What Are The Best Plants For Shady Areas In Your Garden?

Shade gardens present challenges  to most, however they’re really a beautiful opportunity to work with those low light levels to create a stunning outdoor space.

Shady borders may be the most delightful areas of a garden, offering cool contrasts to sunlit plots. And after all, shade is an unavoidable part of gardening.

If the prior homeowners planted many mature trees in order to create privacy – without thinking it through very well – or if you have a north-facing garden (or are looking to brighten up an east-facing wall) as opposed to thinking of shady spots as lifeless voids, there is hope.

How To Select The Best Shrubs For Shade In Your Garden

Select shrubs for year-round interest. This includes blossoms for spring, flowers for summer, berries and vibrant leaf colour for autumn and evergreens for winter. A lot of shady gardens are at their best in spring when bulbs, primroses, wood anemones and hellebores carpet the ground beneath deciduous trees.

Summer shade planting doesn’t often have the same impact.

However, the great news is that there are tough perennials, such as epimediums, ferns, lily of the valley and hardy geraniums, that can provide ground cover and create a backdrop for some of summer’s best shady characters, including the white form of foxglove, martagon lilies, lamiums and Japanese anemones. For the best effect, choose white or pale tones to stand out against the largely green backdrop.


Chiefly a foliage plant, Hostas are perfect for shady gardens that have moist soil. These plants come in various sizes, from as little as four inches to as big as six feet long.

However beware deer, rabbits, slugs, and snails adore these plants. If there are lots of deer who live near where you’re thinking about planting them, you may want to reconsider.

Japanese Forest Grass

Known as Japanese forest grass, this vibrant and deciduous plant thrives in damp shade. It has mounds of cascading leaves. Variegated and golden formats are the most eye-catching and will have the brightest colour in partial shade. Japanese forest grass grows well in pots.

Hydrangea Anomala Subsp. Petiolaris

This low maintenance and self-clinging climber is perfect for shady, north-facing walls or regions with little to no sun.

In midsummer this species of hydrangea bears huge, flattened heads of white flowers contrasting beautifully with glossy green leaves.

Melica Uniflora

Labelled by Beth Chatto as “quietly attractive”, this deciduous native grass grows in woodland, on shady banks and in alkaline soils. It forms upright clumps with stems that bear dainty rice-like flowers. Once established, it will self-seed readily so you can spend more time placing New Zealand bets than gardening.

Hardy Geraniums

This hardy plant does well, even in dry shade. G. endressii and G. x oxonianum can be quite thuggish and self-seed freely. However G. macrorrhizum, G. phaeum and G. versicolor make good ground-cover plants in full or partial shade.