Create Cool Shade With This Easy Plant

Cool Shade With Fast-Growing Plants

At my last house, I had a big patio that was a really nice place to sit outdoors and relax during the Texas heat … but it wasn’t always that way.

The patio is located on the southwest corner of the house, where it gets direct sun all afternoon long. Without any shade, the entire patio used to get extremely hot. So, for several months each summer, the patio was basically useless except for during the early morning.

I thought about adding a permanent roof, but that would have been expensive. It also would have prevented the south side of the house from getting sun during the winter, when the sunshine is actually nice to have.

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The Problem Is the Solution

With just a little resourcefulness, and a few cattle panels, I was able to come up with the perfect solution.

There’s an important permaculture that says “the problem is the solution.” With that in mind, I was able to find a great use for that unwanted sunshine, ensure that the patio would still get plenty of sun in the winter … and even score a little extra food, to boot. Check it out:

The Unique Benefit of Deciduous Plants

Deciduous plants are uniquely useful because of their leaf-dropping behavior. They have lush foliage during the spring and summer, which provides cool shade.  Then they drop those leaves during the fall, and have little (if any) foliage during the winter.

It seems like the most basic thing, but it can be really important when you’re looking for ways to provide shade for part of the year but allow sunlight through for another part of the year.

On that patio, a grapevine turned out to be the perfect solution. Grapevines provide heavy shade during the hottest part of the summer, and lose their leaves when the weather turns cold. (I could have gotten the same spring/summer cooling effect with an evergreen vine, but I would have missed out on the warming sunlight on the south wall of my house during the winter.)

So put a little thought into your plant choices, especially on the south and west sides of your house. The same ideas that apply to my old grapevine also apply to the trees you plant near your home. And of course, bonus points if you can find a plant that also gives you something to eat (or drink)!


(This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on July 27, 2016.)

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This post was written by Marjory Wildcraft


  • tuffy says:

    by the way, Marjorie-
    one of the amazing things about grapes is that they are NOT a plant that likes or needs fertilizer–or even much water at all after the first year.
    you’re almost wasting the compost and wetness/water on this vine; it will produce more and sweeter fruit with less water and less compost. also, you want the roots to reach down for water, not stay near the surface, so watering it, isn’t a great idea, if you also want drought tolerance. it’s the big mistake most of California has done with their grapes.
    France does not allow irrigation for their grapes and they have grape vines with roots as deep as 50 ft or more…one farm reported 80 ft roots!

  • Lisa says:

    What variety of grape is that? I have a Shrank Mustang Grape planted on a gazebo and it has grown like crazy but with very little grapes. It is the only variety that I have been able to keep alive in Abilene Texas. Thanks for your videos and information. Lisa

  • Lisa says:

    what about on the East side of a house? We can’t plant trees because the septic is very close to the house. ( 1920’s)

  • Evelyn says:

    Hey Lisa! I am in Abilene, Tx too! I feel your pain! We had the most wonderful sweet, red grapes, about 4 yrs ago! But, we haven’t tried again…some, nasty white flies ate them up! Anyway, just had to comment when I saw Abilene! God bless! Evelyn

  • GB says:

    Grapes would be wonderful – when I bought my house there was a wild grape growing along side the patio; oh yes, it grows and grows! As wild grapes would have it though, there is usually no fruit on 🙁 Last year I had 5 little grapes, what a surprise! this year there seem to be another 4, still green. On the west side I let the poke weed grow, makes wonderful shade and just takes some pruning to keep it from going crazy.

  • Sarah says:

    Another tip! If you have over the amount of needed foliage, pull off a few leaves for dinner! Boil in a bit of lemon juice, stuff and roll. We stuff ours with a mix of veggies and rice and boil them up with some garlic, broth and carrots. Yum yum! Homegrown stuffed grape leaves!

  • Tyrena says:

    Yes. I’m in Texas as well. What kind of grapes are these?

  • Bob says:

    I am in San Angelo Texas and I understand about not much productivey with grapes, but I think that most of my trouble comes from not much watering. At least in the first year, the plants start out doing ok when the spring rains come and I keep watering. So I believe that water is the main problem especialy the first year. I may be wrong, but this is what I have observed.

  • Scott Sexton says:

    We love our muscadine arbor. Its makes a nice transition from the kids’ play area to the garden areas. It’s shady and cool, and it helps to blocks out noise from the road.

  • caylac says:

    You’re right about those grapes and shade. I have one on the east side of my house that’s over 30′ long along the top of my 6′ fence and it hangs to the ground. Another shader is Kiwi. I have 2 8′ tall hog panels, for 4’8″ wide, attached to my eave. The Kiwi vines go up about 11′ and hang over back down about 7′. It’s like a tunnel walking through it and it’s just wild looking with all the knarly vines. 4 separate plants spread out over the 8′. And another plant is mirliton or chayote. I’m trying to get mine reestablished but for years I would make like a giant spider web from my fence where it was growing to cover my entire back yard. It would get like one giant canopy. I even had it going about 12′ up my oak tree and the vines would climb up to well over 20′ up. This thing would produce over 100 fruit every fall for 10 years.

  • Marjory Wildcraft says:

    Hy Caylac,
    those are some awesome suggestions for alternatives. I’ve heard you should build a really strong arbor for kiwi’s – they totally dominate 🙂

  • ssvas108 says:

    I have used hops and clematis (2 varietis) for the same purpose. My grapes are on the opposite side. Good to know about less water for the grapes.

    Keep up the good work, Marjorie!

  • gennywu says:

    I live in California and my grapes are just beginning to turn red – beautiful 2 foot long bunches of jewels. They bring me joy every time I go out to the garden. What a great choice for shade next to a sitting area.

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