Plants for Under a Blue Spruce

(Question)

Hello! I have a lovely blue spruce in my back yard. Until recently, its lower branches have effectively blocked an uninspiring view when we sit on our patio; however, recently the lower branches have begun losing their needles and dying back (my arborist tells me this is typical for this kind of spruce), so that now we can see the nasty view through the space below the remaining branches. I would like to plant something to fill in this space (about 3′ right now but will likely increase) to again block the view, but am at a loss as to what to use. Of course it is full shade, and very dry. There is a carpet of needles so I think the soil would be acidic. I’m not sure what my options are (besides putting plastic plants in there!) and would be very grateful for any suggestions. Someone has suggested rhododendrons, but I thought they required more water than will be present. Preferable something tall enough to fill up the existing space. Many thanks for any suggestions that you may have! All the best,

(Answer)

Dry shade can be tricky.

I would try to improve the soil in the new planting area at the time of planting or in the fall before planting by adding organic matter . This will not only improve the fertility of the soil but also improve the bed’s ability to hold water.

For a list of plants have a look at our Toronto Master Gardener Guide Perennials for Dry Shade. You will find many choices on our list. I encourage you to look around your neighborhood and note which plants are doing well in other gardens …these are often your best choice.

Good Luck.