I'm trying to find the right mix of plants between the walkway and the exterior wall of the house as you can see in the picture below. There are a few palm trees so there is not a lot of direct light falling in this spot.

The previous homeowner had planted a couple of rose bushes (center) that I don't mind getting rid of - they're alive but that's about it. The other two on the side are either dead (rightmost) or almost dead with a few leaves (leftmost).

I'm in USDA hardiness zone 10b / Sunset climate zone 23. I'd like to replace these with a set of plants that: - would work in the shade - have some color - waterwise / somewhat drought tolerant

Maybe a mix of some taller plants at the back with some smaller ones (like the moses-in-the-cradle I saw at HomeDepot) in the wider spots in front?

I tried looking at colorful, drought-tolerant plants online but I don't have a green thumb so not sure how easily they would take, care needed etc.

Any recommendations are greatly appreciated!

area under consideration


Edit: The 'drought-tolerant' is a nice to have, the watering schedule is currently set up for 2-3x a week. So as long as the plants don't require a lot of water, that would be fine.

Edit 2: In response to Stormy's question, here are some more images of the front walkway area. I'm afraid there is no 'yard' (real estate is $$$$ here in southern Cal). Apologies in advance for what is now a very lengthy post

There's 3, maybe 4 areas we will "update" over the next year or two.

Image A: This is from the house looking out to the street. The area outlined on the left is where we hope to put Hibiscus or Hibiscus + Bougainvillea next spring. Purpose is to also form a barrier as my next-door neighbor has an overgrown/unkept backyard and does the bare minimum in the front to keep the HOA off his back. At the same time, the wife likes Hibiscus flowers so dual purpose.

There's the area on the right that was covered earlier.

Image B: Same view but from the other side, for a close up of some the plants in the front left.

Image C: Close up of the center area. I removed a dead plant from the left, and this is where I'm hoping to put in a Canna tropical. The other side has what seems to be lifeless rose bush.

Image D: The front. As you can see, the previous homeowner allowed the ground cover to take over, either by choice or otherwise. Not against the ground cover but I have not yet seen those two small bushes flower. (Maybe they do so in early spring, as they look exactly the same since we bought the place)

Image E: Close up of the last bit. There's a succulent, a hydrangea that is peeking out from the back, some tall grass that needs to be cleared up :) and etc.

In a nutshell, I'm open to ripping most of these out over the next couple of years and putting in something that works, looks cohesive but at the same time is colorful & leafy/tropical.

I realize this may be a bigger question than what's possible to answer easily, hence recommendations for any one area is appreciated as well.

I am hoping to take on one area at a time (side of the house, center, and neighbor), wait until it settles and survives and then move on.

Thanks for reading till the end!

image A

image B

image C

image D

image E

  • What is the plant in pic B that looks as if its trailing or spreading from next door? Can't tell ,but it looks like ivy, is it? It's just next door to the area you've marked in red. And is the whole space as shady as it looks - it appears to have very low light levels indeed - what are the trunks we can see, can't see the topgrowth? They're what's creating more shade...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 10:45
  • Not sure, but it does look like ivy. The trees are king palms. The area is not in direct sunlight, but there is indirect light in morning and late afternoons. More pics: imgur.com/a/ihDv8 (cloudy day today)
    – seekay
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 18:30
  • Please see updated answer below...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 11:33

4 Answers 4


Depends how big the whole area of the yard is whether you stick to one plant only or not - I wouldn't, I'd use probably 3 different plants planted in groups of at least 3 or more, depending on the ultimate size of the plants chosen. It won't be easy to achieve the layered effect you want with planting because the border looks to be quite narrow, and particularly narrow in the middle part, where the paving curves. It's probably best to stick to group planting along the area.

The Rhoeo spathacea 'tricolor' in the photo (your Moses in the Cradle) should work there, though it does colour better with some sun - I suspect it would go quite plain green in full shade. Liriope is definitely one to consider - common name Lily turf - there are variegated leaf versions available such as L. muscari 'variegata' or L. 'Silvery Sunproof', and it produces short stems with lilac flowers.

Chlorophytum cormosum (Spider plant) would be good, but it doesn't like to dry out all the time, so that might mean it's not a good choice if you can't keep it watered as necessary.

Brachyglottis 'Sunshine' might work (sometimes still called Senecio greyi or Brachyglottis greyi) - I'm just not sure whether it would cope with the temperatures in Zone 10b - it does grow in other parts of California up to Zone 9b, so might be worth risking. If you risk planting this one, it gets taller than any of the others I'm mentioning here, with a similar spread (can be clipped or shaped once or twice a year to make it rounded if you want), so care should be taken when positioning it. Responds very well to trimming, shaping and hard pruning. Its grey foliage would make a good backdrop for that purple leaved Phormium or Cordyline I can just see the edge of, bottom right in the photograph...


In light of the new set of photographs you've posted, and your suggested plantings, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I doubt any of these will work. The area is shady - bougainvillea, for instance, needs a minimum of 5 hours direct sunlight to flower successfully, and it needs a framework to climb or be tied to, so I'm wondering what you were thinking of supplying for that. Second, the ivy next door is a big problem - in Photo A, you show a new bed outlined in red where you're thinking of planting Hibiscus of some variety and the Bougainvillea - if you open up the ground there and plant into it, the ivy will spread into that in a heartbeat - its likely the roots are already encroaching under the 'grass' or lawn or whatever it is that's already there. Planting anything in that area will not 'keep back' any growth from next door, its topgrowth will continue its inexorable invasion unless it meets a solid object, when it'll climb up it (if its actually Ivy).

Equally, Cannas prefer full sun, or about 5/6 hours in hotter climates, and won't do at all well in no sun conditions, plus I doubt there's much root room to add anything at the base of the King Palm shown in Pic C, you'd need to try to dig around a bit, gently, to see how much 'free' soil there is available - there may be hardly any, which means you can only put very small plants in there.

Really, the only way forward is to look at shade planting exclusively - the roses need to come out, they'll never do any good with such low light levels. Nearer the front of the property, there is certainly more ambient light, but you have said there isn't really any direct sunlight even there for any length of time, which means that choosing shade lovers is probably the best way forward. One other option to consider is removing the King Palms IF that means some sun will reach the area - by doing that, you change the conditions and can then consider other plants. It does, though, seem almost criminal to remove them - I can't see the tops so don't know how attractive and healthy the foliage is, but the trunks in themselves are things of beauty. Note that your King palms like neutral to acid soil conditions, so you can assume that's what your soil's like there if they're growing healthily.

  • Thanks - will look into these! Not tied to the layered effect, or to the Rhoeo spathacea 'tricolor'. Watering schedule is currently set up for 2x a week (could go upto 3 if needed), so the plants don't need to go without water for much longer than that.
    – seekay
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 21:15
  • Great photos Seekay...give us a few more days. I can easily see tearing up your...lawn in the shade and enlarging those beds. So many great, tropical plants to suggest! Thanks, takes lots of information to responsibly suggest how to improve a landscape! Is this a north facing entrance and in shade most of the day?
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 22:34
  • Lol - yes, after this works out tearing that front lawn out is maybe next! This is in part sun - there's somewhat of a canopy due to the King Palms and a neighbor's tree but not enough to cause complete shade. This is a WNW facing entrance.
    – seekay
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 1:03
  • Bamboo, thanks for the detailed answer. Removing the king palms is not an option, they add a lot to the curb appeal.
    – seekay
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 22:21
  • Sorry, hit 'enter' mistakenly... Removing the king palms is not an option, they add a lot to the curb appeal and even otherwise would be almost criminal as you mention. I guess my photos don't do enough justice. There are a few spots with 2-4 hrs of direct sun, but yes the rest are more in the shade. I was considering putting some plumeria or hawaiian Ti in the sunny spots and then bromeliads (have to check if there are shade-tolerant varieties) and some other foliage with color (again, shade tolerant + USDA zone 10b or sunset zone 23). Thanks.
    – seekay
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 22:35

Ornamental peppers would look pretty good there, I think, and they should be perennials in your zone. They would require more water and care than many options, but you could get fruit, too. Chinese 5 Color, Medusa and Black Pearl are a few example varieties of ornamentals. Not all ornamental peppers are said to taste great, but some of them (including Chinese 5 Color) should taste fine.


You definitely need a 'foundation' or 'skeleton' plant. Too many different plants ruin a landscape. Plan on chosing ONE plant and planting the entire space...The 'Moses in the cradle' if it works in shade...you'd need a minimum of 12. I'd also pull all the little foo foo plants that aren't working for you. I need to check on your zone (have never had the priveledge to garden in heaven!) so I could give you more choices. Home Depot is not the best place to purchase plants!! I'd go to a bigger nursery, possibly even a wholesale nursery. Others on this site might have more experience with your zone...do not go crazy with different plants! This is your front door (I think) and a professional (such as moi) would plant ONE SPECIES for this space! Homeowners always make the mistake using too many types of plants and your landscape will suffer in composition, energy to maintain and drive you crazy...

Liriope is a great choice by Bamboo. Acanthus mollis or Bear's Breech for shade/partial shade. For the sun, Crocosmia...either red or yellow. You need a ground cover that will be consistent and one or two other cool plants for seasonal interest. Once again, from a professional and from an artistic viewpoint...one or two or three plants that THRIVE is spectacular. Anymore for this area you'd better be into maintenance and know your plants to have curbside appeal.

Here are a few other great, tried plants to consider: Ligularia, Heleborus, Hosta, oh! Gunnera would be a super specimen plant!!

  • I would like to have a group of a few different plants, rather than the same species - if possible. However, I agree that I don't want to go crazy. I do plan to go to a nursery, but some of the bigger ones here don't provide 'help', which is why I wanted to narrow down/select a few before I go there. The smaller ones are helpful, but pricier. (Home Depot was mostly to get an idea about potential plants, definitely not purchasing from there). Thanks!
    – seekay
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 18:06
  • Okay...you do need a unifying plant. Something evergreen for sure. Pretty tight space I see in your photo. Imagine a healthy, thick carpet a foot thick. If you could send a picture to show your entire landscape at your front door (?) I could help with a few suggestions you could actually mix. To do one type of planting on one side of the sidewalk IS NOT GOOD. Should be some of same plants planted on the right side of that walk. Perhaps ONE Taxus baccata 'Repandens' on left with a few more on the right...please send a picture showing your front entrance in entirety...
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 18:55
  • Gotcha. Will take a few more pictures and post first thing tomorrow along with what I had in mind so as to give the whole picture.
    – seekay
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 23:04
  • Bamboo's recommendations are great...newly planted plants will need more attention to water to get them established. Do NOT rely on 2X per week! Senecio greyii is one of my favorites...very hardy even in Seattle, WA. Needs a bit more sun, but this color of grey works so very well to tie all together and compliment greens/colors. I like what you've got, wish I could convince you that there is far more 'bang' with massings of one species rather than all kinds of 'fireworks' going on all of the time. Amazing that it is Home Depot that gives more service!! Stay in touch...!
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 20:44
  • Nah, HD doesn't provide service either but its small enough that I can walk around and just get inspiration. So far I haven't gotten any - no surprises there.
    – seekay
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 1:05

How fun! First I would like to know what kind of feel are you going for?

I have an extensive list of flowers that would work perfectly for you area but want to know what you are looking for. I know several off the opt of my head that would work perfectly with your watering schedule.

Which colors do you prefer? Are you wanting a rustic feel? An adobe feel? An herbal feel? More perennials? Annuals? Bird/bee attractants? Take a look at some of my displays if you need to get an idea for answers to these questions. I live for this kind of stuff so if you want help I'm all in. Once you get back to me with some of this info I can sketch you out a simple idea chart (ALWAYS USE ONE WHEN PLANNING!). You won't have to follow it to the letter but it will help you get a better idea for what you can do and how it will look. We will take into consideration the maximum growing range, the sun preferences and such so that you can plan accordingly.

  • Couldn't view your displays, sorry - seems LinkedIn doesn't like it when we "don't know anyone in common" :). Since I made the original post, it seems I'm more inclined towards a tropical/leafy feel with perennials and ideally a few flowering plants through summer/late summer. Bird attractants would be fine, not sure about the bees since this is along the walkway to my front door.
    – seekay
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:23
  • Seekay...do not ever worry about bees! Rare to be allergic and bees ARE CRITICAL for our survival...every single one needs to be protected and...well, honored?!! They are not aggressive, very much fun to watch and flowers are secondary to healthy green vegetation that is primarily shaded. Another green evergreen/filler that thrives in shade is Sweet Box, very fragrant, dark green, fine texture. Plant flowering perennials among this carpet so there is always something growing vigorously to hide spent perennials...or annuals such as Impatiens!
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 20:53

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