Oh I see. Yes. Good idea.

  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    Hi All,

    Got the 3 hydrangea in.

    I did remove the pots!

    Do they go with fire nandina as I have some I could put in there if its not too late to move nandina.



  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Not sure if you have room for more shrubs. How big are the Nandina? Remember that the Little Limes will be 5’x5’ so eve though they are small now, they will get big. I often use large scale annuals to fill in around shrubs that are still small. You may want to add a groundcover as well.

  • UcancallmeAl Herr
    The nandina aren’t full grown. Maybe 2-3’ tall. I did plant some Irish moss near the hydrangeas but it’s so small, hard to see.
    I’m glad I only bought 3 of the hyd since they get big.

    Thanks for the input,
  • cyn427 (z. 7, N. VA)

    I would skip the nandina-they spread, grow very large, and can take over garden spots. I would stick with your hydrangeas (which will be lovely-good choice!) and add perennials to fill in the bare spaces. I love hostas and if you hop over to taht forum or if NHBabs chimes in here (she is brilliant), you will get some great choices that aren't the ubiquitous green with white edge ones you see everywhere. I am partial to June, Liberty, and oh golly, so many others.

  • UcancallmeAl Herr

    Thanks. I've heard nandina can spread but I've never seen it. Spread like a ground cover? I've seen them get taller and wider. I have about 12 in a spot and would like to move them and replace with something more exciting but that's another issue. So far the hydrangea are looking good and growing. Hoping they bloom in first year. I have so many hosta I'd like to try something new. I do love them though. Someone posted link to shade perennials in this thread and I'll go there. Al

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