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Your Shade Garden in the Redwoods

What to Plant?


By Brandon Parker, CFII

Why does your garden near the redwoods always end up looking like a dusty road in a spaghetti western? Imagine if you could make that shade spot shine – lush like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon! I will reveal 15 prime plants that thrive under redwoods!



If you live in the shade, you know it. Dank and dark. Towering redwood giants laughing at your attempts to plant. Your plants have serious competition. redwoods are selfish. They steal all the sun for themselves. Don’t go hacking hunks off your redwoods to let light in. Leave your ax…at least until you finish this article. Read on for local plants that love shade.

Lots O’ Leaves and Acidic Soil

It’s raining leaves. Pitter patter soft, but constant. Never ending debris. Floating…stacking… biodegrading… redwood leaves fall relentlessly. This means two things for your plants: Redwood builds up on plant leaves. Only the rugged rascals survive. Lilies get buried. Second, the plants you plant must love acid. Legions of leaves decomposing makes the soil acidic. My list has plants that live in acidic soil.

Root Competition

Redwood roots run reckless. Wide and shallow. They tangle, greedy for moisture at the surface. It’s a battle for survival. On one side, a 500-year old monster with mangled roots that survived the ’82 storm. On the other side, a baby potted plant being set in the soil to compete. Ahhh…poor little plant doesn’t stand a chance. You must choose carefully or your precious plant will get pummeled.

Here’s a couple tactics to combat root warfare!

Plant in a mound of mulch. This lets new plants set roots. Dress with wood-chips to hold moisture. This gives a fresh start with nutrients and water. Let your plant get established before they start fighting the big boys. If you’re feeling fancy, put your shade garden on a drip hose with a timer. The redwood roots can’t drink all the water.

Now we understand the environment. I’ll recommend plants that fit. Main concept: Work with nature or get wrecked. Shade gardens take strength, but satisfy. You could be a legend on your road with a garden in your grove! Learn from Bruce Lee’s teacher, Ip Man:

“Long, preserve yourself by following the natural bends of things and don’t interfere. Remember never to assert yourself against nature; never be in frontal opposition to any problems, but control it by swinging with it.” 

In plant lingo: Under redwoods, no roses. The proper plants prosper in acidic soil and shade.

Plant Near the Redwood

Redwood Sorrel

Redwood Violet


Sword Fern

Deer Fern

Plant 10′ From the Redwood

Pacific Bleeding Heart

California Wax Myrtle

Pacific Rhododendron

Japanese Forest Grass

Black Mondo Grass

Five Finger Fern

Autumn Fern

Wild Ginger

Douglas Iris



The 2nd Annual Village Wash Community Garden is running strong! We had a great grand opening and got a new fence. More to come! Keep an eye on Steve Maurer’s tomato plants. I saw them get almost 10′ tall last year. Katie, Karen, and I are doing Spring Cleaning at the laundromat. Drop in, drop off your dirty wash and go enjoy your day. You deserve it Boulder Creek. Happy Spring. See you at the laundromat.

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