Plants for Shade

  Shady areas present a challenge when it comes to what to plant. Books, magazines and TV all make it look so easy, when in reality getting plants to grow in the shade can be tricky. The saying "the right plant in the right place" comes true, especially when planting into a shady area.  

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

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.

Plants for Dry Shade

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 will lighten the shadier areas.  Pulmonaria, another ground cover plant, will tolerate shade if it is not too dry, which can make the plant prone to mildew. 

Vinca, illustrated above center, with its lovely purple flowers will grow and scramble over a dry shady area.

Plants for Damp Shade

Following this link for Plants for Damp Shade ideas such as:

Fritillaria meleagris






Good plants for General Shady areas


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


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  is a Clematis favourite and early flowering. C. montana is vigorous and tolerant of partial shade. The lovely variety illustrated is 'Elizabeth'  with the benefit of vanilla scented flowers.


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


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 ofcommon Ivy and Cotoneaster horizontalis can make a bright wildlife friendly combination.


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 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 fronds unfurl and also grouped together, as illustrated, these are shuttlecock ferns.

A Shade-loving plant which is a magnet for bees and pollinators

Many bee friendly plants need to be grown in full sun but Persicaria amplexicaulis is an exception preferring damp soil and semi-shade.

Honey bees are all over this Persicaria as the short video shows. If you are planting into damp soil, pond margins or a bog garden and want to attract pollinators, take a look at Persicaria.

Last updated 22.02.2022