Shade Loving Plants

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A lot of gardeners consider shade to be a problem, but I’ve found the shady area of my garden to be the most beautiful at certain parts of the year. There are plenty of shade loving plants to keep your whole garden colourful. One of the perks of shade gardening is that you won’t need to water as much as sunny areas!

Our garden is South East facing, so the deck by the back door gets sun first thing in the morning and the left hand side of the garden sits in full sun pretty much all day. The area at the back of the garden gets a little sun in the afternoon, but a neighbours tree blocks out a lot of the sunshine. The right hand side is shady most of the day, but gets a few hours in the morning.

It’s important to figure out what type of shade you’ve got in your garden. It could be light, dappled, partial, deep; as well as the soil conditions being dry or damp. Having said that, sometimes gardening rules can be broken with great success!

Traditional Shade Loving Plants

If you were to do a quick Internet search of shade loving plants, there would be a few plants that come up over and over.

  • Aquilegia
  • Astilbe
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Cyclamen
  • Foxglove
  • Hellebores
  • Heuchera
  • Ivy

While this list is definitely not exhaustive; these are some of the plants I’ve had experience with in the shadier parts of my garden.

four aquilegia flowers.

When we moved in 5 years ago, there was one aquilegia plant on the shady side of the garden. Now, there are so many I’ve lost count. I let them set seed after flowering and I’m rewarded with lots of new plants popping up all over the garden. It’s a lovely surprise when they flower as they could be almost any colour.

Flowering Astilbe
Astilbe. Image by Etienne GONTIER from Pixabay

Astilbe is a plant I’ve had limited success with. It seems to come up in spring and shrivel off shortly afterwards. I’ve tried it in various shady positions from deep shade to dappled shade and never had much luck.

Bleeding heart flowers.
Bleeding Heart. Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

My bleeding heart is a real star of the garden in spring time. I love the little fronds of heart shaped flowers, delicately draping in the border. It’s an herbaceous perennial, so dies down to nothing each year and reliably pops up every year, bigger and better than before.

Pink and white cyclamen.

I think every garden should have some cyclamen in it. They’re a cheap and easy plant, and in my experience, they flower reliably each year. I love the really bright fuchsia pink ones.

Pink and white foxglove flowers.
Foxgloves. Image by Christina Strauch from Pixabay

I’ve had a lot of success with foxgloves. I grew some from seed a few years back and they have also self seeded around the garden. They seem to prefer partial shade or dappled shade. The plants that self seed always seem to outperform the ones I have lovingly sown and overwintered, so last year, I didn’t bother.

Frosty hellebore flowers.
Hellebore in frost. Image by Анна Иларионова from Pixabay

Hellebores are a real treat in early spring. They seem happy in both partial and deep shade in my garden.

A green wooden door surrounded by green ivy.
Ivy surrounding a door. Image by Ich bin dann mal raus hier. from Pixabay

Love it or hate it, Ivy does grow well in the shade. If carefully monitored it can cover an ugly fence panel or provide some greenery in an area other plants would refuse to live in.

Other Plants to Consider

I have had success with plants less associated with shade gardening. I like to give things a go and see how well they fare, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The following plants are all advised to grow in a sunny situation, but I have had success growing them in shade.

It just goes to show that different gardens can work in different ways. I think a lot of plants will tolerate some shade if they have a few hours of sun throughout the day. Our shady side does get the first morning sun. This means that even as the sun goes over when I’m out there having breakfast, the plants have already had a good few hours of sunshine.

The alliums and crocosmia in the shady side tend to come out later than their sunny counterparts. I like this as it spreads the colour over a longer period. I’ve never found a spot that a geranium won’t grow, they’re pretty persistent plants.

The geum that’s planted in the shadier part of the garden has flowered since March and I hope if I keep deadheading it, it will keep on going all summer.

So, give it a go, plant something in the shade and see what happens, it might surprise you! What have you had success growing against gardening advice? Let me know in the comments.

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