As the largest of the United States' lower 48 states, Texas covers a vast territory of widely varying climates and growing conditions. Successfully choosing shade-tolerant plants for your Texas garden will be much easier if you limit the choices to proven performers for your area. Even with those restrictions, there are enough Texas shade plants to keep any gardener happy.
Golden columbine (ranunculaceae Aquilegia hinckleyana) is native to the Sierra Vieja Mountains of Presidio County, Texas. Luckily for most Texas gardeners, however, it thrives in gardens throughout the state.Growing up to 42 inches, golden columbine will be one of the first plants to brighten your garden's shady spots in spring, opening its delicate bell-shaped yellow blooms during March and April. Its attractive green fern-like foliage will add a welcome cool touch to your garden throughout the summer. Golden columbine likes rich, moist and slightly acid soil and part to full shade. Its blooms attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Golden columbine is a somewhat short-lived perennial. Allowing the plants to produce seed so they resow is the most effective way to have them return to your garden each year.
This daisy (Amblyolepis setigera), native to central and southern Texas, takes its name from its habit of growing in the shade of huisache chapparal bushes. The 6- to 15-inch daisy bushes are nearly covered with bright yellow blooms on shaggy stems above blue-green foliage between March and June. They like well-drained sand or sand loam soil and dry growing conditions. The butterfly-attracting daisies grow from seed that can be collected from wild plants in late spring. Plant them in partly shady locations with less than six hours of sun per day.
A shrub that often spreads in mounds, sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) produces delightfully scented 3- to 8-inch spikes of pink or white flowers in the heat of the Texas summer. Its leaves, bronze in spring, turn green before summer and become yellow in the fall. Sweet pepperbush is suitable for the eastern coastal regions of Texas because it likes moist to wet soil on the acidic side (a pH greater than 7) and is tolerant of wet salt air. It attracts birds, including hummingbirds, and butterflies. Sow the seeds on sand and keep them misted, or buy the started plants at nurseries. Sweet pepperbush, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, is equally happy in sandy or clay soils and in sun, part shade or shade.
Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii ) grows wild in south central Texas but performs well in gardens across the state. This spreading shrub produces abundant scarlet blooms from late summer to late fall. Its blossoms resemble partially opened hibiscus flowers. An excellent choice for shady sites, Turk's Cap tolerates wet or dry, slightly alkaline, or slightly acidic soils. Attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, the funnel-shaped flowers produce edible fruit known as manzanilla, eaten raw or cooked. Plant seeds where they are to grow 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch deep after the last spring frost.