Embrace the Shade

If you have a tendency to complain about having immense amounts of shade in your yard, you won’t get any sympathy from me – not this native Texan.

Shade is a priceless commodity in South Texas, but it’s understandable to have a little bit of frustration toward it. If you’re stumped about what can be planted underneath those big old oaks, use these tips below as a guide.

  • Choose your plants wisely. Many plants simply won’t bloom, grow or thrive at all in shade. Consider Texas natives like American beautyberry, redbud and columbine, all of which perform beautifully in shade and are drought-tolerant. Search our plant database for shade-loving plants. I also really like this list from the Bexar County Extension office.
  • Have a good mix of textures and colors, as this can help a dimly lit landscape appear alive and exciting. Frothy, light-green ferns and groundcovers against the large, bold leaves of a philodendron tend to draw the eye into what would otherwise be a dull void. Variegated gingers, variegated Dianella and gorgeous shade bloomers like Texas betony and some salvias are like rich bursts of light in a shady spot.
  • Pass on using an automatic sprinkler system in areas of ample shade and stick to occasional hand-watering as needed. Moisture loss is much slower here, especially if you’ve mulched the area well.
  • Take a walk through an undisturbed natural areaFriedrich Park and Government Canyon provide us with great local examples of what grows under the canopies of native cedar and oak trees. You might be surprised to find indigenous favorites like mountain laurel, redbud and evergreen sumac thriving in these shady situations.

If you have buckets of shade, try to look on the bright side (no pun intended). Those spots often make a wonderful setting for some outdoor living and require less summer maintenance!

Discover more shade plants on our Pinterest board.

Follow Garden Style San Antonio’s board Made for the Shade on Pinterest.

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Erin Conant
Erin Conant has a passion for all things related to plants. Our former SAWS conservation consultant is now at home with her family passionately establishing their own urban farm and spreading the word of water conservation.
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