Selecting Trees and Shrubs

Creating a beautiful, functional landscape depends on putting the right plant in the right place. Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach discuss considerations when selecting trees and shrubs for shaded, wet and dry areas of the lawn and garden. For more information about plant selection contact ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or email hortline@iastate.edu.
 

Which shrubs grow in shade? 

Most deciduous shrubs perform best when grown in areas that receive partial to full sun. However, there are shrubs that can be successfully grown in partial shade. Sites in partial shade receive two to four hours of direct sun.

Deciduous shrubs that can be successfully grown in partial shade include; gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), fothergilla (Fothergilla spp.), common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica), alpine currant (Ribes alpinum), arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum).

Yew (Taxus spp.), arborvitae (Thuja spp.) and Russian cypress (Microbiota decussata) are evergreen shrubs that can be grown in partial shade. 
 

Which trees grow in shade? 

Deciduous trees that can be successfully grown in partial shade include serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), redbud (Cercis canadensis), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), corneliancherry dogwood (Cornus mas), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) and hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata). Locations in partial shade receive two to four hours of direct sun each day. 
 

Which shrubs grow well in wet soils? 

Deciduous shrubs tolerant of wet soils include red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), common sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), summersweet clethra (Clethra alnifolia), gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), purpleosier willow (Salix purpurea) and arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatu). 
 

Which trees grow well in wet soils? 

Trees that tolerate wet soils include Freeman maple (Acer x freemanii), red maple (Acer rubrum), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), black alder (Alnus glutinosa), river birch (Betula nigra), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), pin oak (Quercus palustris), weeping willow (Salix alba ‘Tristis’) and baldcypress (Taxodium distichum). 
 

Which shrubs grow well in dry sites? 

Deciduous shrubs that grow well in dry locations include Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens), American hazelnut (Corylus americana), cranberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus), hedge cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus), beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), eastern ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa), Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa), fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), alpine currant (Ribes alpinum), Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica), Vanhoutte spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei) and coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus). 
 

Which trees grow well in dry locations? 

Deciduous trees that grow well in dry sites include northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Turkish filbert (Corylus colurna), thornless honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), white oak (Quercus alba), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and silver linden (Tilia tomentosa).  

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