Need the perfect plant to bring a shady spot to life? See this helpful compilation of articles, videos and Instagram posts from some of our favorite gardening experts. Whether you have a dry north-facing border or a damp woodland garden, find out which plants transform gloomy gaps into an eye-catching feature.
From tall and exotic Australian tree ferns to silvery athyriums, browse our high-quality collection of shade-tolerant fern plants to find your favourites.
Choose drought-tolerant plants for dry shade under trees
“If you have a tall wall and/or a group of trees in your garden, you’ll have dry shade,says Alexandra of The Middle-sized Garden. This is where your drought-tolerant, shade-loving plants need to go. Bergenia is ‘indestructible’, drawing pollinators all summer long to its pretty pink flowers and earning a place in Alexandra’s carefully curated list of top plants for dry shade. See her full article for more ideas.
Damp shade is the perfect place for woodland bulbs
At the other end of the spectrum, damp shade is the perfect place to plant woodland bulbs like Fritillaria meleagris. “Easy to grow, and once established, Fritillaria meleagris will multiply and populate a suitable damp area of the garden and come up reliably each year,” says Carol at The Sunday Gardener. Interplant the traditional checkered pink variety with the snow white ‘Alba’ for an extra special spring display. Her full article has lots of suggestions for damp shade.
Hostas make perfect patio container displays
Are you struggling with a shady patio? John Moore, at the popular gardening blog pyracantha, recommends filling your pots and containers with hostas. These popular perennials produce huge leaves in lush greens, blues and white and even produce lovely scented flower spikes in summer. They don’t need repotting every year so are fairly low-maintenance too, says John. A real no-brainer! Visit his article by him to read more about his twelve favorite shade-loving plants for containers.
Cover bare soil under deciduous trees with Cyclamen coum
Cyclamen coum is a magical little plant that makes excellent shady ground cover. The plants reveal their secret, luminous blooms in late winter when nothing else is quite in the mood. Over at @country_garden_jottings, Joy enthuses that“the pretty leaves alone are superb for ground cover – but the flowers are definitely the ‘icing on the cake‘!” Follow her on Instagram for colorful photos of her very special garden.
Shade-loving spring bulbs are ideal for a woodland garden
May is a magical time of year in Dawn’s woodland garden. Her de ella semi-mature deciduous trees are coming into leaf and her de ella carefully planted carpet of beautiful shade-loving spring bulbs including Vinca major, hardy geraniums and trilliums are blooming. Head over to @dawns_gardening To read about her journey from young tree whips to the dreamy enchanted woodland she enjoys today.
Use grasses and ferns to brighten up open woodland areas
What makes up a woodland garden? Trees are the first step, says Alan Gray at his fantastic YouTube channel Get Gardening! He suggests removing the lower branches of the trees once a year to raise the height of the canopy and allow dappled sunlight through to the plants below. Watch his video of him to see the wide range of gorgeous shade-tolerant plants he’s chosen for his woodland of him. Including evergreen soft shield ferns, ajugas, and golden carex, he brings it all to life in spring with a carpet of snowdrops and bright narcissi.
Grow brassicas in a shady veg garden
It’s not only the ornamental garden that suffers from shady corners. If you have beds in your veggie patch that get more than their fair share of shade, use them to grow tasty brassicas like broccoli, kale and cabbages, says Liz from Byther Farm. Read her full article to find even more shade-tolerant fruit and veg suggestions.
Plant shade-loving foxgloves for a burst of color
Foxgloves are a quintessential woodland flower that feature pure white, coral and deep pink in their repertoire. These lovely biennials happily self-seed and naturalize in a shady spot. Alasdair at @greengoddessgardening Sows his seeds early to make sure there are plenty of flowers to enjoy the following year. Judging by the stunning show from last year’s batch of seeds, it’ll be a beautiful display! Check out his Insta for some truly sensational planting schemes.
Add shade-loving tree ferns for height and drama
Over at Mark’s Garden UK, YouTuber Mark brings height to his shaded courtyard using tree ferns, proving you can create something really special even in the smallest and shadiest of spaces! The Jurassic-style tree ferns are underplanted with leafy hostas and carefully chosen ground cover. Complete with a tiny winding path, watch Mark’s video for a fascinating peek at this gorgeous secret space.
Choose flowering perennials like hellebores for spring color
Hellebores offer the best of both worlds. Their glossy evergreen foliage makes great ground cover, and their flowers brighten the garden in early spring. Then add easy-to-grow hardy geraniums, pink-petalled lungwort and fragrant lily of the valley to create a flower-filled garden that positively thrives in low light. Check out Sue Sanderson’s favorite top ten hardy perennials for shade over at Thompson and Morgan for more ideas.
We hope this has helped you to choose the perfect plant for a tricky dark spot. Find everything you need to know about shade-loving plants and flowers at our dedicated hub page.
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