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Shade Plants for California

California is known for its sensational sunshine and, subsequently, its great gardening. But if your yard happens to be shady, you still can grow a wide variety of plants from ornamental grasses to verdant shrubs. When you select your plants, make sure they can tolerate your kind of shade (for instance, partial or full), and put them near plants that have the same water needs.

Ground Cover

Try wood strawberry (Fragaria californica) for a productive ground cover that produces lovely green leaves, white blossoms and edible fruit. The strawberries are small but bursting with sweetness. This plant, also known as California strawberry, likes well-draining soil and light watering. It spreads by runners and adds decorative charm around stepping stones in a shade garden.

Ornamental Grass

Get color and height in your shade garden with an ornamental grass such as Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis arundinacea brachytricha). It can grow up to 3 feet tall, and features rich green foliage that turns yellow in autumn. In late summer, it blooms with pinkish flowers. This grass likes well-draining, moist soil and light shade. It looks especially handsome grown in groups.


If you enjoy elegant clusters of flowers that last quite a while, plant a shrub such as cream bush (Holodiscus discolor). Its leaves are light green and its blossoms are cream color when they appear in late spring and summer. The flowers turn to a chocolate brown and last through winter. Cream bush, also called ocean spray, enjoys partial shade and usually grows up to 5 feet tall. It does best in well-draining soil that's kept slightly moist.

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