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Six Shade Garden Plants

Updated on September 25, 2015

Six Shade Plants

Shade, as a gardener, do you consider it a blessing or a curse? Personally, I like shade, although you can get too much of it but on a hit summer’s day, a backyard without shade can be unbearable and what is the point of a garden if you cannot sit out in it at all hours of the day and night?

If your yard is completely shaded then you will have to forgo tomatoes and other vegetables but that does not mean that you are unable to add beauty and form to the space.

Shade gardens can be glorious and to make full use of the shade you garden offers you must first understand shade itself.

Light or Dappled shade, is bright enough that most plants will grow there, even those that claim to need full sun. In this case the sunlight moves across the garden and never stays in one place for long.

Open shade may be found in that small space beside your garage or shed that has a northern exposure. The light there is bright but it rarely receives any direct sun.

Medium shade this is the drawing line between plants that will accept shade and those that do not. Usually found under small trees or near decks and stairwells, for example.

Deep shade allows no obvious sunlight to enter where trees, fences and buildings block the view. This is the home of some ivies and mosses.

The following plants will bring colour, form and texture to the shaded areas.

Royal Hellebore Mix, Helleborous orientalis, is the earliest blooming perennial. It is also known as the Lenten Rose and will add that burst of colour to the early spring garden. This mix is easy to grow and the showy flowers are complemented by the evergreen foliage so you have a dramatic impact throughout the gardening season. Works well is shaded borders or woodland gardens.

Ferns are an ideal choice for your shade garden. The Japanese painted fern has a weeping habit and the foliage appears to have been painted with a silver tip. This plant can brighten a night time garden. The Japanese painted fern, Athyrium niponiucm var., grows in clumps that are 30-40 cm high and will spread to 70 cms.

Hostas are one of the better known shade plants and there is a new on the market. Interestingly named the Bulletproof Hosta, Hosta ‘Bulletproof’ because of its frosted, metallic blue and heart shaped leaves. Pale violet-blue tubular flowers appear in mid-summer. This hosta is ideal for borders as a ground cover or for the container garden.

If you are a begonia fan then the Bonfire begonia or Begonia bolivienis 'Bonfire'. Will please you; its bright red-orange flowers are striking and the plant requires no pruning. It will grow in a bushy round form with new flowers constantly replacing the old ones.

One of my favourites is the Mouse Tail plant, Arisarum proboscideum, so named for the long ‘tail’ that look like a mouse tail. This plant grows from early to mid-spring and its maroon and white blooms are attention grabbing. This plant will readily naturalize and works well in the border or stand out in a container.

Last, but certainly, not least is the Poker Primrose, Primula vialii, this beauty will bloom in late spring and the flowers appear on 30-40 cm spikes. The bright red buds appear first and open to fragrant, lilac blue flowers. The blooms last between six and eight weeks and will bring the butterflies.

These are six of the many plants that can transform that shady spot and bring new life to areas that too many gardeners ignore.


Bob Ewing, photo
Bob Ewing, photo


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  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 4 years ago from New Brunswick

    You are welcome and happy growing.

  • Better Yourself profile image

    Better Yourself 4 years ago from North Carolina

    Nice hub! This is really helpful. My front yard is mostly shade so I've been in search of plants to fill the needed areas. I'm a big fan of hosta but am excited to look into some of the others listed above. Thanks for sharing!