Have an area in your home that lacks sunlight? Check out our guide on 20 plants that grow without sunlight.
If you’re living in a home that doesn’t see a lot of direct sunlight or you are looking for ways to liven up your fluorescent lighting-filled office, then you should definitely consider plants that grows without sunlight. While it’s true that all plants need at least some light, you’d be amazed at how many plants can flourish under indirect light or fluorescent lighting.
A few years back, my nephew told me how drab his office was, and I suggested to him that he try using a spider plant to make his office space look a little more verdant and he was amazed by the results.
In this guide, I’m going to show you some of my favorite plants that can grow without much sunlight.
This is a plant that does not require a lot of light, but it does like humidity, which is why it grows best outdoors in zones 10 through 12. You may need to water this plant often and mist the leaves if the humidity in your home is too low.
- 2. Parlor Palm
- 3. Snake Plant
- 4. Calathea
- 5. Bromeliads
- 6. Spider Plant
- 7. Peace Lily
- 8. Maidenhair Fern
- 9. Lucky Bamboo
- 10. Sword Fern
- 11. Heart- Leaf Philodendron
- 12. Creeping Fig
- 13. Chinese Evergreen
- 14. Golden Pothos
- 15. Cast Iron Plant
- 16. Peperomia
- 17. Prayer Plant
- 18. Umbrella Palm
- 19. Japanese Sedge
- 20. Japanese Sago Palm
- Types of Shade
- Learn Which Flowers Grow Well In Shade
- Flowers to grow in shade
- White flowers for shade
- Shade plants for small gardens
- Roses For North Walls
2. Parlor Palm
Parlor Palms, which are one of the most popular types of palms grown indoors, are a great option for a space without a lot of sunlight. Though, if you want the little yellow blooms to appear, it will need at least partial sunlight. If grown outside, they do best in zones 10 and above.
3. Snake Plant
Snake plants, which grow best in zones nine through 11, make a great indoor plant because they require very little light to thrive. They do not like cold weather though, so don’t grow them outdoors past the first frost. This is a succulent, so it can also tolerate drought conditions.
Also known as a peacock plant, its colorful foliage is beautiful and easy to grow. The plant requires very little light, but it does prefer moist soil. Since this is considered a tropical plant, it grows best outdoors in zones 10 and above, but if it can easily grow indoors in any area.
This is a plant that can survive with artificial lighting, so it will do well in rooms without windows such as a bathroom. Typically grown in zones nine and above, the foliage of this plant forms a cup that helps retain water so that it can survive drought-like conditions.
6. Spider Plant
As a plant that grows best in zones eight through 11, the spider plant makes a great indoor option that will thrive in low light areas. In fact, direct sunlight will cause the leaves to burn. It looks great growing in a hanging pot, and it can cleanse the air in your home.
7. Peace Lily
Peace lily grows well without sunlight; in fact, direct sunlight can damage the leaves, which is why it is best grown indoors. If they are grown outdoors, they do best in zones 10 and above. Peace lilies like a lot of water, but they also like to grow in well-drained soil.
8. Maidenhair Fern
The maidenhair fern is a plant that grows best in zones seven through 10. It does best in indirect light or shade, but it will need to have moist soil to thrive. The leaves repel water, so if you grow it outdoors, they will not be damaged in a rainstorm.
9. Lucky Bamboo
If you like bonsai plants, then lucky bamboo will make a great addition to your home. It does not require direct sunlight to live, but if it is planted outdoors, it will grow best in zones nine and above. You can grow this plant in soil or directly in water.
10. Sword Fern
Sword ferns, which can be seen growing ins zones three through eight, are hardy plants that don’t require a lot of sunlight. They grow best in well-draining soil that’s slightly acidic. They require high humidity, so spraying the leaves occasionally is recommended to maintain the humidity in the immediate area.
11. Heart- Leaf Philodendron
Best grown in zones nine through 11, this plant will brighten up any home, especially an area where there are not a lot of windows. This plant does not like direct sunlight, but since it’s native to the rainforest, it does like moist soil and a bit of humidity.
12. Creeping Fig
A creeping fig is a great option for the dark corners of your home because it will cling to the walls and surfaces, giving the corners life. In zones eight and above, this vine can easily grow to lengths of 20 feet or more with very little light and water.
13. Chinese Evergreen
This is one of the most durable plants that you can find for your home or garden. Not only can it grow without sunlight, it can tolerate drought-like conditions as well as high humidity levels. This plant will grow well in almost every hardiness zone in the country.
14. Golden Pothos
This vine grows well outdoors in higher hardiness zones, but it can thrive indoors in any area of the country, especially since it can grow without direct sunlight. The long vines make it a great plant to hang from the ceiling because they can grow to 10 feet in length indoors.
15. Cast Iron Plant
The cast iron plant can grow in any type of lighting, so if you have space without direct sunlight, it will grow. It can even grow in poor soil. It does grow slower than most plants, but with enough time, it can reach heights of two feet or more.
Peperomia are best grown in zones 10 through 12, this is a plant that will do well inside in any area, especially without direct sunlight because this can damage the leaves. Make sure to keep the soil moist and the humidity in the room relatively high, and this plant will thrive.
17. Prayer Plant
A prayer plant is a great option for low light situations; in fact, the leaves tend to curl up and wilt when in direct sunlight. Often found in zones 11 and 12, this is a plant that needs well-drained, moist soil and a lot of humidity to really thrive.
18. Umbrella Palm
This is a low maintenance plant that you can grow in an area of your home that gets very little natural light. It grows in zone seven and above, and in moist, humid conditions, it can grow to be six feet in height. Typically, they only grow to be three feet tall indoors.
19. Japanese Sedge
Most adapted to zones five through nine, the Japanese sedge is an ornamental grass that will grow without much sunlight. Making a great accent plant for any garden, it will need to grow in rich, moist soil with a layer of mulch on the surface to protect the roots.
20. Japanese Sago Palm
This plant has a lot of feather foliage that will look great in your home or garden. It does great in an area with very little sun, but it requires well-drained soil to stay healthy. If you’re planting a sago palm outdoors, it will do best in zone eight and above.
Popular Garden Ideas
Popular Garden Ideas
Still, many gardeners face the following dilemma: They want to grow vegetables and herbs, but don’t have the required 6 hours of direct sunlight per day that most edible plants need. Or, they want to grow some colorful flowers from seed, but aren’t sure which will grow in their partially shady location. Depending on the type of shade your garden receives, as well as your climate and the time of year, you may be surprised at the range of choices you actually have.
The first step in selecting plants for your garden is knowing how much sun it actually receives at different times of year. Draw a map of your garden and note the position of buildings and trees, and when they are likely to cast shadows. The area in front of my living room window, for example, is shady in summer but sunny in winter. When a large oak loses its foliage-so it’s a perfect spot for early spring-flowering bulbs. I located our vegetable garden in the middle of a large field behind our house (although I’d have preferred it closer to the back door) because our house casts long shadows to the East in late summer and fall. After you’ve drawn up a plan, it’s helpful to understand some of the different kinds of shade, and which plants tolerate each.
Types of Shade
Partial or Half Shade: This very variable and confusing term is often defined as about half a day of direct sun. Gardeners in areas with 5-6 hours of afternoon sun may be able to grow most vegetables and herbs. However, those with only 3-4 hours of morning sun will have better success with true shade-lovers, and should choose other types of plants as the main focus of their gardens.
Dappled Shade, or Light Shade: The sunlight in these areas is filtered through trees with an open habit and small leaves, rather than a dense leaf cover. Sun falls on your garden, but it doesn’t hit specific sections for as long as it would without the trees. Again, the longer and brighter the sun shines in a particular area, the more flexibility you have in your choice of edibles and shade-tolerant annuals for that spot.
Open Shade: An example of this would be the North side of a building which gets no direct sun throughout the entire day, but is not otherwise covered by trees or structures. In general, this is too much shade for good production of most vegetables.
Full Shade, or Dense Shade: In this situation the garden doesn’t receive direct sun and is also shaded by trees or structures, resulting in little ambient light. The plants in this article are unlikely to thrive in such a location.
Vegetables and Herbs for Half Shade and Dappled Shade
Of all the vegetables, leafy crops are most tolerant of partial and dappled shade. In hot areas, it’s actually preferable to grow them where they don’t receive full sun all day, since they’ll hold longer before they bolt and taste bitter. A garden grown in a partial or half shaded plot can contain lettuce of all kinds, chard, scallions, kale, radishes, Asian stir-fry greens, spinach, and leeks. Herbs include arugula, basil, parsley, dill, chervil, cilantro, chives, garlic chives, watercress, and alpine strawberries.
If you are unsure whether you have enough sunlight for these crops to grow well, start small and experiment. If you have too much shade, leaves will be spindly, soft and weak. They’ll have a mild, bland flavor and lack crispness.
Flowers for Half Shade and Dappled Shade
A partially shaded location is ideal for nasturtiums, since if they receive too much intense sunlight, their leaves fry and become unsightly. They come in some hot, tropical color mixes such as ” Amazon Jewel,” “Alaska,” “Copper Sunset” and “Whirlybird,” as well as some cool pastels like butter-cream “Moonlight” and cream splashed with red “Vanilla Berry.”
A variety of cutting flowers, such as our “Chantilly” snapdragons, “White Wonder” feverfew, “Marble Arch” salvia , and “Pride of Gibraltar” cerinthe can also tolerate about half a day of shade. For containers, I like ruffled “Victorian Posy” pansies.
Flowers for Open Shade
Many of the flowers that prefer shady locations have unusual, exotically-shaped flowers that give an enchanted, fairylike quality to a shady place. “Mrs. Scott Elliot” columbines, “Apricot Fairy Queen” foxgloves, and “Mulberry Rose” and “Persian Violet” Nigella come to mind. My other favorites include evening-scented “Alata” nicotiana and deep blue “Azure Bluebirds” forget-me-nots.
Tips for Growing Plants from Seed in Partial Shade
Keep your soil moist but not soggy to avoid damping off of seedlings, particularly if the weather is cool. Since water doesn’t evaporate as quickly as it does in full sunlight, you may not need to water as often. Make sure to follow the packet directions and don’t plant too early in the season!
Plant in well-drained soil. Dig soil at least a foot deep and add about a six inch layer of well-rotted sifted compost before sowing your seeds. Most plants are unlikely to thrive if planted directly under large trees unless the soil is dug in pockets between tree roots and covered with a thick layer of well-rotted compost.
Protect young seedlings from slugs and snails who inhabit shady places, and hide under mulch or in nearby grass. I prefer to use a granular bait made out of chelated iron called “Sluggo” because it is safer to use around pets than liquid baits.
When you thin or transplant your plants to their final spacing, plant them no closer than recommended on the seed packet, or slightly farther apart to allow some air to circulate around the plants.
If you are growing seedlings in flats, choose a location with as much light as possible for strong plants better able to withstand transplanting. Partial shade is a good place to harden off seedlings grown in a greenhouse or under grow lights indoors as they can more gradually adjust to outdoor growing conditions and don’t evaporate moisture as quickly as they would in full sun.
To purchase Renee’s Garden Seeds .
Learn Which Flowers Grow Well In Shade
Many people think that if they have a shady yard, they have no choice but to have a foliage garden. This is not true. There are flowers that grow in shade. A few shade tolerant flowers planted in the right places can bring a little color to a dark corner. Which flowers grow well in shade? Keep reading to find out.
Flowers to grow in shade
Best shade flowers – Perennials
There is a wide variety of flowers that grow in shade that are also perennials. These shade tolerant flowers can be planted once and will come back with lovely flowers year after year.
- Bee balm
- Jacob’s Ladder
- Lamb’s Ears
- Siberian Iris
- Spotted Deadnettle
Best shade flowers – Annual
Annuals may not come back year after year, but you cannot beat them for sheer flower power. Annual flowers to grow in shade will fill even the shadiest corner with plenty of color.
- Baby Blue Eyes
- Wishbone Flower
White flowers for shade
White flowers hold a special place in the world of shade tolerant flowers. No other color flowers will bring as much sparkle and brightness to a dim area of your yard. Some white flowers that grow in shade are:
- Common Shootingstar
- Coral Bells
- Gooseneck Loosestrife
- Plantain-Lily (Hosta)
- Spotted Deadnettle
Shade tolerant flowers are not impossible to find. Now that you understand which flowers grow well in shade, you can add a little color to your shady spots.
Shade plants for small gardens
From foliage to flowering, groundcover to climbing, discover the best plants for creating a shade garden in your small space.
Foliage plants for small shade gardens
By their very nature, foliage plants with big leaves are happiest in the shade because they’ve developed bigger leaves to help them catch more light for photosynthesis – and shade-loving foliage doesn’t get much bigger than hostas.
Hostas comes in a range of shades, from deep blue-green to bright yellow. Other similarly bright plants will shine in the shade and illuminate your shady garden – so take advantage of them. Try coleus and heuchera for an incredible array of shades, from scarlet to fuchsia to lime.
Like hosta, fatsia also has huge leaves, which are deeply lobed. If you want to keep this large plant in check, you can also grow it in a large container.
For ornate foliage that looks like it’s been hand-painted, decorate your shade garden with calathea, ctenanthe Burle-Marxii, prayer plant and rex begonia.
Bromeliads are your best bet if you want to add a tropical touch. Also known as the cast iron plant, aspidistra’s deep-green blade-like leaves will grow completely carefree in even the densest shade. If your soil is ordinary and you haven’t had much luck with other plants, try plectranthus. This fast-growing plant will tolerate most soil, plus drought and root-competition.
1. Hosta, 2. Coleus, 3. Heuchera. 4. Fatsia. 5. Calathea, 6. Ctenanthe Burle-Marxii, 7. Prayer plant, 8. Rex begonia, 9. Bromeliad, 10. Cast iron plant, 11. Plectranthus
Groundcover plants for small shade gardens
Most turf struggles without enough light, so try shade-loving groundcovers instead. Taking advantage of low-growing groundcovers will also crowd out weeds, making your shade garden easier to maintain. As a bonus, most are slow-growing which equals even less maintenance.
Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) is an obvious choice as it’s very much a set-and-forget plant and looks much like grass.
Many varieties provide an attractive carpet of colour, like fan flower (Scaevola), a tough and impressive groundcover covered in blue-mauve blooms almost year-round.
Creeping boobialla (Myoporum) has narrow, dark-green leaves and white, star-shaped flowers with a sweet perfume through spring and summer. Once established this plant needs very little maintenance and will tolerate salt spray, drought and light frost.
Dicondra repens, also known as kidney creeper is a vigorous, low-growing perennial with pretty foliage that spreads quickly with little care.
Australian native violet (Viola hederacea) thrives in moist areas and will give you a rich carpet of green, accented with pretty little flowers.
1. Mondo grass, 2. Fan flower, 3. Creeping boobialla, 4. Dicondra repens, 5. Australian native violet
Flowering plants for small shade gardens
Don’t forget about the wide selection of flowers to pack your shady spots with colour. Azaleas and rhododendrons will give you a big late winter to spring punch, and their evergreen foliage keeps your small garden looking great for the rest of the year.
Also known as the winter rose, hellebores (Helleborus) is great for winter flowering colour.
Tree begonia is a large shrub that can reach between one and three metres and flowers in summer and autumn.
Originally from South Africa, clivia (Clivia miniata) thrives in Sydney and will brighten your shady garden from late winter to early spring. Impatiens are annuals with small but vibrant blooms.
For a fragrant shade garden, daphne is a great choice from mid-winter to spring, when blush-pink flowers (later fading to white) fill the air with a heady, slightly citrus scent.
Perennial anemones are a beautiful choice and their flowers come in pink and white.
Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) make a wonderful addition and continue to bring joy inside as a long-lasting cut flower. Ranging from ivory white to deep pink-red shades and almost purple, pieris features a beautiful cascade of late winter to early spring blooms.
1. Azaleas, 2. Rhododendrons, 3. Hellebores, 4. Clivia, 5. Impatiens, 6. Daphne, 7. Perennial anemones, 8. Hydrangeas, 9. Pieris
Aim high and make the most of vertical space by growing vines and climbing plants. Evergreen shade-loving vines, such as ivy (hedera), are happy to scramble up pretty much any surface.
There are many flowering shade-loving vines to choose from too, like native hardenbergia (Australian sarsaparilla). Its pea-shaped clusters of flowers in winter and spring are loved by birds and butterflies.
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides) will climb over supports and cling to walls, fences, pergolas and hard surfaces with great ease and abandon. It also makes great ground cover for larger areas.
Stephanotis floribunda, also known as Madagascan jasmine, looks and smells much like jasmine, but is in a genus of its own. From November to April, this evergreen climber produces clusters of white, powerfully-scented, bell-shaped flowers.
Roses For North Walls
When planting roses on a north facing wall one thing to make sure is that there are no overhanging branches and that the soil is not too dry. Competing plants may make even the most shade tolerant rose struggle to perform so make sure they have plenty of space.
Whether choosing ramblers or climbers or even shrub roses we have a full collection of roses that are suitable for north walls. Ranging in colour from whites, pinks and yellows, right through to purples and oranges, there really is a rose for every garden.
For a versatile and award winning rose that is in flower throughout the summer and autumn the climber
New Dawn is hard to look past. With a sweet scent and flushes of large pale pink blooms it will happily grow on a north wall and cope with poorer soil. This award winning rose is part of the World Federation of Rose Societies Rose Hall of Fame. Another award winning rose suitable for a north wall is the eye catching Paul’s Scarlet rose. This rose has masses of bright scarlet double flowers in large sprays with a light honey fragrance.
Above you will find our full selection of roses for north walls or use our navigation to find the perfect rose for your garden. Buy online today for fast UK delivery of all in stock roses or give us a call on 01939 211900 if you have any questions.
• Want to know the best shade plants for shady gardens, including shade perennials, full shade plants and colourful shade plants? Here, we list 15 varieties that will thrive out of the sun.
• Follow our advice on how to treat soil for plants that grow in the shade.
• Visit one of our top three recommended nurseries for shade loving flowers.
Shade is seldom constant. It varies according to the season and time of day, so the first step to understanding what will grow in a shady spot is to observe how the light changes. Once you know what you are dealing with, there are things you can do.
Unless deep shade appeals to you, judicious pruning will make a shady space much easier to manage. Thinning the canopy and removing the lower branches of trees (you may need planning permission for this), as well as lifting the skirts of shrubs, will let in more light, allow rain to penetrate the soil more easily and create better growing conditions. But bear in mind that, over time, trees and shrubs re-grow and shade will deepen once more, so cut back regularly or plants may fail to thrive.
Things to consider:
- Observe how the light changes through the day in that area
- Judicious pruning will make a shady space much easier to manage and let in more light and rain
- Choose shrubs for year-round interest
Choose shrubs for year-round interest, including blossoms for spring, flowers for summer, berries and vibrant leaf colour for autumn and evergreens for winter. Many shade gardens are at their best in spring when bulbs, primroses, wood anemones and hellebores carpet the ground beneath deciduous trees before the leaf canopy opens and excludes much of the light.
Summer shade planting seldom has the same impact, but the good news is that there are tough perennials, such as epimediums, ferns, lily of the valley and hardy geraniums (avoid Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae unless you are desperate – it’s a thug), that can provide ground cover and create a backdrop for some of summer’s best shady characters, including the white form of foxglove, martagon lilies, lamiums and Japanese anemones. For the best effect, choose white or pale tones to stand out against the largely green backdrop.
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15 BEST SHADE LOVING PLANTS
1. Amelanchier X Grandiflora This small tree does well in semi-shade, tolerating deeper shade in summer. Best bought multi-stemmed, unless space is limited, it provides clouds of white flowers and coppery young foliage in spring, summer berries and vivid autumn colour.
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2. Hakonechloa Cacra – Known as Japanese forest grass, this vibrant deciduous plant thrives in damp shade and has mounds of cascading leaves. Variegated and golden forms are the most eye-catching and will have the brightest colour in partial shade. Good in pots.
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3. Melica Uniflora – Described by Beth Chatto as “quietly attractive”, this deciduous native grass grows in woodland, on shady banks and in alkaline soils. It forms upright clumps with stems of dainty rice-like flowers and, once established, will self-seed readily.
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4. Ferns – Happy to grow in inhospitable spots, many of these plants are evergreen, and there’s a huge range of shapes and sizes – from shiny leaved asplenium to tough polystichum and the elegant, moisture-loving Osmunda regalis.
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5. Hydrangeas – Once established, these shrubs will provide reliable summer colour beneath trees or on the shady side of a garden. Tough and resilient, they come in a variety of sizes and different forms, including climbers.
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6. Epimediums – Reliable in dry shade, the evergreen varieties of this plant make excellent ground cover with their wiry branching stems and heart-shaped leaves. Trim clumps with shears in spring so emerging flowers can be seen above the foliage.
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7. Hardy Geraniums – This useful plant does well, even in dry shade. G. endressii and G. x oxonianum can be pretty thuggish and self-seed freely, but G. macrorrhizum, G. phaeum and G. versicolor make good ground-cover plants in full or partial shade.
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8. Clematis – Spring-flowering C. montana and autumn-blooming C. viticella are good climbers for shady spots. Like all clematis, they prefer their roots in shade and heads in sun, so plant them where they can scramble up a wall or through a tree or shrub.
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9. Helleborus Orientalis – Invaluable in winter and spring, these leathery leaved perennials are tougher than their delicate drooping heads might indicate. Plant on a bank or where you can look up into the flowers. H. foetidus, the stinking hellebore, only smells if you touch it and does well in very dry shade.
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10. Persicaria virginiana ‘Lance Corporal’ – This perennial foliage plant deserves to be better known. Happy in partial or full shade, its bright green leaves have striking dark chevron markings. It prefers a moisture-retentive soil but will grow in dry shade and self-seed if you are lucky.
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11. Tellima Grandiflora – A semi-evergreen, tallish, ground-cover perennial that does well planted around trees. It sends up spires of white or green-tinged bell-shaped flowers above rosettes of leaves from May to July. Although it prefers a moisture-retentive soil, it will do almost as well in dry shade.
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12. Tiarella Cordifolia – In late spring and early summer, this evergreen perennial bears attractive foamy white flower spikes, held just above its robust heuchera-like leaves. The foliage takes on bronze tints in autumn. A good choice for dense, dry shade.
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13. Galium Odoratum – Sweet woodruff hugs the ground with whorls of foliage and starry white flowers in spring and early summer. It dies back for a few months, re-emerging in early autumn. Great beneath hellebores, among ferns or in dark corners, but it can be rampant.
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14. Cyclamen Coum and Cyclamen Hederifolium – C. coum flowers in late winter and early spring and needs a damp soil, while C. hederifolium is happy in dry shade and blooms in August and September. Plant both where they will not be disturbed and, once established, they will spread beneath deciduous trees.
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15. Astrantias – Known as a perennial for the herbaceous border, astrantia grows in damp ground at the edge of woodland in the wild and will do best in similar garden conditions. A moisture-retentive soil is essential for it to grow well.
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GETTING TO GRIPS WITH YOUR SOIL
Soil conditions (like light) can vary throughout the year: damp in spring but dry once the tree canopy develops, prone to flooding in winter, but free-draining the rest of the year – or permanently dry. It is essential to choose plants that are well adapted to your soil type.
Moisture-loving shade plants will never thrive in a dry soil. Humus-rich damp shade is good news. Dry shade is low in fertility and can repel water, but it can be improved by digging over the soil, removing intrusive roots and adding compost or soil conditioner.
Nurture plants in their first year, water in dry weather and liquid feed until they are growing strongly. An annual mulch with composted bark or leaf mould will keep all shady soils in good condition and suppress weeds: apply it after rain or a thorough watering.
BEST NURSERIES FOR SHADE-LOVING PLANTS
• The Beth Chatto Gardens Elmstead Market, Colchester, Essex (01206 822007; bethchatto.co.uk)
• Long Acre Plants Charlton Musgrove, nr Wincanton, Somerset (01963 32802; plantsforshade.co.uk)
• The Plantsman’s Preference Church Road, South Lopham, Diss, Norfolk (01379 710810; plantpref.co.uk)
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