Planting Ideas for Shaded Gardens

If, like Nathan James Dodd, you are 'unlucky' enough to have a garden with restricted light, perhaps overshadowed for much of the day by an adjacent building or next to someone who planted leylandii back in the 60s, all is not lost. There are plenty of plants that thrive in the shade. Don't see it as a problem, view it as an opportunity.

Created by David Coton on Thursday, 21st of February, 2013.
Updated on Friday, 28th of August, 2015.


Initially you have to sit on your backyard with a beverage or good book, relax, and watch the sun go round, taking note which areas are in full shade and for how long, or dappled shade at what times etc. You can then match plants that tolerate certain amounts of shade with appropriate locations.

Hosta or Plantain Lily

The classic ground cover perennial for full or part shade. Fully hardy, they will thrive in a rich moist neutral soil offering clumps of attractive foliage. Varying in size from the compact to the very vigorous, many produce elegant flower spikes in mid-summer. The partial shade loving 'Gold Standard' has violet flowers and foliage that turns from green to gold in the summer. With a spread of up to 4ft the 'August Lily' (H. plantaginea) prefers little or no sun and has the most fragrant white flowers in late summer above glossy green leaves. 'Thomas Hogg' with pale violet flowers will do well under a tree canopy.

Ligularia

Another clump forming perennial with striking foliage and tall spiky flowers. They will tolerate a moist semi-shaded environment. 'Gregynog Gold' has heart shaped deep green foliage and orange/yellow flowers from mid-summer. 'Desdemona' is also fully hardy with leathery leaves and vibrant orange flowers. L. przewalskii will be a delight with spires of mustard yellow towering over its dark green leaves.

Mahonia

Preferring shade or semi-shade mahonias are evergreens with yellow fragrant flowers and offer good ground cover. 'Heterophylla' grows to about 3ft with a 5ft spread, has reddish shoots, bright green leaves that turn red / purple in the winter and spring flowers. Also spring flowering, the holly like leaves of 'Undulata' will bronze in the autumn. Mahonia x media 'Buckland' bears fragrant autumn flowers that will last through to early spring as does 'Charity' and other hybrids.

Rhododendron / Azalea

Natural woodland shrubs that like dappled shade and a neutral – acid soil. In a sheltered position their colourful flowers will light up any shady area. Varieties are many and various including compact hybrids suitable for a small garden such as 'Hexe' with striking crimson blooms, 'Curlew' that has funnel shaped yellow flowers, the crimson / purple 'Hatsugiri', 'Alison Johnson' with bell like pink flowers and the white flowering 'Palestrina'.

Skimmia

In a fertile shaded area these evergreen spring flowering shrubs have aromatic foliage and attractive berries. S. japonica subsp. Reevesiana has dark green leaves tapered to about 4ins. and will produce fragrant white flowers followed by red autumn berries. S. Japonica 'Fructo-albo' carries white berries but will need a male plant close by for pollination, perhaps Skimmia × confusa 'Kew Green' which has creamy flowers in April and May.

Dicentra or Bleeding Heart

Fully hardy perennials that do best in semi-shade moist conditions. 'Spring Morning' is small (12ins) plant with grey / green fern like foliage and arching sprays of heart shaped pink flowers. 'Stuart Boothman' is a slightly larger variety with similar flowers and foliage while spectabilis 'Alba' or White Bleeding Heart spreads to around 2ft and has sprays of exquisite white flowers in late spring and summer.

Hardy Geranium

Hardy Geraniums will grow in most soils and are particulalry useful in dry shade. G. phaeum is known as the 'Mourning Widow' with purple / black flowers in the spring. 'Bevan's Variety' is another that does well in dry shade, this semi evergreen cereates a mat of aromatic leaves with purple / pink flowers. Another attractive lilac pink flowered ground cover variety is the Knotted crane's bill (G. nodosum).

Cyclamen

These perennials love the shade and are grown for their beautiful pendant flowers and attractive marbled leaves. They also flower late, so extending the season's colour. C. hederifolium will grow almost anywhere with its pinky white flowers. C. purpurascens is harder to grow and needs a little more moisture but you will be rewarded with the most fragrant pink / reddish purple flowers right up to Christmas. Following on, the maroon and white flowers of C. coum 'Album' start to appear in January above its deep green leaves.

Primula

There are many cultivars suited to full or partial shade, too many to mention here. The early summer flowering P. sieboldii (white, pink and purple) and P. polyneura (pink /purple) will both tolerate full or partial shade, P. verticillata has fragrant yellow flowers and is happy in partial shade along with P. reidii with its pure white clusters in early summer. The many others, tolerant of partial shade and full sun as long as the soil remains moist include 'David Green', 'Garryarde Guinevere' and 'Tawny Port' that has wine coloured flowers in the spring.

Acer

Guaranteeing autumn interest with their deeply beautiful foliage and ornamental bark, Acers will tolerate partial shade in neutral to acid soil. Following clusters of red / purple spring flowers, the leaves of the Japanese Maple turn a magnificent red in the autumn, while the Vine Maple's leaves transform into brilliant orange. Bear in mind though that Acers can grow into sizable trees and may not suitable for a small garden.

Climbers

Finally if you have a wall that is partially shaded and need a climber, there are several that while not feeling totally at home, will tolerate some shade. These include Boston and English Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Honeysuckles that match interesting foliage with fragrant flowers, and even clematises such as 'Carnaby', 'Nelly Moser' and Marie Boisselot'.

Related Articles

GardenSite Donates Prize To Grow Your Own Picnic

GardenSite Donates Prize To Grow Your Own Picnic

As part of a project designed to sow ideas, grow inspiration and cultivate futures, 300 London schools are growing their own picnic this summer and their reward could be a £500 voucher from GardenSite.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Friday, 25th of May, 2018.

Take Your Own Plant Cuttings

Take Your Own Plant Cuttings

Propagating by taking cuttings, whether from your own plants or ones you admire in neighbouring gardens, is a fantastic way of increasing the variety of plants in your own garden free of charge, and all you need are a sharp knife and patience.

Author: David Hall

Written by David Hall.
Published on Monday, 14th of May, 2018.

What To Do In The Garden In May

What To Do In The Garden In May

With the recent hot weather encouraging everyone out into the garden and the threat of frost disappearing during May, David Coton is in no doubt that this is going to be a busy month.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Monday, 30th of April, 2018.

What To Do In The Garden In October

What To Do In The Garden In October

It's autumn and David Coton is getting the garden prepared for the onset of colder weather but, at the same time, the arrival of spring bulbs in the garden centre is a reminder that we should also now be planning ahead for next year.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Monday, 2nd of October, 2017.

comments powered by Disqus

Author

David Coton

Partner at GardenSite

View Profile

RSS

View RSS Feed

Follow Us!

Recent Articles

What To Do In The Garden In November

What To Do In The Garden In November

David Coton suggests that there are plenty of gardening jobs that need to be done in November, from why you shouldn't throw away your fallen leaves to how to take care of your vegetable patch.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Friday, 27th of October, 2017.

New Barlow Tyrie Outdoor Furniture To Celebrate Centenary

New Barlow Tyrie Outdoor Furniture To Celebrate Centenary

In these uncertain times it's reassuring to know that Barlow Tyrie have been designing and manufacturing top quality teak furniture for nearly a century, and they have announced several new ranges to coincide with their one hundredth birthday.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Monday, 14th of October, 2019.

Review of Evika G1 Greenhouses

Review of Evika G1 Greenhouses

I had never heard of Evika Greenhouses but when I walked into our annual Garden & Leisure Exhibition 2019 (GLEE) it was the only product I really saw. A brand new greenhouse brand is always going to get my attention but the sense that this was not only new, but different, kept my focus.

Author: Robert Hall

Written by Robert Hall.
Published on Thursday, 12th of September, 2019.

Planned TV Gardening Programmes 2019

Planned TV Gardening Programmes 2019

There's no doubt that television provides gardeners with inspiration, sound advice and good ideas, that's why we're all looking forward to new programmes and the return of old favourites during 2019.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Tuesday, 13th of February, 2018.