Does your garden have a shady corner or dark patch that gets little or no sun? Or perhaps your whole garden is enveloped in shade for most of the day? Whether the shade is coming from a large tree, or perhaps the shadows from the house, a shed or neighbouring building, you are not alone. Dealing with shaded areas in your garden or balcony is an issue most gardeners face.
As many plants don’t tolerate long periods or shade or full shade, these areas of the garden can be the most problematic to grow plants. The result for many gardeners are patches where the turf is bare and the plants either die or don’t flourish. Luckily, these issues can be solved if you select plants that actually thrive in varying levels of shade. By carefully planting the right plants, you can ensure the shaded areas of your garden are filled with contrasting textures, beautiful foliage, colour and flowers.
Keep reading to discover our top lists of shade plants for turf, screening, ground cover or pots:
- Best turf for shade
- Tall screening plants for shade
- Lower growing shade plants
- Potted plants for shade
- Do you need expert advice to select shade plants?
- Edible Plants for Shade
- 10 plants for a white border
- Plants for a shady border
- More climbers for a shady boundary
Best turf for shade
Sir Walter Soft Leaf Buffalo is more shade tolerant than other varieties because of its broad leaves which photosynthesise well. Among the Buffalo varieties, Sir Walter Soft Leaf Buffalo is among the very best performers in shady areas and can thrive with as little as three hours of sunlight per day.
- Shade tolerant
- Need full sun shade or partial shade
- Requires less water
- Low lawn maintenance
- Held consistently good colour throughout the year
Tall screening plants for shade
Alocasia (Elephant Ears) and other varieties, can survive in filtered sunlight or shade. It’s important to avoid direct sunlight on their leaves in the Sydney summer, as this can cause foliage burn.
- Grows up to 20-90 cm tall
- Avoid both direct sunlight and very dark and Gloomy spots
- Like moist but well drained in partial shade
- Moderate speed growth in summer
- Colorful flowers
Tiger Grass is a striking plant from Thailand that looks like bamboo but it’s actually a perennial grass that blooms beautiful purple flowers. It’s great to use as an attractive feature or screening plant and does well in pots as well.
- Grows up to 3-4 metres in height
- Quick growing and can be fully grown within 18 – 24 months
- Low maintenance
- Drought tolerant
Ginger, particularly Thai Ginger, has lovely flowers. When it reaches maturity, it has the potential of reaching from one to two metres tall. You will want to provide enough space between plants to accommodate their height and bushy nature.
- Likes full sun or partial shade
- Blooms in summertime
- Produces cluster of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers
- Takes 10 months to mature
Heliconia will form a great backdrop or screen with the large upright leaves and a flower spike similar to Bird of Paradise.
- Grows on average 1-2 metres in a garden
- Should be planted in draining soil
- Blooming season once to several times a year
- Flowers come in a variety of lengths and shapes
Lower growing shade plants
Bromeliad Guzmanias and Bromeliad Alcantarea can be grown in pots, in the garden, on balconies or mounted on a tree or piece of wood. These bromeliads don’t need full sunlight and in fact, grow better in shady spots – that’s why they’re so successful under big trees.
- Grows up to 1.5 metres tall
- Keep out of direct sunlight
- Beautiful foliage
- Blooms only once
Rhoeos, particularly the dwarf and mid-sized versions, are an excellent and fast growing ground cover in the shaded parts of the garden. It is used as an effective edging plant, or even as underplantings and is popular due to their texture and colour.
- Grows up to 30-50 cm tall
- Enjoys partial shade to full shade
- Drought tolerant
- Leaves can die from excessive watering
Liriopes particularly Monroe White and Green Dichondra are a great ground cover and is a good alternative to lawn. It produces spikes of violet or white blooms in summer, followed by white or black berries in autumn.
- Grows up to 25-45 cms tall
- Low maintenance
- Drought and frost tolerant
- Tolerant of full sun to heavy shade
- Requires pruning or cutting back once a year if leaves become untidy
Hostas come in many shapes and sizes and add colour with its beautiful foliage, with some being fragrant. This low maintenance plant should be positioned in semi to full shade.
- Grows up to 2.5 metres tall
- Blooms in summer
- Drought tolerant
- Keep soil moist but not wet
Lamium Beacon Silver a low maintenance shade-loving ground cover with white or pink flowers and silver, heart-shaped leaves bordered in mid to deep green. If there is too much sun, the foliage will burn.
- Grows up to 15-20 cm tall
- Partial shade or full shade
- Low maintenance plant
- Flowers from spring to summer
Ajugas – If you are looking for a low maintenance ground cover that offers more than just a bland green mat, consider ajugas. They offer a wide variety of foliage colours, usually rich deep burgundy and sometimes cream and pink edges.
- Grows up to 15-20 cm
- Full sun to part shade
- Blooms in spring to summer
- Prefers medium-moisture and well-drained soils
Potted plants for shade
Large leaf Jades are an easy to care for succulent, and can be grown indoors and outdoors, and even as bonsai plants. Fast growing, inexpensive and incredibly resilient, you cannot go wrong with this plant.
- Grows up to 1.5 metres
- Full sun or part shade
- Low maintenance
- Need to be watered more frequently in summer and spring
New Guinea Impatiens are perfect for planters and hanging baskets in the shade. Their colourful blooms come in bright shades from lavender to orange. They’re easy to care for, as long as you keep them well-watered throughout the hottest parts of the year.
- Grows up to 38cm
- Full sun to part shade
- Low maintenance
- Blooms continuously
- Needs a well-draining soil that holds moisture long enough
Camellias thrive in pots in the shade but require repotting every two or three years. Being evergreen plants, they provide an element of lushness with their foliage and flowers to any courtyard or balcony.
- Grows up to 1.5-3 metres tall
- Dappled light/Part shade or full shade
- Long blooming flowers
- Needs well-drained soil
Philodendron Xanadu is the perfect low maintenance plant with luscious evergreen foliage and decoratively shaped leaves. It will tolerate full sun but is also happy in partial shade. Ideal for use in a larger pot for the perfect feature plant.
- Grows up to 50-80 cm
- Needs to be watered regularly
- Likes moist but not constantly drenched soil
- Poisonous plant – should not be consumed by animals or humans
Monstera deliciosa (also known as a split leaf philodendron) is an easy-to-grow plant that does well in a pot. It is not recommended in the garden as it can get huge. It’s known for its stunning, split leaves which are dark green and glossy.
- Grows up to 3 metres tall
- Full sun to part shade
- Prefer warm climate
- Rarely blooms
Do you need expert advice to select shade plants?
Selecting the best plants for the shaded areas of your garden, courtyard or balcony can be challenging. However, expert advice can prevent making choices which result in your plants don’t thrive.
If you need professional assistance, feel free to get in touch with us to get your questions answered. You can also schedule a free consultation or access our soft landscaping services right away.
Edible Plants for Shade
There is little to compare in succulence with a tomato or peach that’s enjoyed a sun-drenched life. The challenge is more of us want shade to counter the effects of a warming world and a home that needs natural shade, exteriors protected from fierce heat, but also continue to grow our own healthy chemical-free food plants.
It’s true that in the hottest parts of the country all plants benefit from a little shelter to conserve moisture and modify air temperature. And just when you have shade in the garden, and for how long, also needs to be defined.
And when it is shady does matter: there are cool season vegetables that through summer accept morning sun happily but prefer shady afternoons. This kind of benevolent shelter can make the growing seasons longer for plants like lettuce that tend to bolt in the heat.
And with the rise in average temperatures worldwide there may well be more room now to embrace the shade/edible connection.
Permaculture forums identify a diverse range of reduced-light tolerant plants worth trying, especially in warmer zones. Arrowroot Canna edulis happy to grow beneath tree canopies, was an ancient Inca crop and also has an interesting history in north Queensland where it was eaten regularly in early days of settlement, and the SE Asian edible fern Diplazium esculentum is a subtropical favourite, popular in Indonesia. Similarly, species from Zingiberaceae offer food treats, including the resurrection lily, Kaemferia galangal (known as kencur) a key ingredient for Balinese and Javanese sate sauces. Lots of palms have edible hearts and the paw paw Asimina triloba, from American temperate humid zones, is one of the few trees that is able to fruit in shade.
Rising populations in our cities indicate gardens will continue to be smaller and shadier, often cut off from sun by a neighbouring building. The classic vegetable patch needs adaptation – certainly smaller, often using vertical spaces, but also crucially planned to accommodate the amount of light – or lack of it – using a strategy that prevents some of the problems associated with shade.
And in moderation shade does no harm to sun-loving plants: even broccoli, cabbage, peas and beans, rhubarb and strawberries can make it through with limited shade (though admittedly reduced yield).
Talking stygian gloom is altogether different, but there are crops that will do remarkably well if other nutrient and water needs are cranked up to produce a highly fertile soil environment.
The first step is to grade your shade. It is a fairly vague description, ranging from light caused by low-hanging branches in the pathway of the sun, to partial for several hours each day or full for half a day. The complexity of assessing shade in any garden comes in calculating sunlight hours through each season. And when chasing heat and light sometimes a mobile vegetable garden can be feasible.
In colder areas of the country where the growing season is shorter, coping with shade is more difficult: what might be possible on the Sunshine Coast will be unthinkable for Tasmanian gardeners. It’s observed in Adelaide that food plants believed to want full sun actually tend to do better with some shade. So as a general rule, edible plants, like other types, have to be chosen selectively, beginning with your geographic location.
Lumbered with low light, a gardener must be particularly vigilant to support the growing crops by providing optimum soil and water conditions. Other things could help too … a little more room between plants and careful weeding both bring returns.
Some obvious tasks: get rid of all the branches possible to clear a pathway of light to the crops, minimise the presence of tree roots which suck up water meant for the crops, and look at the way air can circulate around the garden beds because both plants and surrounding built structures can encourage the kind of moisture which invites moulds and other diseases.
Plastic foil mulches can increase photosynthesis and productivity due to higher light levels and are often used for commercial growing. They aren’t endorsed by organisations such as SGA, which believes the disadvantages created – a potential cooking of roots beneath the mulch and leaching of chemicals from plastic into the soil – far outweigh benefits. As an alternative, bright and light painted surfaces to walls or fences will catch the sun and encourage plant activity. An SGA editor’s remark that she had seen mirrors placed vertically around vegetables to help growth took me back several years to a little garden in London’s inner south which shimmered with light, and food crops, thanks to this technique: not only that, the tiny plot visually expanded, and it seemed double its actual size.
There are exciting choices for the shady garden: wasabi, ginger, fiddlehead and swamp ferns and Eruca sativa, the easily grown annual known as rucola, rocket or, in the US, arugula. Its peppery pungent leaves lift the standard of our salads and pizzas and as well it’s high in vitamin C and potassium.
How satisfying to discover that lacy-leafed coriander/cilantro rather likes shade, especially in summer, since hot locations encourage bolting. A climber such as the chocolate vine Akebia quinata, is quite happy in shade. Alpine strawberries make a pretty border in these conditions, particularly if the fruit hangs over the edge.
It’s said that as a guiding principle, plants grown for their stems, leaves or buds will put up with some shade better than for roots or fruits, leaving us with ample choices. Yet some gardeners do well with sun-deprived gooseberries, blackberries and raspberries. Also to try rhubarb (fine as long as it has plenty of manure and water), spinach, silverbeet, chard, radish and kale, endive and pak choy, sweet potatoes (Chinese use the juvenile leaves for greens), yams, Swiss chard and kohlrabi.
Lastly let’s mention the more recognisable shade-tolerant herbs: sorrel, chervil, dill, tarragon, parsley, Vietnamese mint and cardamom.
Who wouldn’t welcome a bit of shade?
Maggie Knight has written garden columns for publications including Good Housekeeping and The Melbourne Herald before spending almost twenty years in Europe, where she became involved in community development projects. She is now a consultant for sustainable and creative businesses and mentors for the Victorian Government sponsored Small Business Mentoring Service.
10 plants for a white border
A white border brings a sense of peace and fresh coolness to the garden. With flowers all the same colour there’s no risk of clashing, so you can concentrate on the shape, height and texture of plants rather than colour combinations. What’s more, the colour white brings out the green of the foliage, and you can play with other, softer foliage colours such as silvery grey.
If planning a white border then it’s a good idea to keep it small. Treat it as a calm space where you can retreat from from the rest of the garden. Many white plants are night-scented so it’s a good idea to create your white border around a seating area or patio, where you can enjoy the evening fragrance.
Many white plants are night-scented so it’s a good idea to create your white border around a seating area or patio, where you can enjoy their evening fragrance.
Think too about the backdrop to your white border. Dark colours provide the best contrast, so if you can paint your fence panels or wall before planting, you’ll reap the rewards later on. If you have a large garden or a particularly deep border then you might consider planting a hedge as a backdrop. Yew or copper beech are ideal.
Bear in mind that most white flowers contain other colours as well, such as the pink centre of lilies or the yellow centre of daisies. However the white colour will dominate, with the others just flashing as gentle hints to draw the eye.
Browse our suggestions for plants for a white border, below.
Cosmos has daisy-like flowers and is easy to grow from seed. Blooming from summer until the first frosts, the flowers attract a range of pollinating insects. They’re useful for filling gaps in the border and look good in a range of situations, including container displays. Cosmos ‘Purity’ (pictured) bears large flowers over a long period. Team with taller white foxgloves or similar-flowered dahlias.
Height x Spread: 1.2m x 60cm
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’
White cultivars of bleeding heart bear heart-shaped blooms from elegant, arching stems in late spring. Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’ (pictured) is perfect for shady situations but actually does better if given a bit of light. Grow at the front of your border, where it will remain compact for many years.
H x S: 1.2m x 45cm
Star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides
Star jasmine is a fantastic climber that bears fragrant, star-shaped flowers in summer, against a backdrop of rich, dark green, glossy foliage. It’s a great choice for growing against a south- or west-facing fence or wall, and needs support for its tendrils to wind into.
H x S: 9m x 5m
Echinacea ‘White Swan’
Echinaceas are the perfect garden plants, coming in a variety of heights and colours. There are several white varieties, all with large central cones to provide contrast with the white of the petals. Echinacea ‘White Swan’ (pictured) is a shorter variety than most, so it doesn’t require staking. Grow it in drifts through your white border or mix with grasses. The flowers are popular with pollinators, but leave them in place in autumn and birds will enjoy the seeds, too.
H x S: 60cm x 45cm
Ox-eye daisies have a loose, informal look, making them perfect for wildlife gardens and cottage gardens. They’re a magnet for bees and other pollinators and are ideal for naturalising in areas of long grass or planting in groups in a large, informal border.
H x S: 40cm x 30cm
Agapanthus have large, structural flowerheads, and can be used to dramatic effect in a border. Grow them among lower-growing plants, as pictured, or among taller plants with contrasting flower shapes, such as white foxgloves. Smaller cultivars can be planted in pots.
H x S: 1m x 45cm
Tulip ‘Spring Green’
Tulips add charm and colour to the garden early in the season, and can be among the first to flower in your white border. There are several white-flowered varieties to choose from. ‘Spring Green’ (pictured) has cream-white flowers with fresh green markings in the centre.
H x S: 38cm x 15cm.
Philadelphus ‘White Rock’
For a white-flowered shrub, look no further than mock orange, philadelphus. Philadelphus ‘White Rock’ has cascading stems of fragrant semi-double blooms, Grow it at the back of the border or in a large container.
H x S: 3m x 2m
Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’
White foxgloves have a serene quality, and can be dotted through a border to provide an elegant touch, or planted in groups for a mass of colour. Team with contrasting flower shapes such as agapanthus and Ammi majus. The fresh green of neighbouring foliage will make the most of thse white tubular bells.
H x S: 1.2m x 45cm.
White roses have an elegance and beauty in their own league. There are few roses with pure-white flowers. Instead – they’re creamy white with hints of apricot or pink. ‘Desdemona’ (pictured), is an old style rose with pink-white double blooms and an intense, fruity fragrance.
H x S: 1m x 1m
Plants for a shady border
Our pick of the best plants for a shady border is all you need to conceal and soften garden partitions.
For more plant picks for specific locations, take a look at our features on the best plants for dry soil, clay soil and acid soil, or have a peruse using our handy plant finder.
Learn more about some of the best plants for a shady border, below.
Japanese anemones are an ideal plants for shaded walls and fences, where conditions can be drier.
Hydrangea aspera (Villosa Group)
Hydrangea aspera ‘Villosa Group’ is tough and once mature, will bring a stately presence to your shaded wall or fence. It enjoys moist soil, so in especially dry weather, give it a good water right at the roots.
Mauve hydrangea buds opening
A deciduous and easy to grow climber, Chinese virginia creeper (Parthenocissus henryana) provides a wonderful backdrop. Rich green leaves in spring and summer turn a vivid shade of red in autumn.
Chinese virginia creeper turning rosy-orange in autumn
Don’t be fooled by their dainty name – Chinese fairy bells, Disporum longistylum, can reach a towering 1.8m in height, so they’re ideal for planting in the middle, or towards the back of your shady border scheme.
Small white Chinese fairy bells flowers
Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’
This low-growing geranium has a sprawling habit and is best planted at the front of borders and beds. ‘Johnson’s Blue’ produces masses of blue-purple flowers from May to August. Here are 11 more hardy geraniums for shade you could grow.
Blue-purple hardy geranium flowers planted in front of pale-green grasses
A British native, the soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) will provide lush evergreen colour and texture right through the year. Perfect for setting off blue geraniums and white Japanese anemones.
Highly-serrated textural leaves of the shield fern
Japanese anemones are an ideal plants for shaded walls and fences, where conditions can be drier. They flower for months, providing colour from the later summer months.
Advertisement A pink Japanese anemone bloom
Before planting climbers to grow up walls and fences, it’s wise to first inspect the boundaries that you’ll be tying them into. Avoid growing climbers up weak, or rotting wood, or crumbling bricks, as you’ll likely create more work for yourself. Instead, replace and repair where necessary, to ensure a solid foundation on which to grow.
More climbers for a shady boundary
- Climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris
- English ivy, Hedera helix
- Clematis alpina
- Clematis x durandii
- Star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides
- Rosa ‘Wedding Day’
- Passionflowers, Passiflora
If your property or backyard is covered and sunlight barely gets in, these plants for shady borders will definitely interest you.
Have you ever wondered how many plants there are that can thrive in a shady garden? Is it even possible to create a beautiful ornamental garden in shaded areas? Most people have shade at least somewhere in their gardens, and thankfully there are an assortment of plants that thrive in shadowy spaces. This article covers 11 different plants that are both beautiful and excellent growers in shade. By reading this article, you will learn about the most gorgeous plants that can be used to fill in your shady borders. With these plants, it is possible for you to create a decadent flower garden, even in the shade.
Hydrangeas are a type of shrub that bears beautiful clusters of flowers. These flowers can be white, blue. red, pink, light purple, or dark purple. They can grow to be about 1-3 meters tall. These plants are excellent for shady areas because they provide bursts of color and they are ornamental in nature.
Caladium are famous for their beautifully unique foliage, which are typically heart or arrow shaped and can come in color combinations of red, pink, rose, white, chartreuse, and green. Caladium usually grow about one to two feet tall and have broad leaves. Their vibrant colors can provide the perfect contrast to fill out a flower garden.
Hostas are similar to Caladiums in shape and size. However, their leaves typically don’t have as much color variety. Hostas can grow in various conditions and require little maintenance. They are known for being good shade plants. Even though they are not as colorful as caladiums, hostas are decadent, unique, and give character to any garden.
Nicotiana are flowery plants that can come in a mix of colors such as white, pink, red, lavender, and yellow. Nicotiana are actually tobacco plants that are cultivated as ornamental outdoor or house plants. These fragrant plants will add a lovely scent to your shady borders, especially when planted in clumps.
Ferns are distinguishable for their thin and pointy leaves, and their succulent green foliage. Their appearance is unique yet neutral, so they will fit in with diverse arrays of plants. They can grow in a variety of habitats, including dark, damp areas. They grow fast and are easily maintained.
6. Coral Bells
Coral Bells have low foliage with high-growing bell-shaped flowers of white, red, coral, or pink. The flower stems can grow up to 2 feet tall. The leaves have a characteristic shape and are usually green, but some varieties include shades of red, purple, or silver. Coral Bells are low maintenance and the unique structure offers variety to your garden.
7. Bleeding Heart
Bleeding Hearts are perhaps one of the most ornamental shrubs suitable for shady borders. They are characterized by their flower petals, which look like hearts that are “bleeding.” These blossoms come in color combinations of pink and white, and foliage is a bluish-green color. Bleeding Hearts prefer shady areas, so they are the perfect addition to a shady border garden.
Columbines are bright, star-shaped wildflowers that come in almost any color. They also tend to cross-pollinate and hybridize, creating even more color varieties. The plants can grow from one to three feet high, and they tend to attract hummingbirds. Few shade-preferring plants will offer as much character as the Columbine flower.
Fuchsias are exotic and bright two-tone flowers. They are a “teardrop” shape, and colors range from white to dark red, and can also be purple-blue and orange. These flowers grow well in hanging pots, and they require a lot of shade. If you have a place to place a pot in a shaded area, these flowers are perfect.
Impatiens are very diverse and come in a variety of shapes and colors.These plants are shade-lovers, and the vibrant flowers will spruce up any dark area of your lawn. They are annuals, and have gained popularity in ornamental gardens. Most varieties stay well under a meter tall, but the tallest breeds can actually grow to be two meters tall.
Forget-me-nots are trademarked for their clusters of small, light blue flowers with yellow centers. However, the flowers can also be pink, white, or yellow with yellow centers. They have beautiful, deep green foliage, and actually grow best in shade. Forget-me-nots can get up to two feet tall, and their blooms last throughout most of the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
Did you find this list enjoyable and helpful? Shady borders can be stubborn to fill, unless you know the perfect plants for them. If you have any suggestions or you discover more plants to add to the list, please leave them in the comments section. If you enjoyed this list, please share it with other gardeners!
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