Plants For Shady Places

Many gardens have a shady spot somewhere according to the aspect they face. Shade can be created by nature, for example where light filters through the branches of a tall tree, while other patches may be from the shadows of a building or wall. Shady areas can be a welcome spot to sit on a hot day but need some consideration when planting by choosing plants that will thrive in these situations. The natural habitat of a plant tells you where it will grow successfully in your garden.

It is pointless battling to grow plants that naturally grow in sunny places in shady areas, they will always struggle. There are so many plants that prefer to grow in shade producing gorgeous flowers and lush growth.

There are of course degrees of shade. Partial or semi shade is a spot that enjoys three to six hours of sun at midsummer. Areas like this benefit from some sunlight for some of the day. Some good shrubs for this situation are Pieris Little Heath, a pretty compact little evergreen shrub with pink red new shoots and white pink flowers that smell like Lily of the Valley. It is an excellent plant to grow in a pot on a shady patio. Choisya Aztec Pearl is another taller evergreen with aromatic leaves and white orange scented flowers in spring. It will also grow well in a tub.  Spirea Firelight has amazing orange red young shoots in March that mature to yellow green leaves in summer. Before leaf fall in autumn they turn rich golden and red. Solomans Seal, Symphytum and Bleeding Heart are good perennial space fillers that give the lush growth effect.

Dappled shade areas are created where sunlight filters through from the branches of trees above. It is the best shade for gardening because the soil remains moist. Japanese Acers with the gorgeous coloured foliage that changes colour throughout the growing season thrive in such places. They associate well with the beautifully perfumed evergreen Daphne bholua. Hostas, Heucheras and Tiarellas give excellent ground cover with the distinctly coloured leaves and purple, pink and beige flowers in summer. Campanula Pyramidalis and Foxgloves are upright perennials flowering in early summer providing height to these areas.

Dry shade can be more challenging for plants especially where large trees suck the moisture from the soil. Sarcococca a little evergreen shrub that has white sweetly scented flowers in December, Aucuba  japonica Variegata and Euonymus fortunei Emerald Gaiety with striking bright cream and grey green variegated leaves are fantastic choices. Skimmia reevesiana with amazing bright red berries in autumn are also naturally found in forests and woods and need dry shady conditions to thrive. Fatsia japonica with its architectural leaves is another shrub that copes with little direct sunlight. Add Hellebores and early flowering bulbs like Snowdrops and Cyclamen for the carpet of colour in spring.

Deep shade is the area in permanent shadow from a building or a dense tree canopy above. This is where perennial plants like Pachysndra, Dryopteris Ferns, Symphytum, Liriope muscari and Euphorbia amygdalis with its lime green flowers from March to June really flourish. Holly J C Van Tol with its bright red winter berries loved by the birds and Mahonia japonica are hardy evergreen shrubby plants that will give form and structure.

There are some climbing and wall plants that will grow in shade. Sweetly scented Honeysuckle Rhubarb and Custard and Hydrangea paniculata with its gorgeous white summer flowers and Clematis Nellie Moser all grow well if planted with plenty of moisture retaining compost. Garrya elliptica is an evergreen with amazing long silvery catkins from December to March,  Chaenomeles Geisha Girl with lovely salmon pink flowers in spring followed by perfumed Quince fruits and Fuchsia Lady Boothby with purple and pink flowers from June to November.

Success in the shade, as in any area of the garden, depends on selecting the plants that grow happily in those conditions. Hopefully you can find some plants here to make your shady areas interesting.