I Love This Plant: Tough Plants for Dry Shade

This post will be one of two showcasing the toughest of the tough plants in my garden.  These are my go-to plants when I need something to grow in an area where nothing else will grow.  This is a topic I know something about.   My shade garden is surrounded by four mature live oaks and a 6 foot wooden fence.  There are areas of this space that never see the light of day.  I have found these plants by trial and error – mostly error where I plant something in a bare area and just wait and see if it can survive.  In north Texas with freezing temps and ice storms in the winter and dry hot summers, these champs have not only survived but thrived.

The first one on the list I can’t take credit for introducing and in fact spent the first year thinking it was a weed and pulling it out.  This is the wild strawberry.    This little groundcover survived my best efforts to eradicate it following years of neglect as this was an untended lot next to the house.  It grows humbly in between the hostas and the Japanese Maple, softening the rock borders of the shadiest bed ever.  It spreads vigorously but is not invasive.  In the spring these little gems are covered with white flowers followed by sweet little strawberries throughout the summer.  The birds love the berries, especially cardinals and bluejays.  They are edible but not my fav because they tend to be a little pulpy.

The name of this next plant says it all: the Cast Iron Plant.  These evergreen plants will grow where nothing else will survive.  It is the Energizer Bunny of the plant world.  It is not showy.  There are no blooms, the leaves of this cultivar are not colorful and it grows very slowly.  But, it does have a nice architectural shape and will take anything.  I have seen this plant in beds located under stairways, in between skyscrapers and pretty much the most inhospitable dry spots ever.  I am not a fan of containers because they tend to dry out too soon and the roots tend to overheat.  But this plant laughs at those things and comes back for more.

And finally, there is Ajuga.  Ajuga, or Bugleweed, has regained some popularity these last couple years due to the introduction of new cultivars like “Chocolate Chip” with its bronzy green leaves.  I have several varieties of Ajuga in my shade garden; this variegated one is my favorite.  It has mint green leaves with creamy yellow edges.  The leaves are mottled with a pretty pink blush.  This groundcover spreads and while many listings warn that Ajuga can be invasive, this cultivar is not.

So these are three of the top dry shade champs that work in my garden.  Give them a try if you have a spot where nothing else will grow.

Happy Gardening and remember to “Bee” Positive!


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