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Needing plant suggestions; area receives 4 hours sun

Chesterfield, VA

I am planning to revamp a med-large (150 sq. foot) bed that currently is mostly filled with native orange daylilies. It is basically a three-cornered bed, and currently a mature small dogwood (15 ft tall) and a 7 ft. tall Redbud anchor two of the corners. I am planning to purchase a small-med. Witch Hazel to anchor the remaining corner. Right now the bed gets about 4 hours of direct sun--but what is making it hard for me to know what to plant is that it gets AFTERNOON sun--like from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. right now. I know as the Redbud tree grows (NW corner) it will provide a bit more shade, and the Witch Hazel eventually (SW corner).

The soil is a good mix of sandy/humusy with leaf mold but I know there is clay somewhere underneath (I live in VA, in zone 7b I believe). The site has good drainage & average moisture (and is near a watering hose, for times of stress).

So--basically I have 2 questions:

1.) Am I right in thinking that I need to be looking for shady plants, or does the fact that the bed receives the hotter afternoon sun change this?

2.) Any specific plant suggestions? I am mostly looking for perennials right now, but annual suggestions would be welcomed also as I plan to leave places to stick some in each year. :-)
I would love to have taller plants in the middle of the bed and smaller ones on the sides, and am trying to compose a bed that has something of interest/beauty most of the year. (Isn't that the challenge we all face?!) :-)

I would be really grateful for any help. I've been doing lots of searching in catalogs and on the internet, but I keep getting confused by differing plant descriptions. I need real experience-tested help! :-)


This message was edited Sep 29, 2009 6:35 PM

Temuco, Chile(Zone 9b)

I do have shade in the afternoon and that is better, afternoon sun is much hotter so that would complicate your selection, but I feel these wouldn't go too bad in your location.
I have a C. sasanqua that is growing in full shade

Lamium / White Nancy (Laminium maculatum)
Forget-me-nots (Myositis sylvestris)

Eastern Long Island, NY(Zone 7a)

Wood Aster
Strawberry Bush
Solomon's Seal
Several varieties of shade clematis

Edit: Just checked out my shade garden, add to the list above:

Tiarella 'candy striper'
Nandina domestica, (many partial shade varieties)
Hakonechloa macra 'Beni-kaze'

This message was edited Oct 3, 2009 12:30 PM

Stanford, CA(Zone 9b)

I have some sasanqua camellias growing in a situation identical to the one you are talking about and they do very well. Buy a shorter variety but know that they can be easily kept pruned to a shorter height without looking like they've been given a buzz. I agree with the hakonechloa. The variegated variety can grow in the dark here and in full sun. Mondo grass is a good plant in the foreground as a ground cover although ajuga would grow there happily also. I have a lady fern which gets afternoon sun and seems to be fine. Also helleborus.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

Many lilies will bloom in part sun

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

It sounds like you have the start of a wonderful native plant bed with the 3 native understory trees you have as anchors. There are so many native plant choices for the southeast it's hard to know where to begin. I'm in the northeast but I borrow liberally from the plants native to your area.

Starting with a fall bloomer-One of my all time favorites is Heuchera villosa-
I have the cultivar Autumn Bride, the only one that really provides lovely white fall bottle brush blooms for me.
This is truly a 4 season plant, the large yellow green maple like leaves persist into the winter about 18" tall and the leaves form mounds up to 2' across. It is the 2 1/2' bottle brush white flower plumes that last for weeks in the fall that I look forward to most.

It looks pretty backed by the non native variegated solomon seal since the white on the variegation on the 2 1/2' leaves tall offers a good 3 season backdrop and plays up the white flowers of the heuchera.
Add a native false solomon seal, smilacina racemosa, in front of the heuchera and get an arching leaved plant bending low with bright red clusters of berries at this time of year.

Lady ferns (there is a cultivar called "Lady in Red" that has red stems that would look smashing with the red berries of the false solomn sea) mentioned in a previous post will offer a lacy soft contrast and christmas fern a deeper green contrast that is evergreen.

Nestle native evergreen gingers at the feet of the ferns and sprinkle liberally with spring ephemerals like hepaticas, trilliums,spring beauty,rue anemone(my favorite),bloodroot, twinleaf, wood phlox, etc.

Add a few fragrant native shrubs like fothergilla and clethera and maybe an azalea
(there is a native hybrid azalea called 'Mary Del' that smells wonderful).

You'll also need some moderate size evergreen shrubs, maybe ilex glabra, inkberry, for winter presence.
Oops I think I overfilled your space. Well at least you'll have lots to choose from.

Hallowell, ME

Why has no one mentioned columbines and foxglove?!?!?!?!

Temuco, Chile(Zone 9b)

Because I do not have it in my shady area, but you are quite right, they will do!

Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

Hi freedomfarmsva - I have two areas that are similar to your description -- I am in 5a, so it's warmer in your area, but I've found these plants to be good performers as long as you watch the moisture level -- particularly the first year. Hope these combinations give you some ideas --

First - this area has high shade until about 1 p.m. - I've combined Snow in Summer (spring bloom) medium sized Iris (early spring bloom) Astilbe (early summer) Hosta (different times) Columbine (late spring) Coreopsis (ongoing) Daylilies (summer) and Liatris (mid to late summer). The bed looks great until late August - I've included pics from early spring and mid-summer -- that is truly the same bed -- it certainly fills out, doesn't it --

This message was edited Feb 3, 2010 9:50 AM

Thumbnail by dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

Same bed, looking from opposite direction, in mid-summer

Thumbnail by dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

And the bed that is just across the path -

Thumbnail by dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

This bed gets full sun from about 1 on, but has trees in front that are large enough to shade it in the morning -- because the sun is more direct in the afternoon on this bed, I've put in more sun varieties -- These are sun varieties, but they do very well with that late afternoon hot sun and shade morning -

This bed has - iris (spring), shasta daisies (spring), Lamb's Ear (on-going), Yarrow (mid-summer), Asiatic and Oriental lilies (mid-summer to late summer), Joe Pye Weed (late summer), Clematis (late summer), Goldenrod (late summer), and Mums (Fall) -

The first pic is mid-summer -

Thumbnail by dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

Late summer -

Thumbnail by dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

And mid/late Fall -


Thumbnail by dax080
Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Hello freedomfarmsva,
Just a quick mention: the orange daylilies are not native - they just seem so because they are so prevalent. You will have an elongated effort to remove them from the bed. Any little tuber will result in a plant sprouting up and you will probably be digging them for a couple of years. If you dont get them all your bed will again be as you currently describe it: "mostly filled with daylilies".

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