Sun Or Shade –These Six Shrubs Don’t Care

Mountain laurel at I-26 Rest Area, Asheville, NC

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ at Biltmore Estates, Asheville, NC

A surprising number of flowering shrubs perform beautifully in either sun or shade, making them quite versatile where planning a landscape. All can be utilize around outdoor living areas such as decks and patios. Several good candidates are these six:  

  1. Japanese pieris, aka lily of the valley shrub (Pieris japonica) is a versatile shrub for sun to part shade (USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8). This broadleaf evergreen shrub grows to 8-12 feet tall and up to 8 to 10 feet wide; most cultivated cultivars are generally smaller in size. New spring foliage emerges with a bright, rich orangey or bronze tint, which matures to dark, glossy green in summer. Leaf size ranges from 1 to 3.5 inches long.
  2. Winter daphne (Daphne odora) is a broadleaf evergreen best grown in warmer climates (zones 7 to 9). It blooms from late-winter into early spring;. Soft pink to white flowers are sweetly fragrant. Leaves may scorch in full sun. Winter Daphne grows 3 to 4 feet tall with a spread of 2 to 4 feet.. Foliage is glossy and leathery; each obovate, 4-inch-long leaf is a rich, deep green. Several cultivars are available with ‘Aureomarginata’ (creamy or golden leaf edges are popular.
  3. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is among the largest of the six shrubs, reaching 6 to 8 feet tall and wide provided you select the correct cultivars. Species oakleafs easily grow 2-3 times larger. Shrub blooms on old wood; if pruning is necessary, wait until after flowering (zones 5 to 9).
  4. Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) is frequently mistaken for forsythia as both bear bright yellow flowers in spring and display a low-growing, arching shrub habit. Its flowers are single, five-petaled, yellow to golden yellow, rose-like blooms. Kerria grows to 3-6 feet tall and to 6-8 feet wide on slender, green stems that retain their color in winter. It is both deer and drought tolerant (zones 4 to 9).
  5. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), related to Japanese Pieris, are at home in 1-2 hours of dappled or filtered sunlight. This evergreen shrub grows 5-7 feet tall and wide with glossy green 4-5 inch long leaves. Select from over 40 colorful cultivars, ranging from white, pink, pink-rose flowers which open in May (zones 5-9).
  6. Leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei) is native to the forested areas of the far western U.S., reliably hardy in zones 5 to 8 and copes with considerable shade. It’s a broadleaf evergreen with a spreading to upright habit, usually reaching 4 – 6 feet tall by 4 – 5 feet wide, although if sited close to a wall or fence, it can be trained to grow taller.

All shrubs prefer moist, rich, well-drained soils and some amounts of morning sunlight. They are moderately drought tolerant after the first year. Flowers attract bees; fruit attracts birds deer resistant, birds love the berries. Prune within 4-6 weeks after spring bloom has ended.

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