It can be disheartening for a keen gardener to find themselves working with a garden that is partially or completely in the shade, but there are still plenty of beautiful plants for shade that flourish in these conditions.
Figuring out what type of shade you are dealing with is the most important step to growing the best plants for shade in your garden.
- Full shade is found under evergreen trees and hedges, or at the base of north-facing walls, and covers the area for all or most of the day.
- Partial shade allows your plants to be in the sun for part of the day, and dappled shade is blotchy and occurs when the sun must filter through overhead foliage.
It is also crucial to gauge whether your shade is damp or dry when determining which plants for shade can thrive.
A shady garden by no means limits the wonderful plants you can grow, so we’ve picked 10 of the best plants for shade that will look gorgeous in a gloomy patch.
‘Burning Hearts’ or Lamprocapnos spectabilis
This deciduous perennial displays stunning ruby red and white heart-shaped flowers in the late spring until late autumn. It will brighten up a border, take centre stage in a pot or enhance a vase of flowers. The shrub thrives in damp shade, and its optimal planting time is late April.
Beesia calthifolia is a Chinese perennial that remains evergreen in mild conditions. Its foliage is a rich, emerald green and its charming heart-shaped leaves are glossy and veiny, but the most prominent feature of this herbaceous woodlander is its fabulous starry white flowers atop stiff stems. It enjoys partial shade and blooms in spring.
Soleil d’Or or Pyracantha
Pyracantha is a tough and hardy shrub that is tolerant of dry partial shade. It grows in dense evergreen hedges which can be trained against walls as a backdrop to your border. Pyracantha produces zesty yellow berries that are practically illuminated during the autumn months, giving the shrub its pretty nickname ‘Soleil d’Or’.
These modest and low maintenance sweet perennials will protrude from your bed with their tall, feathery plumes and will contrast darker foliage with their pinks, purples and whites. Astilbes favour damp, partial shade, and are attractive as either single plants or as a cluster.
Many berries are included in the best plants for shade, and cherries are one of them. Morello are a type of acid cherry which are too bitter to eat raw, but are delicious when cooked, particularly when made into a jam. They do not need the sun to sweeten them, so can therefore be grown successfully in partial shade. Like the Pyracantha, acid cherries can be trained against north-facing walls and are easy to manage.
Many varieties of ferns prosper in the shade, and the Dryopteris filix-mas is one of them. It enjoys damp shaded areas, and is particularly robust and reliable. The large, deciduous fern has feathery green leaves which fade to bronze in the autumn.
Japanese Anemone or Honorine Jobert
This delightful herbaceous perennial is one of the tallest autumn anemones at 5 foot tall, and its pristinely white petals and golden yellow centres give it an aura of elegance. The Japanese Anemone shines in the shade and prefers a dry environment. They are best positioned in the foreground of forest green foliage as the dark colouring will draw the eye to the bright white flower.
Foxglove or Digitalis purpurea
Potentially a more familiar plant for shade is the classic foxglove. Tall and majestic, their stunning, purple tubular flowers will look fantastic towards the back of your border, allowing for shorter plants to be visible in front. This particular variety, Digitalis purpurea, thrives in light shade (slight shade for all or most of the day) and a cool temperature.
Herbs are a plant for shade during the summer because it prevents the sun from drying out their soil and means they are less likely to bolt into flower, which is desirable if you prefer to grow herbs for cooking. It has a mild, sweet aniseed flavor that complements beautifully soups, sauces, and fish.
Red Trillium or Trillium erectu
This woodland perennial thrives in partial or full shade and damp conditions. It has outward-facing maroon blossoms that bloom in spring but are dormant during the summer, so it is a good idea to plant them alongside other plants for shade.
Sources: gardenersworld.com, theenglishgarden.co.uk, gardeners.com , rhs.org.uk, theguardian.com