Flowering Plants for Shady Spots in Vegas

Got a spot that doesn’t get much sun where nothing seems to bloom? You might be surprised by what will actually work in some shade here in Vegas. Remember, a little bit of our sun can go a very long way so sometimes just a couple of hours of direct sunlight will be sufficient for a blooming plant. While you shouldn’t expect quite as many flowers in the shade as you’d get in the sun, the following plants will provide relatively reliable color in lower light conditions.

 

Here are a few tips for increasing your odds:

  • Remember to water less when plants are in more shade. They’ll still want a nice long drink of water but less often than they would in full sun. You can’t just assume everything needs water because it’s 110° outside. In the shade, some plants just don’t, especially if it’s a drought-tolerant species. You’re gonna wanna trust me on this one, guys.  Not trying to sound too smug here but I have killed a lot of plants in my day.

 

  • There are also ways to increase the amount of light you get in an area. Add mirrors or reflective gazing balls to provide more light. Also, be sure to thin out dense tree canopies since it’ll allow more light under them and they’ll be less likely to get ripped apart in one of our extra-exuberant wind storms.

 

  • Kind of along those same lines, don’t overplant your garden! Too many plants crammed together deprive each other of light so none of them can ever become the glorious specimens they yearn to be.

 

  • Shady areas tend to be protected from the cold as well as the sun so you can often play around with plants that might not survive a winter here in a really exposed spot. Don’t be afraid to tinker around with unusual species. Tinkering with species is one of the very best parts of gardening.

 

British Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana) 
4′ x 4′
Moderate water use
Semi-evergreen

Also known as Mexican petunia, this plant is so durable it’s considered a pest in some places. We don’t usually have to worry about that here due to the lack of random water so there’s really no reason not to throw British Ruellia a little bit of love.

If it’s in a protected spot it can maintain some appeal year-round but more often than not it’ll look a little crappy in the winter months. Just cut it way back in the early spring and Ruellia will bounce back with vigor when the temperatures heat up. You can count on it’s bright purple flowers throughout the summer months.

 

Dwarf Ruellia (Ruellia species) 
1′-3′ x 1′-3′
Moderate water use
Evergreen

There are actually quite a few dwarf Ruellias but the one you’ll see most often at the local nursery is the Katie Ruellia, a 1′ x 1′ evergreen plant with purple flowers. There are pink and white varieties available as well, but you might have to search online to find them. The Chi-chi is a cute pink one that gets about 2-3′ tall by about the same width. Dwarf Ruellias will usually stay green year-round and bloom in the warm seasons.

 

Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambuc)
5′ x 5′
Moderate water use
Evergreen

Arabian jasmine works well in Vegas in filtered light or with up to a half day of sun (no reflected heat though). The bright white blossoms come on during the warm seasons and smell pretty flipping wonderful without being overwhelming. This plant would definitely prefer amended soil if you’re putting it in the ground.

 

Baja Fairyduster (Calliandra californica)
5′-6′ x 5′-6′
Low water needs
Evergreen

Most people think of fairydusters as heat-lovers and while they can certainly handle a full blast of sun, they can also tolerate more shade than you might realize. It gets big so give it room to grow and then just sit back and enjoy all those beautiful deep red blooms through the hottest days of summer.

 

 Coral Fountain Russelia
(Russelia equitiformis ‘Coral Fountain’)

4′-5′ x 4′-5′
Moderate water use
Evergreen

 

When it’s mature, Coral Fountain Russelia reminds me of a lot of a flowering Cousin Itt.  The flowers are a huge hummingbird draw and the plant looks pretty great year-round, so I say put in a corner and let it fill in rather than trying to keep it cut back.

There’s another plant that’s actually named Cousin Itt Acacia so I feel like it’s only right to mention it here. It’s adorable and I love it to pieces but this post is about flowering plants specifically so I absolutely will not allow myself to be distracted by its irresistible allure. You do know I’m gonna drop this little pic right here though so you all can admire it too. No harm in that I can see. 

(Image courtesy of Village Nurseries)
 

 

 Cape Plumbago
(Plumbago auriculata)
6-7′ x 6-8′
Moderate water use
Evergreen

 

Cape Plumbago is a favorite for shady spots thanks to it’s unusual blue flowers that can really brighten up a dull corner or wall. This is another one that’ll take up some space if left to grow to its full size so make sure you allow it room. Remember that the bigger your plant gets the more flowers it’s able to offer.

 

Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
8-10′ x 10′
Low water use
Deciduous

You probably recognize this plant as one of the most reliable summer flowers in Vegas but the desert birds-of-paradise can take much more shade than I ever would’ve guessed. If it’s in a really protected spot it might even keep it’s leaves through the winter months.

 

If any of you are feeling adventurous, seek out the seeds for the pink variety of this plant and let me know how it goes. I’m itching to see one in real life. I believe it’s Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Compton’ but I can’t find anybody in the entire Western hemisphere growing it.

Ok, honestly I haven’t checked the Western hemisphere as thoroughly as I just made that sound but I have Googled the heck out of it a few times to no avail. If you can think of something else I’ll forever regard you as a genius on the same level as Einstein or Hawking. That’s really all it takes.


Firebush (Hamelia patens)
4-5′ x 4-5′
Moderate water use
Evergreen

Firebush will draw hummingbirds throughout the summer with its vibrant red blooms. While it can get really big in milder climates, this shrub won’t usually exceed 5′ in southern Nevada. Cut it back in early spring to keep it compact.

Now, here’s a list of a few more little guys to check out that I’m ashamed to admit I don’t have pictures of on-hand. The really irritating part of this is that I was in picture-taking range of a perfectly lovely natal plum today and totally didn’t think to snap it. I’ll try to delve further into these plants in a future post but please don’t let my forgetfulness keep you from giving them a look in the meantime.

Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens)
Skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens)
Blue Elf Aloe (Aloe ‘Blue Elf’)
Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)
Purple Rockrose (Cistus purpureus)
Natal Plum (Carissa macrophylla)

Happy gardening, my fellow Martians!

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15 Comments

  • I have some plumbago in my yard right now and the blooms are refreshing and look sort of electric at night. A friend calls this plant “tough as an old boot”. Glad to see you recommend it. I put in a Coral Fountain Russelia as a lark (because it looked swell in the nursery) and it is actually growing and blooming—in full sun. I can’t get a Bird of Paradise to grow at all, killed several. And what’s really irritating is that there is a fine specimen—-seemingly neglected—in the yard of a vacant house behind me. I can see it taunting me from my office window.

    • Ooh, Plumbago and Russelia would be a pretty pairing. Good eye. Maybe the red birds got too much water? Or perhaps they sensed aggression from the one that’s been taunting you and it made them unwilling to root. I’ve seen it happen.
      You should plant a pink one just to show it who’s boss, Marcia.

  • I have got two Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambuc) growing behind some plants with a southern exposure. One is getting eaten up the other is thriving. The planting guide card said it is a USDA zone 10 but other places I have read it is a 9. Do I need to cover it with mulch come late fall?

    • Hi Peter, your Arabian jasmine is probably fine without protection from the cold if it has southern exposure but if you want to be on the safe side you can cover the leaves with a piece of burlap or a light sheet during a frost. Mulching around the base is a good move but moreso to introduce organic matter to the soil than anything else. You mentioned one of them is being eaten up though. Do the leaves have a whole bunch of little half moons cut out of them?

      • Thanks for the advice. I already am mulching to increase the organic content, As a matter of fact it is planted next to a Mexican palm tree trunk that is decaying. Yes to the half moons.

  • Oh good! Those half moons are just little leafcutter bees and it’s not hurting the plant. They’re beneficial and not aggressive so if you get a chance to see one in action you should really watch because they’re amazing at what they do and very very cute. They’ll stop cutting your plant soon. No need to worry about it at all 🙂

    • Thanks, Myra. I appreciate you reading and I’m glad to hear we share an appreciation of sarcasm. Happy gardening 🙂

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