When designing a garden, Details Landscape Art, one of the North Bay’s finest landscape contractors, is careful in selecting the right plants for the right situations. We would never design a sun plant for a full shade location, nor place a shade plant out in full sun. There are some places in the garden, however, that get both sun AND shade. Enter the sun-shade plants.IMG_1509

Sometimes the sun passes a structure or a large tree, shading the planting area for part of the day, but then reappears drenching the spot in full sun. We also find certain trees with an open branching structure that casts dappled shade all day. Or we plant a new tree in the garden, which is too small to give shade, but in a few years will be a full shade tree. A shade plant will burn in the hot afternoon sun, and the sun plant may not thrive or flower in the shade. Plants tend to get leggy if they require sun and don’t get it, and will reach for the light.

There are many plants that will work as sun-shade plants – following is a list of several we use regularly:

Nandina domestica – commonly known as heavenly bamboo, it a colorful foliaged evergreen shrub. The basic nandina domestic can grow to six to eight feet tall. Nandina grows its stalks from its base, so prune selectively. Cut out stalks that are larger than desired all the way down to the base.  Never top nandinas. There are many varieties and forms available, mostly with reddish – orangish- or yellowish foliage:

Nandina domestica ‘Compacta’ – a shorter growing variety than the species, with an upright habit and very hardy

Nandina ‘Firepower’ – a dwarf nandina, growing to two feet tall, turns a vivid red in winter

Nandina ‘Gulfstream’ – another lower growing nandina, with leaves similar to the species, but growing to no more than two and a half feet.  Very dense and compact shrub.

Nandina ‘Moon Bay’ – very similar to ‘Gulfstream’ growing slightly taller


Lomandra ‘Breeze’ – a rich bright green evergreen grass growing about two feet tall and four feet wide. Great as accents among boulders and in other plantings, and in and around dry creek beds.

Star jasmine – a fast growing evergreen shrub or vine that will grow anywhere with moderate water. White summer blooms are extremely fragrant.

Pittosporum – a real workhorse in the garden, there are several varieties, all evergreen, both green and variegated, that grow to various heights:

Pitt. Eugenoides – actually a small tree that can grow to 20 ft. tall, with light green crinkly leaves.

Pitt. Tenuifolium – also a tall 20 footer, with dark green leaves and black stems. Great screening shrub.

Pitt. ‘Marjorie Channin’ – Pretty variegated foliage gets to about 10-12 ft. tall by eight feet wide.

Pitt. ‘Gold Star’ – a little shorter, maybe 8-10 ft. tall

Pitt. ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’ – low grower to about 3’ x 3’.

Pitt. ‘Golf Ball’ – also 3’ x 3’

Azalea ‘Sothern Indica – The only type of azalea that will tolerate some sun, there are many colors available.

Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ – variegated evergreen groundcover

Osmanthus heterophyllus ’Variegatus’ – slow growing shrub to 8-10 feet tall and wide with holly-like leaves.

Sun-shade plants are extremely versatile additions to any garden.