A Shady Character: Rose-of-Sharon

If your garden is mostly a shady one, then you certainly don’t want to plant a sun-loving large shrub or small tree into a shade garden, do you? Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a 9 to 12 foot tall small tree that is a mainstay in sunny Southern gardens.

Move Rose-of-Sharon into shade, and you will be rewarded with mid-summer blooms when not much else is flowering in the woodland garden. It is covered for weeks in mid-summer with hibiscus-like flowers that are hummingbird attractors.

'Meehanii' by Rita Mercer

Uses in the Shade Garden
Not ordinarily a shade lover, Rose-of-Sharon mingles beautifully in my garden with rhodendron, azalea, hellebores and ferns. It will not grow as big nor as full as the Rose-of-Sharon you have in sunnier conditions, but it acclimates beautifully into shady conditions. Look for Rose-of-Sharon cultivars like ‘Meehanii’ that has variegated foliage or double-blooming varieties that look like large carnations. Solid-white blooms are found on ‘Diana,’ which is sterile and will not produce seeds.

How to Grow
Growing best in moist, well-drained soil, Rose-of-Sharon will tolerate a wide variety of soils and will also tolerate drought. Watch out for invasive seedlings (not a problem in my shade garden) or plant the sterile cultivars. Japanese beetles love this shrub but happily, the beetles do not migrate to the shady border.

Rita Mercer gardens under majestic oaks in Apex, NC. Contact her for shade-gardening advice or take a virtual tour of her garden at

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