Many homeowners ask me about recommendations for certain plants that will fit their landscape. Since many of us have wooded lots, a question I often get is what to plant in shadier spots of the yard. Here are a few suggested species for trees that can tolerate partial shade.
The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a popular native tree in north Georgia. It is naturally an understory tree and can tolerate a good bit of shade. Too often, flowering dogwoods are mistakenly planted in full sun, which causes their leaves to look poor. These trees can reach 20-feet tall and have a spread of 15-30 feet when mature. They show white flowers in the spring and red berries in the fall which birds love. The genus name "Cornus" come from the Latin word "cornu," which means hard. This is a reference to the notoriously hard wood of dogwood trees.
Serviceberry trees (Amelanchier arborea) are also great additions to a shady landscape. This tree can reach a mature height of 15-25 feet and width of 15-25 feet. They feature showy white, fragrant flowers in early spring before the tree begins to leaf out. They have edible fruits, also known as Juneberries, which can be made into jams and jellies. Serviceberries have no major insect or disease issues. They are also known for good fall color. Serviceberries go well near ponds of stream banks.
The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is another tree capable of tolerating part shade conditions. Mature growth from redbuds can reach 20-30 feet tall and 25-35 feet in spread. These have great flowers, which are small and rose-purple, appearing in early spring. They tend to be weedy in some areas, so you may have seen them pop up in your yard unannounced before. They have heart-shaped leaves which turn yellow in fall. It is also known as a butterfly attractant. Redbuds tolerate our poor clay soils as well.
Another great addition to your woodland landscape will be the Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia). These are small, slow-growing trees, but also grown as multi-stemmed shrubs reaching 15 feet tall. They have showy, white camellia-like flowers in early summer. Stewartias exhibit a good fall color, with leaves turning orange to burgundy. They are also known for their red exfoliating bark, which provides great winter color and interest. These trees have no known major pests. Stewartias, like camellias, are members of the tea family. In fact, stewartias are also known as false camellias.
One last suggested shade-tolerant tree is the paperbark maple (Acer griseum). These low maintenance trees can reach a mature height of 20-30 feet tall and a spread of 15-25 feet. Paperpark maples aren't known for their flowers, but they do have great fall color, usually orange and red. They also have exfoliating bark, usually a copper or cinnamon color, adding to their winter interest. These maples can tolerate clay soils and have no serious insect or disease issues. These are great trees for smaller properties.
I hope these suggestions will help you think about adding more interesting plants to your woodland landscape. Fall is a great time to plant trees, so get out to the local garden center and find something to make your landscape even more beautiful.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.