Plants for Shade

  Shady areas can present more of a challenge for successful planting. Books, magazines and TV all make it look so easy, when in reality getting plants to grow can be tricky. The saying "the right plant in the right place" comes true, especially when planting into a shady area. To have a good chance of the plant growing well, it must be planted in suitable condition, and shade is an important factor to take into account. 

 The plants on this page, and the various links, are all plants which either prefer shade, or will adapt to growing in it and many are easy to grow. In addition, not specifically listed,  but well worth checking out there are some Roses and Clematis which have been bred to grow well in partial shade by the specialist growers. I have successfully grown a lemon coloured rose in a very shady area in the garden which was purchased from David Austin Roses, and specifically recommended to grow in shade, which it did.  There are many plants which thrive in shade which means the shady areas of the garden can be just as attractive as the sunny borders. Illustrated below are a range of plants and shrubs which will grow well in the shade and another page which looks at plants and shrubs well suited to damp shade.

Most of these plants will tolerate dappled or light shade. More difficult are areas of dense shade and dry shade.

Plants tolerant of dense shade tend to be foliage plants. There are varieties of Hosta which are very shade tolerant. Many ferns will grow in shade and will also tolerate dry shade which can be hard conditions to accommodate. 

Epimedium, a spring flowering low growing ground cover plant is happy in full shade, as is Convallaria majalis, Lily of the Valley.

Dry shade is particularly difficult and it can help to add organic matter to the soil to help it retain water by improving the soil structure. Leaf mould is good to improve structure, and as a mulch to retain moisture.

Plants for dry shade include ferns, Bergenia, Epimedium, Galium odoratum common name Sweet Woodruff which is a nice name but as a plant it can be invasive. Euonymus fortunei is quite tough and the variegation in the leaves would lighten the gloom. Pulmonaria, another ground cover plant will tolerate if it is not too dry which can make the plant prone to mildew. 

Vinca, illustrated above center, with its lovely purple flowers will grown and scramble over a dry shady area.When planting into a dry area it is essential to water to get plants established. 

If the dry shade is created by deciduous trees, many of the spring bulbs will grow well before the leaf canopy forms in late spring.

Good plants for shade

Alchemilla

Alchemilla mollis, tiny flowers make a frothy lime green shade tolerant plant which combines well with many garden plants especially Alliums. Easy to grow, Alchemilla's only drawback is extensive self seeding.

Camellia

Camellia, a spring flowering shrub, will tolerate some shady provided it is planted in ericaceous, that is, acid soil. Lovely shiny leaves and flowers, not easy to grow but great when established. 

Rhododendrons

A  woodland plant, Rhododendrons are shrubs suitable for dappled shade. There are a wide range of colours and Rhododendrons are easy to grow provided they are grown on acid soil. 

Clematis montana 'Elizabeth'

Clematis montana a favourite of the early flowering Clematis. Cl. montana is vigorous and tolerant of partial shade. The lovely variety illustrated 'Elizabeth' is also scented vanilla.

euonymus

This combination lifts a shady corner: Euonymus makes a bright splash of colour in shady areas here teamed up with Aquilegia and yellow scented Rhododendron luteum 

Snowdrop

Snowdrops are another woodland plant and so happy to grow in partial shade. They are also suitable for planting under trees and shrubs. Once established trouble free.

Climbing hydrangea

The Climbing hydrangea is a lovely self clinging deciduous plant which flowers in the spring and is very happy in semi shade. It is easy to grow and quite vigorous. 

Hedera common ivy

Really tough conditions such as dry shade need tough plants and a combination of common Ivy and Cotoneaster horizontalis can make a bright wildlife friendly combination.

Astilbe

Astilbe has lovely feathery flowers in soft shades of pink, red white and flowers in mid to late summer. Easy to grow and shade tolerant.

Hellebores

Hellebores have intricate patterns in their flowers in all shades of white, cream pink red and even lime green. They are great in a woodland garden and easy to grow, self seeders.

Cowslip Primula veris

Primula are happy growing in shady areas and look particularly good planted around shrubs and streams. This is the humble cowslip, our native Primula veris. 

Shuttlecock ferns

Ferns grow well in shade and in  damp areas. Ferns look especially attractive in early spring as the fonds unfurl and also grouped together, as illustrated, these are shuttlecock ferns.

Polygonatum × hybridum Solomon's seal a shade loving herbaceous perennial. Lovely woodland plant generally trouble fee just cut back in the Autumn. 

Vinca minor  lesser periwinkle

 Vinca minor lesser periwinkle tough shade tolerant perennial useful for difficult areas and ground cover. V. minor is a little less invasive than V. major. Lovely luminous blue.

Osmunda regalis common name royal fern a spectacular fern with large brown bracts. Grows large 4m x 2m thrives on damp acid soil and shade. Ideal on pond edge.