While I know it seems a bit impossible, there are some plants that actually love the shade! In fact, once you get to know a few things, you’ll find out that planting up a shaded border, with a dappled light spot in your garden can be exciting!
And the varieties are so wide, you’ll be sorry you didn’t try it before! From evergreen perennials that are constantly blooming all spring and summer long, while keeping their stunning foliage through colder months, to foliage heavy shade-loving plants that are known to add heaps of character, it’s worth decorating your shade garden! These are our favorite choices:
Hosta sieboldiana, a perennial shade plant
Hosta is amazing plants and hardy and herbaceous perennials that will add color and structure to your outdoor space, especially if you have garden borders. This plant is best suited to clay or loamy soils, so it will do well in sheltered spots facing North, but also East and West.
Their leaves are so delightfully variegated and colored, that they’re oftentimes used for flower bouquets too. As you will find out, some types will offer you bell-shaped flowers in the summer months. Please note that this plant requires moist but well-drained soil. Plus, hostas love staying in the shade, and they need only a bit of sun to bring on the color in their leaves.
Rhododendron, an evergreen shade loving plant
This shrub is evergreen and deciduous and has no problem with the dappled sun. During spring, it will reward you with beautiful flowers. While most of these varieties are fully hardy, they need to be protected from cold, drying winds, so it’s not recommended to keep them in the dark shade under a tree.
However, it’s worth noting that not all Rhododendrons are thriving in shade, so it’s worth checking before buying. Those who will go well with a darker environment will offer an evergreen color throughout the whole year, but also beautiful blooms during spring. If you want to learn more about this beautiful plant, check this book.
Lily of the valley, Convallaria Majalis – a fragrant plant
Lily of the valley is one of the most gorgeous additions to flower beds, or simply as a ground cover, and they’re amazing when it comes to maintenance because they don’t need much. This plant loves staying in full shade, so it’s the perfect choice for a north-facing garden.
Plus, it will spread to create a wonderful show of foliage and flowers. The small and delicate bell-like flowers have one of the richest and nicest scents ever. I have to admit that this is by far my favorite flower. There’s nothing that lets you know better that summer is about to come than Lily of the valley!
Brunnera “Alexander’s Great”, Brunnera Macrophylla – a perennial border shade plant
Brunnera “Alexander’s Great”, also known as Siberian Bugloss, is a hardy, very resilient plant that grows perfectly in shady conditions. It’s pretty famous for its cool-green leaves, and shoots of sky-blue flowers that bloom every spring.
Brunnera needs to be watered regularly throughout the summer until you fully make sure that the soil is very well-drained, moist, and fertile. If you have drier soils, you can also use manure or homemade compost. Brunneras also feel very good at the front of a garden border, but also as ground cover. If you’re passionate about making flower bouquets, you should definitely try adding a Brunnera leaf!
Vinca Major “Maculata” – a wonderful shade plant for ground cover
Vinca is also called periwinkle, and it’s an excellent plant to grow in that area of your garden that is completely shady. It has a low-growing habit that makes it ideal as ground cover, and its pretty violet-blue flowers will add a lot of interest, which is ideal if you have a sloped garden, or a cottage garden setting too.
Vinca needs to be watered very well, and even if it does very well in a shaded area, you shouldn’t keep it in places that are very hot. It would rather grow in an average to moist conditions, and it shouldn’t be left to dry out.
Pieris “Forest Flame” – a shade-loving shrub
This is a stunning plant that’s extremely easy to grow (surprisingly) and is super happy to stay in a shady spot. Its bright-red foliage makes it a great asset to woodland gardens because it adds a bit of color.
However, make sure to protect this plant from frost while they’re still young, and find a proper spot with moderately fertile, rich, and very well-drained and acidic soil. The plant is quite common, so you won’t have a hard time finding it.
What you need to keep in mind is that it needs to be planted in the right location. Just as an azalea, it would prefer a more acidic, moist, but well-drained soil.
Bergenia “Abendglut” – a shade loving plant that’s bee-friendly
Bergenia is a wonderful perennial that will feel excellent in dappled shade, as they produce lovely bright flowers in the spring and big green “elephant ear” foliage throughout the year. When winter comes, it all turns into a deep red.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Bergenias are so loved by insects, as they are a rich source of nectar for bee-friendly gardens too. Once they flower, remove the flowerheads that faded and cut off damaged foliage during spring. Then, lift and divide large clumps in the first weeks of spring, so you can make sure the flowers get healthy regrowth.
Ferns, Athyrium Niponicum
Ferns are probably the most popular and beloved plants for shady gardens. Even so, in our opinion, nothing beats the Japanese Painted Fern. It has such delicate leaves, that it makes the perfect companion for all the other shade-loving plants in your garden.
Ferns prefer staying in moist, fertile soils which are neutral to acidic. They are also the perfect choice for a north-facing garden, and the shadier, the better! As you probably know, they won’t bring you flowers or fragrance, but they will definitely give a great texture! You can easily fill all the dark spots in your garden with these beautiful plants!
Snowdrop, Galanthus Nivalis
These delicate flowers will create the best little woodland area in your low-light garden. Snowdrops are known to have hardy bulbs, and both single and double-flowered varieties represent the loveliest ground cover within a lawn or around trees and shrubs.
They are very easy to grow, they thrive in full shade and moist, heavy soils. Plus, when snowdrops bloom, it’s one of the first signs that spring is here and it’s waiting for a signal. In this case, the snowdrop gives the signal. However, remember: if you grow snowdrops in a sunny spot, the flowers won’t last for long.
Snake’s Head Fritillary, Fritillaria Meleagris
Snake’s Head Fritillary is one of a kind! The flora boasts rich color and a very interesting design. It is a wonderful ground cover, even if it’s part of a lawn or not, and the little flowers will always self-seed, so your gardening skills won’t be needed much.
For some more great outdoor advice, check out: 10 Stunning Outdoor Plants That Also Offer Privacy