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Plants for Shaded Areas in the garden 

Many plants will grow in shady areas of the garden - some with quite spectacular flowers. Shaded areas can be bought to life - if you use the right plants.

Shade from house walls can mean either dry or damp, depending upon which aspect of the wall. North facing will be cold and often damp, whereas the South facing wall will normally be dry - for summer at least.   

For summer bedding plants, you cannot beat the ordinary Busy Lizzie (Impatiens) for shaded areas - and they don’t come much prettier than that.

Helleborus orientalis -  Where I used to live, there is a mature Cedar tree - under which is ‘permanent shade’- but lightened up with a lovely selection of Helleborus orientalis. The flowers start from February into March - just when you need a bit of colour, after a long winter.

You may also be interested in Climbing Plants for Shade

For dry shaded areas you can also try some of the Epimediums - especially Epimedium perraldianum and also some of the Lamiums , (with these you get the benefit of pretty flowers and also pretty leaves).



Pulmonarias (L) are also suitable for a good flower show in the spring - followed by spectacular foliage on some varieties. Liriope muscari and the Bergenias will also do well.

Rhododendrons (M) and Azaleas will also flourish if allowed just a little dappled light. Azalea mollis is a fine deciduous Azalea for woodland and shaded areas.

Eythronium - the Dogs Tooth Violet - has a number of varieties which are suitable for dry shaded areas. The image above shows Erythronium grandiflorum (R)                           

For damp shade areas, The King Cup (Calatha palustris) makes a good show in the early spring - so do some of the primulas such as the new ‘Wanda’ types. Hostas of course - but do watch out for slugs. Monardas (Bergamots) are also worthy of a place. If it is not too damp, then the Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia) is also a must. This will also do quite well in a dry situation. For something quite spectacular in early spring, treat yourself to one of the many Camellias .

Tiarella cordifolia                    Camellia Debbie                       Hosta Honeybells

Best Bedding Plants for Shaded Areas

  • Impatiens - the Busy Lizzies are amongst the best flowering annuals for shaded places - even though normally planted in full sun.
  • Begonias are happy in light shade, but will live ok in deep shade - if kept watered. There is a wide range of begonias available, from the normal fibrous rooted bedding plants to those that are started from corms. All are happy in shaded garden spots.
  • Pansies and small flowered Violas are suited for light shade.
  • Polyanthus and others of the Primula family - especially the Primula Wanda types.
  • Asters - the bedding types not the Michaelmas Daisies.
  • Antirrhinum are suited for dappled shade.
  • Nemesia will grow quite happy in shade.
  • Bellis Dasies will grow in shade if moist.
  • Diascia will tolerate light shade.

Perennial Plants for Shade

The herbaceous and other Perennials are the best range of plants for shaded places in the garden. For many of them, it is their natural habitat. Some will do equally well in full sun or quite heavy shade.  All of the hardy garden ferns are also suited to varying degrees of shade.

 In this group we will also list the few biennials that regularly re-seed themselves, so for practical purposes can be classed as perennials - even if not right botanically. The best example of which being digitalis - Foxgloves.

  • Acaena - mainly for foliage - but some attractive flowers also - Acaena 'Kupferteppich'.
  • Acanthus - Bear's Breeches for dappled shade - will withstand dry conditions.
  • Achillea millifolium types will grow in light dappled shade - though prefer sun
  • Ajuga reptans - Bugle. The perennial ground coverer.
  • Alchemilla mollis the Ladies Mantle - Alchemilla alpina to a lesser extent.
  • Alstroemeria in light or dappled shade. The main problem being their tendency to lean towards any light that is available.
  • Anemone blanda and Anemone sylvestris. The shorter japonicas will also tolerate dappled shade.
  • Aquilegia are reasonable happy in light shade.
  • Arum italicum Marmoratum with its marbled leaves makes for good shade plant.
  • Astilbes will grow in shade if dry soil - but sun if moist soil.
  • Astrantia is well suited to dappled shade.
  • Bergenia in light shade - kept moist.
  • Brunnera microphylla - a good stunning blue for light shade.
  • Campanula - especially Campanula lactiflora. The low growing ones less so.
  • Centaurea Cornflowers in Light Shade.
  • Cimcifuga in light or dappled shade.
  • Convallaria - Lily of the Valley - Happy in a shaded spot - if moist as well so much better.
  • Crocosmia are quite happy in light or dappled shade - dry at that.
  • Cyclamen hardy types such as Coum hybrids and C. hederifolium.
  • Dicentra - not just the Bleeding Heart, but there are good foliage and flowering types that are happy in dry light shade - such as Dicentra Luxuriant and Dicentra 'Stuart Boothman'.
  • Dictamnus is ok for light shade.
  • Digitalis - The Foxgloves are superb in dappled or light shade.
  • Doronicum - Leopard's Bane - is a good bright yellow for light or dappled shade.
  • Epimediums are good in woodland type shade.
  • Eranthis give a good start to the year in light shade.
  • Erythronium - all varieties (There are many) are food in woodland or other light shade.
  • Filipendula ulmaria and others in woodland shade.
  • Gentians are quite ok in light moist shade. Gentiana asclepiadea almost anywhere but darkest areas. 
  • Geraniums - Most are tolerant of shade - especially if on the dry side.
  • Hacquetia - different! Happy in partial shade.
  • Hedychium - in dappled or light shaded areas.
  • hellebores - Helleborus orientalis are happy in light or heavy shade.
  • Hemerocallis will tolerate light woodland shade.
  • Heuchera - the group grows by the day it seems. All varieties ok in dappled light shade.
  • Hostas - Go plant them but watch out for slugs. Dappled rather than dense shade.
  • Leucojum vernum - The Spring Snowflake or Snowpake is a better bet than snowdrops in shade.
  • Lysimachia especially L. punctata - happy in shade.
  • Meconopsis - not easy but worth it if you can grow. Woodland shade.
  • Mimulus are fine in dappled light shade. Moist soil helps.
  • Muscari - superb in dappled shade.
  • Nepeta - all types happy in light shade.
  • Ophiopogon - the grass-like perennials are fine in light shade.
  • Penstemons are a good show of various colours in light or dappled shade.
  • Persicaria do well in woodland light shade.
  •  Polemonium - Jacob's Ladder is good in dappled shade - especially Polemonium pauciflorum.
  • Pulmonaria - but seems best if in moist soil.
  • Rogersia - Very happy in light or dappled shade - woodlands etc.
  • Rudbeckia fulgida Goldsturm, and others are happy in light shade.
  • Saxifrages - especially the London Pride types are happy in woodland shade.
  • Schizostylis superb autumn flowers in light shade.
  • Sedum spectabilis types ok in light shade - woodland shrub border edge.
  • Smyrnium perfoliatum is a great woodland plant - or light shade. 
  • Symphytum especially tuberosum for ground cover and also Hidcote Blue and Hidcote Pink.
  • Tiarella cordifolia. Good in light or dappled shade areas.
  • Tolmiea - The Pick a back plant - great in light, dappled, or full shade.
  • Trilliums all ok in light and dappled shade
  • Veronicastrum will be happy in woodland shade.

Climbing Plants for Shaded Areas

  • Climbing Hydrangea - Hydrangea petiolaris None better for north facing walls, with cream white flowers and golden yell leaf fall in the autumn.
  • Lonicera Honeysuckle for dappled shade
  • Clematis of all kinds are happy in shade if they can climb up to some sunshine. Clematis armandii has the added advantage of being a shad evergreen.
  • Virginian Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia - has the added advantage of stunning autumn foliage
  • Winter flowering Jasmine nudiflorum - more of a lax shrub than a true climber - but can be trained
  • Solanum - Potato Vines are good - if they can get a little light at the top of trellis, pergola or fence

Shrubs for growing in shade conditions.

  • Aucuba Spotted Laurel
  • Berberis evergreen types are happy in dappled shade.
  • Choisya - all varieties
  • Cotoneasters of all types but low growing the best.
  • Daphne evergreen types.
  • Fatsia japonica - good in light shade.
  • Hydrangeas - the common mop-heads and lacecaps - but not the paniculata or arborecens group. Hydrangea quercifolia does well!
  • Hypericums - rampant in light shade.
  • Jasminum nudiflorum the winter job with yellow flowers is happy in shade.
  • Kalmia latifiolia happy in acidic soil and shade.
  • Pholomis fruiticosa a good silvery foliage for light shade.

Other Areas of specific interest |  Plants for Damp Soil | Plants for Dry Banks | Plants with Yellow Flowers | Plants with Pink Flowers | Plants for Shaded Gardens |


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