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1718 – Trees & Shrubs for Shady Areas   arrow


How much sun do most plants need?

Most plants in Colorado thrive in the sunshine – 6 or more hours per day: grasses, most trees and flowers. Many plants will tolerate less sunlight, 2-3 hours of direct light, but will not flourish as well as if they had full sun. They will grow more slowly, perhaps be “stunted” and have sparser foliage than full-sun conditions.

Can I tell how much sun my property gets?

Take a good look at the sun that hits the ground around the property. Looking at each area separately to determine if it gets any direct sunlight at any part of the day, especially in spring and summer. Also consider how much moisture or precipitation each area gets.


What if an area gets no sunlight?

If an area gets no direct light, that is “deep shade,” as you would find on the north side of a building, or under an evergreen. There are a few plants that will grow in deep shade, and those will do better if they have extra water. With low light and no water, you will often find bare ground.

What is “filtered shade”?

If light gets to the ground between branches and leaves, that is “filtered shade.” Many full-shade shrubs, like Mahonia – Oregon Grape Holly, and wax flower will do better if they get a bit of this gentle light.

What trees are suited for “part shade”?

If the area gets some light, that is “part shade.” Trees well suited for part-shade are Gambel oak and junipers.

What do I do if my property doesn’t get full sun?

Because of our intense sunlight, some plants that prefer full sun can survive in Colorado if they get 3-4 hours of direct sunlight, like viburnums, and burning bushes, but will not bloom well or be as bushy as if they had full sun. If they are given more light and water, the same shrubs will be bushier, taller, and bloom better.Trees & shrubs for shady areas

Does having native plants matter?

In challenging settings, native shrubs and trees will fare better than those from other areas. For example, Gambel oak will grow better in the foothills than boxwood shrubs, tolerating our alkaline soil, desiccating wind and sub-zero temperatures.

Do different plants do well in dry versus wet shade?

Trees that do well in moist shade are serviceberry and redbud. Shrubs for dry shade areas include buckthorn, privet and Japanese barberry; moist shade shrubs include redtwig dogwood, gray dogwood, viburnums and daphne.

For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extenson fact sheet(s).

For more information, see the following Planttalk Colorado™ script(s).

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