What to plant

Asked May 13, 2020, 5:17 PM EDT

I live in Plymouth, MI and am looking for an evergreen plant/shrub to put in the front of my house. It would need to be no taller than 24” and spread about the same. It is located in shade. I would love it if it had some winter interest. I have given up on Mountain Laurel in this area. They survive but never really thrive - dead branches and few flowers. Any suggestions are most welcome!

Wayne County Michigan

1 Response

If you have not done so recently, your first step should be to have the soil in the area you are going to plant tested. Some plants prefer a higher pH level and some a lower one. Some will tolerate clay soil; some won't, etc. It's easy to do yourself, and you will receive results telling you whether your soil is sandy, loamy, or clay; what your pH level is, and any nutrients you may need to add before planting.

Self-mailer soil test kits from Michigan State University' horticulture research lab are available. You can obtain them at the link below. Full instructions are are there and also come with the kits. The cost is $25.


You did not specify if your shade is full, dark shade, part shade or dappled shade. Your size requirements leave very few choice. Here are some ideas. There are some in the link below that do not grow in our Zone 5; others will.


Dwarf English boxwood - part shade. Very hardy. About 3'

Rhododendrons.There are some quite small varieties like R. keiskei 'Dwarf' (dwarf Keisk rhododendron), a dwarf lepidote rhododendron, bears pale yellow 2-inch bell-shaped flowers and has olive-green 2-inch leaves that turn wine red in winter. It is a spreading plant, growing 2 1/2 feet tall and 4 feet wide, but could be trimmed narrower..

Hollies range in size from a 6-inch-tall spreading dwarf to a 70-foot-tall towering giant. Google for dwarf varieties. They are shade tolerant.

Dwarf conifers tend to be shade tolerant because they push their new growth earlier in the spring (before the deciduous trees really leaf out) and need less photosynthesis to remain happy. Google for shade tolerant evergreens.

Japanese pieris (also called Japanese andromeda). Smallest ones are "Cavatine" (30"x30") and "Prelude" (18"x 18"). Prefers part sun and moist, rich, well-drained acidic soil. Deer generally leave it alone. Will not tolerate standing water. Prelude can be fussy but lovely.

I hope you are able to find something to fit your unique requirements. If shrubs do not work for you, there are wonderful huge hostas that will look beautiful in full shade, but they will be absent in winder as will any other perennial. Check them out at New Hampshire Hostas.com