Regional Picks: Color in the Shade – Southeast

Fine Gardening - Issue 147



Variegated pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’)

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide

Conditions: Morning sun and afternoon shade; moist soil

My first encounter with this bright cultivar was in a private garden near Auburn, Alabama, where it appeared to glow in the late afternoon. Though it is a tree, variegated pagoda dogwood is shrublike in habit, with multiple stems and horizontal branching. The variegation is best when grown in morning sun and afternoon shade; the leaves may scorch in strong afternoon sunlight. The warmer the climate, the more shade the plant needs.


Red spider lily (Lycoris radiata)

Zones: 7 to 10

Size: 12 to 20 inches tall and 1 foot wide

Conditions: Partial shade; fertile, well-drained soil

Red spider lily’s brilliant red flowers remind me of an azalea’s ball truss. Blooms fade quickly in hot weather, but a higher degree of shade helps them last a while longer. Depending on where it grows in the Southeast, red spider lily blooms from early September to mid-October. After the bloom stalks fade away, foot-long, strap-shaped leaves emerge and last through winter. Red spider lily is an heirloom bulb that is easily passed from hand to hand. Replant offsets as the leaves die in spring.


Hardy begonia (Begonia grandis and cvs.)

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 2 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Conditions: Partial shade; fertile, well-drained soil

I would find it hard to be without hardy begonia, which sports pink or white blooms from midsummer to frost. The leaves on my plants have a red underside, but I have also seen selections with completely green leaves. Hardy begonia is a gentle invader, so new plants pop up in dif­ferent places each year. How these bulblets move many yards away from their parent plant never ceases to amaze me. They often find the perfect spot between hostas and ferns, looking more at home than they did in my original planting locations.


Paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)

Zones: 8 to 10

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Morning sun and afternoon shade; fertile, well-drained soil

Paper bush is an exquisite March bloomer. Butter yellow and white blooms, borne in clusters, are pendant on the end of almost every stem for weeks, and they don’t brown during cold snaps. Paper bush is especially fragrant on warm spring days. Its leaves are dark green though summer and tan in fall. Though it’s officially hardy to Zone 8, I know of several plantings in Zone 7 that are more than 10 years old.


Parker Andes is the director of horticulture at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

Photos: Joshua McCullough/; Courtesy of The Biltmore Company; Doreen Wynja; Bill Johnson

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