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Southern California Gardening: Plants for Dry, Shady Areas

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Want some sensational plant selections for dry, shady areas? Lowe’s Southern California gardening contributor shares some.

Chinese fringe flower
Geranium ‘Limelight’

By Bonnie Manion

When you have a dry, shady area in your garden, you still have great plant options to choose from. I want to highlight some of these plants growing in my Southern California garden. You might be interested in planting them too.

‘Razzleberry’ Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinese var. rubrum ‘Razzleberry’) is a stunning example of a drought-tolerant evergreen shrub in a part sun/part shade location. This variety can reach 4x4-ft high and wide, or you can prune it to a smaller size. Its structure is particularly striking, with graceful, arching branches. ‘Razzleberry’ has deep-pink, fringelike flowers that begin to appear in spring. There are many varieties of the Chinese fringe flower that come in slightly different sizes and bloom colors, from white to purple.

purpletop vervain

Another shady plant favorite of mine is the climbing geranium (Pelargonium ‘Limelight’). I’m always asked its name when guests come to the garden. It does best in shade and is drought tolerant. It does have a climbing habit, so be sure to provide support such as this arbor base. Striking chartreuse foliage almost glows in spring. If that is not enough, ‘Limelight’ has a small, dainty pink flower for a subtle accent. This geranium is easy to propagate: Simply clip a piece off the plant and place it directly in the soil.

Purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis) is a great structural plant, reaching 4x2-ft high and wide. It is tall and airy, not dense. It is very drought tolerant and likes full sun but tolerates shade too. I have planted my purpletop vervain in part shade under a massive Torrey pine tree. This verbena, a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds, has delicate swaying movement with an easy breeze.

Other outstanding plant selections that fit in with dry shade or part sun locations are heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica ‘Umpqua Princess’), feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’), purple hopseed bush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurpea’), and rock purslane (Calandrinia). Surprisingly these plants all do well in full sun too.