Plants & Flowers for Poor Soil & a Dry Shade


Even if you live in a location that is notorious for having poor and dry soil conditions, there is no excuse to have a depressing garden, particularly in the Mediterranean growing conditions of plant hardiness zones 8 through 11 as designated by the United States Department of Agriculture. There is a wide range of plant life that may flourish in poor soil and shade, the majority of which are native American species that have been tamed. Make use of ground coverings, perennials, and shrubs that thrive in situations that are difficult to cultivate.

Clumping Ground Covers

The plants bugleweed, dead nettle, and bishop’s hat are all hardy to the USDA plant hardiness zone 9, and they are especially helpful for dry soil beneath trees, which compete strongly for available moisture. All three of these plants are hardy to the USDA plant hardiness zone 9. The bugleweed (Ajuga reptens) spreads at a pace that is somewhere in the middle. From the end of spring through the middle of summer, overlapping leaf clusters will shoot blue flower spikes six to twelve inches above the bronzy green leaves.

The plant known as dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) has stunning foliage that is silver-green in colour and produces blooms in late spring that are either pink, white, or yellow in colour. Even under conditions of complete and total dryness, clumps may grow to a height of around 1 foot. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, several species of barrenwort or bishop’s hat (Epimedium spp. ), such as ‘Sulphureum,’ grow well in dry shade and produce yellow spring blooms.

Long-stemmed Ground Covers

The Virginia creeper, or Parthenocissus quinquefolia, does not produce any flowers that are visible but instead produces long stalks that cluster with foliage that has five leaves. Plants may grow up to 50 feet in length and can survive in conditions ranging from full sun to deep shade. They can thrive in soils that range from wet to dry. Stems of the periwinkle, also known as myrtle (Vinca minor), often grow to a length of between 12 and 24 inches and have a spreading tendency. The plant gets its popular name from the star-shaped blue flowers that bloom in late spring, and the foliage may be green or variegated with white or gold.

Spring and Summer Bloomers

It might be challenging to satisfy a desire for blooming perennial flowers when conditions are dry and shaded. Perennials that grow well in dry shade and bloom in the spring include the Lenten rose (Helleborus hybridus). This plant may grow up to two feet tall and has flowers in the late winter or early spring that range in colour from brownish purple to light green. The old-fashioned bleeding heart, also known as Decentra spectabilis, blooms later in the spring and is characterised by its arching branches and beautifully formed pink flowers.

The loss of greenery throughout the summer months is unpleasant and creates an obvious void. Whether it is used as a border plant or a ground cover, lilyturf (Liriope muscari) grows in grass-like clumps that range in height from six to twelve inches and produce an abundance of stems bearing purple or lavender flowers in the summertime. The number of blooms decreases as the amount of shade increases. It is common practise to promote the native geranium, often known as cranesbill (Geranium spp.), as being hardy to USDA zone 8; add its blue blossoms to sheltered dry shadow locations.

Large Shrubs for Poor Soil

There are so many different types of huge shrub genuses like manzanita (Manzanita spp.) that you need to conduct some research to find the ones that will perform the best in your specific growing environment. White blossoms are produced by the Christmasberry plant, which is also known as the California holly (Toyon). It blooms from July to September in temperatures that are similar to the Mediterranean, and it is tolerant of shade and thrives in dry circumstances. Christmasberry is often planted on slopes since it has the potential to grow to a height and width of at least 10 feet. In the garden, the height should be closer to 6 to 8 feet, and the width should be between 4 and 5 feet.

The common elderberry, also known as Sambucus canadensis, can reach a height of 6 feet and a width of 3 feet. It produces clusters of white flowers in the summertime and berries that are prized by both people and animals. This native can thrive in a broad range of growing circumstances, including dry soil and some shade, which helped make it a favourite of early settlers and Native Americans.

Low Maintenance Shrubs for Shade

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, there are two more smaller shrubs that have leaves that resemble holly and may thrive in dry shadow and poor soil. The Holly-leaved Buckthorn, scientifically known as Rhamnus crocea Nutt., may grow up to two or three feet in height and breadth and produces yellow blooms throughout the months of March and April. After that comes the red fruit. Oregon grape, also known as holly-leaved mahonia (Mahonia aquifolium), is only one species of a group of hardy evergreens called mahonia that may reach heights of up to four feet and widths of up to two feet. Following the appearance of the tiny white blossoms, the plant produces bluish-black berries, which provide as food for birds and other animals during the winter.

Poor, Dry and Shady Variations

Because of the wide variety of microclimates that exist within the mainly Mediterranean growing conditions of zones 8 through 11, it may be necessary to do some study in order to select the ideal plant for difficult growing circumstances. Your local county extension services office may assist you in assessing your unique growing circumstances and provide you with other plants to add to your list. There are many different plant families, each of which has specific variants that may fulfil your requirements.