5 Shade Tolerant Conifers?

I got this great query from a colleague this week. The note on my desk also said “besides Yew.” Which makes it trickier. But here goes:

Western Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla – It grows to be a big tree in time, but it beautiful nested in among other large trees. Did you know it can be pruned into a hedge? The texture is so soft and graceful. There is a good example on the same street as the Portland Japanese Garden, a historic house just a short walk North of there.

Dwarf Hemlock varieties such as Tsuga canadensis ‘Gentsch White’, ‘Cole’s Prostrate’ and ‘Jeddeloh’. These are all adorable for a shade garden, rock garden or wall.

Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata – Also a large tree.

Buddhist Pine, Totara, Podocarpus macrophyllus – An ancient conifer relative that has broad leaves. Can be grown indoors or out. Mine goes back and forth between my kitchen window and North-facing doorstep. I got it in a 4″ pot last summer. It was about 8″ tall and has nearly doubled in size. I adore it. There are other neat Podocarpus too, some fern-like species that are not as hardy, some yew-like ones that are really tough.

Chinese Plum Yew, Cephalotaxus harringtonia - It’s a shrub with a texture similar to yew only bolder. Very shade loving.

Lawson Cypress, Chamaecyparis ‘Barry’s Silver’ – And other false cypress with variegation or pale foliage. These are soft, densely needled dwarfs that would burn in hot sunlight, but thrive in light shade. When they have good drainage, that is. Do you know how C. ‘Blue Surprise’ got it’s name? Because, “Surprise! It’s dead!”. Actually I really like that plant. It’s cute.

Japanese Cedar, Cryptomeria japonica ‘Knaptonensis’ – Soft foliage that is tipped with white new growth.

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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5 Responses to 5 Shade Tolerant Conifers?

  1. Wes says:

    Just lovely to read your blog Mulysa.

  2. Eileen says:

    “Do you know how C. ‘Blue Surprise’ got it’s name? Because, “Surprise! It’s dead!”.”


    I have a “Surprise! I’m alive!” in the garden this year: the Lamium maculatum that I haven’t seen for at least one year and maybe two is back! I so like this plant, I’m really glad to see it again.

  3. Mulysa says:

    That’s the nice kind of garden surprise! It is a pretty plant, and tolerant of dry shade. I had Lamium ‘White Nancy’ growing around an elderberry under a spruce tree in my old garden (in zone 4). It is well behaved in such conditions, but can really spread in good soil.

    The other plant you were wondering about is related, Lamiastrum ‘Herman’s Pride’. It’s the one with silver spotted leaves and gold flowers. It’s also long blooming and good for tough spots. It has a clumping habit though and doesn’t spread.

  4. Mulysa says:

    There is a really pretty cultivar called Lamium ‘Golden Anniversary’. The leaves have gold variegation and the flowers are lavender- kind of a splashy combo. It’s great in container plantings.

  5. Mulysa says:

    Hi Wes! It’s good to hear from you. Hope you’re well and planning a big garden this year : ) With lots of zinnias.

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