Plants of the week: Shrubs/Small Trees for Partial to Deep Shade (Carpinus caroliniana, Corylus americana, Itea virginica, Lindera benzoin)

09-07-15 015
Corylus americana (American Hazelnut)

Plants in small treepots for $6 each (3 for $15)

Plants in large treepots for $8 each (3 for $20)

Since this is a hot week, it will be easier to establish plants that like or at least tolerate a fair amount of shade.  Plus all of the plants on sale are in treepots so their roots are already quite deep for an easier transition to a new home.

Carpinus caroliniana (ironwood) is a small tree (up to 30 feet) that is found in the understory of moist woods.  Main attractions are the Fall foliage and the remarkable smooth gray bark with vertical ripples (leading to its other common name of musclewood).  This is a relatively slow-growing tree with dense wood (thus the name ironwood); but it is worth the wait.  (Only available in small treepots.)

Corylus americana (American hazelnut) is a large multi-trunk shrub that can reach 15 feet high.  This extremely adaptable plant can grow in full sun or lots of shade and cares little about soil moisture or fertility.  This is the ultimate low-maintenance plant and it takes up a lot of horizontal space with its branches arching over due to the weight of the developing nuts in Summer.  Very few weeds can grow under its dense shade and it has year-round interest from red foliage in the Fall to male catkins draping its branches in Winter.  Nuts are edible but you will never beat the squirrels to them.  (Mostly in large treepots.)

Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire) is a relatively small shrub (about 6 feet tall) that grows in moist shade.  Fragrant white flower spikes attract pollinators in early Summer and gold to red leaves provide Fall appeal.  This plant can form colonies from rhizomes so it is most easily managed if it is given some room to roam.  Caution: deer have been known to munch on this plant.  (Only available in large treepots.)

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) is a large shrub/small tree that generally produces a single trunk and reaches a height of 15 feet.  Small yellow flowers in early Spring make this an important pollinator plant for native bees waking up from winter slumber.  Male and female flowers are produced on separate plants so only the female plants produce the red berries.  All plants are started from seeds collected in James River Park (under a strict permit) to promote genetic diversity so I have no idea of the sex of any plant.  Plant three and you will have a 7 in 8 chance of having at least one female that will produce berries.  (Only available in small treepots.)

For more pictures and information, consult the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora ( or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (

Due to the pandemic, sales are by pre-order only with contact-free pick-up/payment.  To order, send an email to:

The complete plant list can be viewed here:…/RCE%20Plant%20List%202020.docx…

Stay safe.


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