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Planning Your Shady Garden

Updated on February 18, 2013

Not all shade is equal.

Shade can vary from light to dense shade. If shade is dappled from shadows cast by deciduous trees, you can plant a colorful spring garden of sun-loving flowers. (Such as early spring bulbs, crocus, early daffodils, and Spanish Bluebells; and early-blooming perennials, astilbe, American columbine, Virginia bluebells and primroses.)

Hosta, Blue Angel"
Hosta, Blue Angel"

When planning to use bushes and plants, remember, most large leaf plants like hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and hostas, require less sun than plants with small leaves.

Grow ground cover in shady places especially in dense shade. I planted ivy in my shade garden. Ivy can take a bit of maintenance to keep it in check, but there is almost an endless variety of ground covers that are less demanding.

Color in shade?

Shade beds don't have to be just green and white. Many shade plants have pink or white flowers. Yellow ligularias, pink astilbes and purple-spotted white toad lilies add color over a long season in the summer. For spring color add yellow daffodils and red tulips.

Adding blue slate stepping stones with a mulch-filled path through the area will give added color as well as being delightful to walk along the wooded garden. For a color there are clay pots with geraniums in the areas where the sun until the filters through the trees. If the flowers start to fade perk them up by moving them into another part of the garden where there is more sun.

Large trees in a shady woodland garden can take a lot of water and rob the flowers and bushes near by. Put soaker hoses around the bushes when there is not enough rain.

Take a look at the pictures of my front yard showing how I solved some of the problems with shade.

Check out the plant chart below for some great planting ideas. You don't need to have all the plants for a great shade garden. Just pick four or five to start out, and keep building from there. Also, check out the video at the bottom of the page on " Easy to Grow Flowers In the Shade Garden."

Ivy growing in filter shade.
Ivy growing in filter shade.
Springtime in a shady garden-profusion of azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel. When these flowers fade, the 4-o'clocks bloom with a profusions of yellow.
Springtime in a shady garden-profusion of azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel. When these flowers fade, the 4-o'clocks bloom with a profusions of yellow.
Choosing white and pastel-colored flowers and shrubs will pop-out of the shadows rather than recede into the background.
Choosing white and pastel-colored flowers and shrubs will pop-out of the shadows rather than recede into the background.
To add color to a shade or woodland garden grow colorful shrubs like azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel. Add interesting foliage from woodland favorites, like pulmonaria or caladium.
To add color to a shade or woodland garden grow colorful shrubs like azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel. Add interesting foliage from woodland favorites, like pulmonaria or caladium.

Types of Plants for a Shady Garden

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    • profile image

      Lynda 

      3 years ago

      What a pluresae to find someone who thinks through the issues

    • profile image

      Troy 

      8 years ago

      great help with the table of shade plants. Thanks from Atlantic Canada.

      Troy

    • profile image

      ts1969 

      9 years ago from Spokane, WA

      Thanks for the information. That will help when my wife and I get around to planting the shady area in the corner of our yard.

    • Andrea Kalli profile image

      Andrea Kalli 

      10 years ago from Aurora, CO

      Awesome article and beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.

      Andrea

    • Holly D Irwin profile image

      Holly D Irwin 

      10 years ago from Montreal

      For nature lovers, this is great info to add beauty anywhere.

    • DayTradersWin profile image

      DayTradersWin 

      10 years ago from Laguna, California

      Just reviewed your site.Living in California where houses have limited land, nearly every property has it's shade areas. Your subject, content, and presentation to bring the shady areas alive with beauty and energy are, in my short green thumb view, valuable and well done for others with a similar interest.Thanks JohnTraders - Consultant CoachDay Traders Win

    • profile image

      want2know 

      10 years ago

      Great content, oh if only my yard would look that good, great photos and comprehensive info

    • profile image

      Jason Stanley 

      10 years ago

      That is an amazing yard! I have trouble getting grass to grow in both shade and sun. I do pretty well with dandylions though.

    • beta1070 profile image

      beta1070 

      10 years ago from UK

      Those really are some fab photos! :-)

    • lisatener profile image

      lisatener 

      10 years ago from Rhode Island

      Wow, gorgeous photos. We have lots of hostas and I did not know that about slugs--thanks for the tip. We also have lots of shade, so this is great info. I am bookmarketing it in my delicious!

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