May 2003
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Garden design using shade plants and shade trees   

Gardening Newsletter - May 2003, Issue 9

Wow !  You guys must really like the newsletter !  We've added 452 new subscribers since the last issue, bringing the total number to 2,177.  I'm glad you find the newsletter interesting and useful.  As always, if you have ideas for improvement or articles, please let me know at

Rebecca Green

HostaNot All Hosta are Created Equal

Some hostas require more light than others.  The less green the foliage, the more light the plant requires.  Some new cultivars that require filtered light or direct morning sun are: ‘White Christmas’, ‘Patriot’, ‘Fire and Ice’, ‘Loyalist’, ‘Masquerade’, ‘Medusa’, ‘Cherry Berry’, ‘Flame Stitch’, and ‘Fairmaiden’.

Use Tropical Houseplants in the Summer Shade Garden

Tropical houseplants set outside for the summer can make a northern garden look like a tropical paradise.  Once the soil is about 60 degrees dig a hole and burry your potted houseplant, pot and all, in the ground.  When night time temperatures have fallen to about 55 degrees dig-up your potted houseplant and bring it back indoors until next spring again.

Not All Trees are Created Equal

When it comes to being able to plant beneath a tree, not all trees are created equal.  We’ve all seen situations where the grass and other plants abruptly stop growing beneath a tree’s canopy.  There are three main causes of this:  Some trees use all the available moisture in the soil, leaving virtually none for under story plants (a "reason" of "water" in the following table). Similarly some trees have greedy roots that use virtually all of the nutrients in the soil ("roots").  The shade beneath some trees is too dense for other plants to grow in ("shade").  Frequently two or more of these conditions may exist.

The following is a list of trees that you cannot plant beneath and the reason(s) why:

Botanical Name

Common Name


Abies species



Acer platanoides

Norway maple

roots, shade, water

Acer saccharum

Sugar maple

roots, shade, water

Acer saccharinum

silver maple

roots, water

Cercidiphylium japonicum


roots, water

Fagus species


roots, shade, water

Magnolia species


roots, shade, water

Picea species



Pinus species


roots, shade

Platanus X acerifolia

London planetree

roots, water

Platanus occidentalis

Eastern sycamore

roots, water

Tsuga species


roots, shade

Salix species


roots, water

If you have one of these trees you essentially have two options: put mulch beneath the tree and enjoy the tree as it is or, put potted plants beneath the tree.  If you are thinking about planting a tree for shade keep in mind that you will not be able to grow other plants beneath these trees.

The following is a list of trees that provide shade and you can plant beneath:

Botanical Name

Common Name

Betula papyifera

paper birch

Betula pendula

European white birch

Ginkgo biloba


Gleditsia tricantos


Liriodendron tulipifera

tulip tree

Liquidamber styraciflua


Nyssa sylvatica*

black tulepo

Phellodendron amurense

amur cork tree

Quercus coccinea*

scarlet oak

Quercus palustris

pin oak

Quercus rubra

red oak

Quercus velutina

black oak

Ulmus Americana

American elm

Ulmus parviflora

Chinese elm

Zelkova serrata

Japanese zelkova

Sophora japonica

Japanese pagoda tree

* doesn’t transplant well

The following trees are deciduous ornamental trees that may be planted in the shade of larger trees and can be planted beneath:

Botanical Name

Common Name

Acer griseum

Paperbark maple

Acer palmatum

Japanese maple

Amelanchier canadensis


Amelanchier laevis

Alleghany shadbow

Betula populifolia

gray birch

Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud

Cornus florida

Flowering dogwood

Cornus kousa

Kousa dogwood

Cornus mas

Cornelian dogwood

Magnolia virginiana

Sweet bay magnolia

Oxydendron arboretum


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