Low-light conditions occur under trees, alongside walls and even indoors. Most plants enjoy direct sunlight, but there are plants that prefer low light. For these plants, prolonged exposure to high, direct light causes faded flowers and damage to the foliage. Low-light areas have less water loss and lower temperatures than full-sun areas. Choose plants that grow vigorously and can compete with tall trees and shrubs for nutrients in the soil.
Common Witch Hazel
Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a deciduous tree growing 15 to 30 feet tall. The glossy, dark green leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and turn a bright yellow in the fall. The 1-inch fragrant white and yellow flowers appear in the fall. Common witch hazel likes moist, good-draining soil. The common witch hazel survives extreme cold during the winter.
Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) is a deciduous shrub with an abundance of slender twigs. It grows 3 to 6 feet tall and spreads 10 feet wide. The green, lance-shaped leaves have serrated edges and grow 1 1/2 to 4 inches long. The leaves turn yellow during cold weather in the autumn. In April and May, 1 1/2- to 4-inch bright yellow flowers appear with five petals. The flower color washes out when grown in full sun.
Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) is a deciduous 4- to 8-foot bush with glossy, green leaves that reach 1 1/2 to 4 inches long. This shrub is one of the last plants to leaf out during the spring. The leaves turn pale yellow in the fall. White, pink or rose blossoms produce a spicy fragrance. Black peppercorn-like seeds follow the flowers. The flowers of this upright shrub attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Sweet pepperbush tolerates salt spray and will thrive in coastal conditions.
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a low-growing perennial ground cover that reaches 5 to 12 inches tall. Medium green leaves whirl around the stem in an umbrella fashion. The stems, covered with white flowers, trail over the edge of any container. The blooms appear late spring to summer. The fragrant flowers and leaves give off the scent of newly cut hay. Full sun exposure makes sweet woodruff go dormant and causes the leaves to sunburn.
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a semi-evergreen shrub that dies back in freezing temperature, but stays evergreen in warm climates. This upright bush grows 3 to 6 feet tall, producing clusters of arching branches. The dark green leaves turn mahogany, yellow, orange or red in the cool autumn weather. Lightly fragrant spikes of drooping flower clusters attract butterflies. Virginia sweetspire is drought-tolerant.