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Low Maintenance Plants For Shady Areas

Updated on December 31, 2014

Shady Areas Are Those Under Trees, Patios, Etc.

There are some great plants that tolerate growing under trees that provide ideal conditions for their needs. They include azaleas, rhododendrums, camellias, ferns, and my favorites tuberous begonias. But there are literally hundreds of species that can survive with limited sun light, such as under the tree in this photo. The ones featured below are low maintenance and great flowering types to add interest and color to the garden for months on end, summer and winter,

The picture features one of several king parrots that frequently visit this apple tree where the fruit is left for their enjoyment. They also enjoy the shade in the hot summer months we experience in Canberra. Sharing my fruit with the birds is a great reward as we have removed their habitat for home development and we have to give back food sources if they are to survive. Under this tree are several shrubs that love the conditions and the bird droppings that enrich the soil. There is also a bird water container to provide essential drinks for my feathered friends thus adding more encouragement to them to visit.

My garden has featured and won awards in categories of Large Garden and Environmentally Friendly for the last three years in competitions run by the Australian Capital Territory Government. This region is one of the best in Australia for growing certain plants and fruits and it is well worth taking advantage of this fact. The aim of this grower is to provide a suitable habitat with nourishment for the many insects, birds and other animals that visit. This year for the first time possums have ventured in and helped themselves to some apples and tomatoes. All are welcome and they make my efforts worth while.

All pictures are (c)Copyright to Norma Holt. Please do not copy or reproduce.

Just Joey Rose and Petunias
Just Joey Rose and Petunias

Roses Grow in Shady Spots

This is a picture of a beautiful Just Joey Rose in flower beneath a hanging pot of petunias in a semi-shaded area where the only sun they receive is in the afternoon. Petunias will grow in filtered light where they do very well in other parts of my garden but they thrive best in full sun. Here a large lemon and plum trees cast shadow over the area.

For my pots of petunias I usually buy a few plants already in flower from the nursery. These blooms have survived from early spring until now when we are experiencing the first chills of winter with temps down to around -4*C. I cut them back in late summer to encourage more flowers and they look like they might survive until next spring

Arum Lillies and Just Joey Roses
Arum Lillies and Just Joey Roses

Lilies Grow in Shady Areas

This is a picture of some arum lilies that grow under the trees near my patio. I often pick them for the vases inside and include some roses (in this case Just Joey) to show them off. Sometimes I paint a picture incorporating them and they are very popular. This particular type feature among my favorite plants while some of the Asian varieties almost take my breath away because of their striking beauty. This year I had great success with them as well.

Arum lilies are definitely wonderful plants to grow and they are primarily a bulb but once in the garden they seem to multiply by seed, Their lush green almost heart shaped leaves grow in clumps and are a real asset to create interest when other plants die down for winter. Mine flower twice a year over extended periods.

The picture below is of my garden looking back towards the patio. Overhead are huge trees (out of the picture) that almost shade this area for most of the day, Above the lilies a clematis vine has pushed its way up to the sun and provided a spectacular show. It has grown over the trunk and branches of a dead nectarine tree that could not survive the shade but provides a good frame for it. Notice the old logs. These are places for insects, worms and other things to hibernate in. They are essential to the environment.

Below are some Asian Tiger Lilies from my garden. These are glorious plants that grow from bulbs which increase in number every year, They do best in full sun but these were grown in partial shade for part of the day.


Pansies Are Great in Semi Shade

Another great favorite of mine are the pansies. I prefer the giants as they tend to give the best show. These little wonders grow in pockets where they thrive around rocks (in picture) under trees, in pots or in just about any position one can imagine. Over summer they don't like the hot sun so its best to keep them in the shade as much as possible.

The colors of pansies are extraordinary and must include just about every hue available, What makes them extra great is that they are not restricted to one tone per plant and many will have different color combinations that add to their charm and unique characteristics. They also have a light but charming perfume. Pictured are pansies with forget-me-nots, another great planting idea for semi-shaded areas

Oyster Plant
Oyster Plant

The magnificent Oyster Plant

It's easy to see how this beauty got its name. When in flower its like a long stem of oysters hanging and waving about in the air. This unique variety loves tough conditions such as against a wall or fence, as in the case in my garden. It thrives in the shade or full sun but many gardeners choose to grow it where nothing else seems to fit.

The plant featured here is mostly in shade during the heat of the day as there is a large Youngberry vine (a cousin of Blackberry) growing over it during the summer months. Behind the fence are some rather high trees that cut out the sun for most of the day where it is located. If you have never tried this plant then you must give it a go. Because of its big tasty leaves it is a favorite for snails so make sure you keep a check on those pests.

Below is a close up of the magnificent flowers that are a great landscaping feature in any garden. These plants are drought tolerant and can die right back to ground level when young and rise again with the first moisture given. They die back over winter in some cases but are generally highly frost resistant in the right place, such as under trees. They reproduce themselves so you get others to enjoy as well.

Just Joey
Just Joey

A Rose for a Semi-Shaded Spot

This is a specimen of my Just Joey rose which is highly perfumed. The plant sits beneath my study window making a great show and the lovely odour wafts in and through the house, This is the position that suits it most and where it reaches almost to the top of of the window during summer. While I have tried it elsewhere, such as in full sun, the plants have not thrived and, in fact, may die. It is usually the first rose to flower and does so well into winter,

This remarkable flower harbors a range of colours from pale pink to lemon and a deep orange, It is usually pest free and does not tend to rust as other roses do. It is well worth giving it a try to you won't be disappointed. The flowers are usually larger than my outstretched hand when fully opened and they are long lasting both on the bush and in a vase. A good prune at the end of winter sets it up for another brilliant season to follow.

Below is the wonderful valerium plant or herb. It flowers also in part shade and is a lovely asset to the summer garden.


Great Plants for Small Spaces

Lobelia is one of my favorite small plants for the shady spot. It comes in blue, blue/white, or white and can be grown in clumps, as shown here, for the best show. They may also trail if grown in pots but I have not had much success with them in that situation.

The ones featured here have three main petals in white with a blue calyx, or protective cup like part at the base of the petals. They are non fussy when given the right conditions and as one can see they are growing here in soil covered in leaf mulch which keeps the roots cool and moist. Below you can see them (not yet flowering) in the front of other plants in an old fishpond converted to a shaded garden. Here you see bedding begonias, pansies, miniature roses, ferns, petunias and other things.

This picture was taken when the plants were small but as they grew they filled in the area and made quite a show.

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Magnificent Azaleas

These are certainly among the most favorite of choices in most gardens, They vie with other beauties for attention but are one of the easiest, low maintenance shade lovers of all. Sit them in a pot with the right conditions and watch them go. Better still put them in the ground under a tree and stand back in admiration of the beauty they excel at.

Many of my azaleas are in pots and they do wonderfully well, I often move them around, sometimes from the front to the back gardens or vice versa. The only problem with the pots is that they tend to get heavy, especially if they are self watering which I tend to use, That's why some of mine are in the ground like the one below, called silver anniversary, which flowers almost in total shade underneath two plum trees. It is now around 15 years old.

Ferns are Superb Patio Plants

Unfortunately this picture of the Japanese Painted Fern is a little out of focus because it was taken from the much larger shot above and enlarged. It does very well in the shade, It is sitting right in front of a hydrangea which did not do so well in that location and has to be moved.

Other ferns that are most suitable for hanging under the patio roof are maiden hairs, fish ferns, Boston ferns and so forth. They all require special conditions but once that is sorted then the results are great. One thing to bear in mind is that ferns do not like to be over watered, Maiden hair especially do not like getting their leaves wet either so be careful when using the hose around them.


Beautiful Pelargoniums

This gorgeous plant was just one of around a dozen scattered throughout the shady spots in the garden, They come in all different colors ranging from white to almost black and the perfume is wonderful. I love sitting on my patio with them in flower nearby and get such a thrill at the superb architecture of the flowers.

They are of the geranium family but I am not fussed about their cousins which are also classified as pelargonium by some nurseries but they are correctly all geraniums. The genus has around 200 varieties of succulents, perrenials and shrubs. They are easy care and will flower well into the winter in the right conditions.

Below is one of the many wattle birds that visit the garden each day. They love the plum tree under which this one is perched. Behind him you can see Agapanthus in flower and they are another that tolerates a fair bit of shade and are drought tolerant. Their flowers are like bursting stars of blue or white that is a welcome sight in late summer and autumn.

Just in front of the bird is an area for day lilies (pictured left) that flower each year without me touching them. They also tolerate the heavy shade from the plum tree while the fern like leaves belong to a Callistemon (bottle brush) which fills in under the plum and provides a wonderful habitat for the azaleas that are placed beneath them.

Below is the bank to the old fishpond that is under the fig trees where it is impossible to dig into the soil due to the roots. The alternative was a selection of plants in pots. They include pelargoniums and azaleas while a lovely white hydrangea plant (not yet in flower) sits in the soil in the deeper part of the garden. Heavy mulch was essential to keep the pots from overheating as they were partially buried in it. The pelargoneum featured above is visible at the back of the display.

Cyclamen for Indoor or Outdoors

These superb plants are gems in both the garden and indoors. Unlike most of the others featured here they thrive over winter and love the cold. They prefer not to be too wet and the bulb should not be subjected to moisture if avoidable as the bulb rots. If the conditions are right they will produce seeds that can be cultivated into new plants,

I now have several in my garden in places that need a little bit of winter color. I mainly purchase them from a supplier at the local farmers markets and they are not expensive in that case but they can fetch up to $18 in some retail outlets,

Below is where the cyclamen are being planted and tested for position. Notice that this is a winter garden without mulch because the bulbs rot if too much moisture is around them. The heavy leaf presence is an indication of that condition requirement and the water from rain or a hose drains off well away from them. Surrounding them are the arum lilies where new plants are already poking through the soil. Other bulbs in this site include the beautiful spring flowering daffodils where their yellow heads will herald the last days of winter.

Growing vegetables in the shade

Shade Loving Plants

Tuberous Begonias
Tuberous Begonias

Tuberous Begonias are Unsurpassed for Beauty.

This species of plants would have to be the king pin of modern horticulture. It will take a bit of patience to learn about their special needs but once you know them it is one of the easier of all maintenance free garden delights. They grow from bulbs and hate getting them wet so take care when watering. Mine are in self watering pots but some gardeners put them straight into the beds. I have not yet reached that stage.

The ones pictured here are coming to the end of their season as winter approaches so they are now kept well away from the frost but eventually the cold air will melt them down. That's when water is withheld until spring when the first pink shoots break the surface.

They take a while to get going, probably about two months or so, but by the start of summer they are bursting forth with magnificent blooms that are almost worth dying for, If you have never tried them then do so now and be delighted and well rewarded with the results. Below is a pot of plants now in their 3rd or 4th year. Note their trailing habit which makes them great specimens for hanging pots and for the patio.

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Daisies are a Real Winner

This superb double white chrysanthemum like daisy is growing here in almost total shade. Above it is a great mulberry shrub and in front of it is a clump of canna lilies. So it is also growing with a lot of competition for space and food but it thrives and has gone on from spring until the beginning of winter while flowering continuously.

It is in a bed with petunias, marigolds and a few other species but does not seem to mind. All my beds are heavily mulched as you can see and that prevents the soil from drying out during the hot summer months. It also keeps weeds at bay and helps control insects which are possibly shy of crawling over it.

Below is the Youngberry vine laden with ripening fruit which provides lots of shade for the plants underneath and around it, such as the oyster plant mentioned above. This fruit is a cousin to blackberries and its hard to tell the difference. The vine is not thorny, however, and it grows up on wires rather than matted on the ground like the latter.

Another great Azalea

This particular azalea is one of the Karume varieties. They are generally very hardy plants and are regular as clockwork often flowering before the other types get going. They are the most suitable for bonsai and for growing in tougher situations than their cousins,

The flowers are small and dainty and they have fewer leaves to hide their glory. I grow mine in pots but they are fabulous when planted straight into the garden as well. The one featured here grows happily in almost full shade for most of the day as it is under the plum tree just near where the bird was sitting on the seat above,

Below is one of the magnificent kangaroo paws growing under the mulberry shrub where it gets limited sunlight during the day. These are Australian natives and mainly annual plants that are rather expensive to buy but well worth having,

Still images from Dreamstime - click here

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© 2013 norma-holt

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    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 3 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      We have many large trees in our yard, so finding plants that love shade is important. We have some of the ones you listed in our small garden, but I will try to add a few new ones that you suggested. Thanks! :)

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      Beautiful photographs and what a lovely garden you must have. I have issues with shade in my garden and I will be taking note of a few of these plants

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      Really good assortment of plants that could work in my yard. Haven't seen the Oyster Plant, but it's really nice.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      @Snakesmum: I have just made a special bed of cyclamens as they are one of my favorite plants. I am with you as far as the hot summer and also lost some azaleas and just managed to save some others that were doing badly. Waiting now on the first frost to melt things down so I can reorganise the garden before spring.

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      These are some great ideas!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      There are quite a few shady areas in my garden, and I'm learning by trial and error just what grows there. My azaleas and rhododendrons didn't like the very hot summer this year, and neither did the hydrangea. Hopefully they'll recover this winter. One of my favourite plants is the cyclamen. They self seed sometimes, so I have quite a few. Helpful lens. Thanks

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I've never been very good at growing in the shade. Good suggestions here. Thanks for posting.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 4 years ago from New York

      I loved the photos of your garden with the names of the species and an explanation on each one. Very nice. Thanks so much for the featured link too. Pinned to my "The Garden" board. It will be helpful the next time I need plant ideas for the shade.

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 4 years ago

      An excellent lens that I will refere to again and again. I'm going to buy a load of cyclamins at farmers' markets tomorrow and fill a spot in my garden. I have tend to just pot these to date.

    • profile image

      the-gadgeteer 4 years ago

      Nice lens. Must be pretty awesome to have wild parrots in your area. How about a lens on plants for super sunny areas?

    • profile image

      poutine 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for this great information about growing plants in shady spots. I have a lot

      of shade in my backyard.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      I love having plants growing under the trees in my yard. All are great for shade.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      It's amazing that you're moving into winter now, given that you have this lens about flowers. The World had become so small. Thank you for this beautiful tour.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      @SteveKaye: We are having a weird start to winter as the weather is racing from cool to hot and back again. Today is rather humid but within a few days we will be back to winter. In Canberra we get the entire four seasons, unlike other places. Thanks for visiting Steve.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      @masunyoananda: Nice to get such lovely feed back. Thank you for visiting.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      @DLeighAlexander: Hope they do well for you. Thanks for visiting.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Nice to have you visit and hope your gardening is a huge success.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      @GregoryMoore: I know what that means. Word of warning though, over the years I have learned not to take everything out until you know what it does over a year. Many plants provide much needed shade or habitat that new owners are not aware of.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      @anonymous: That is such a sad story it almost brought tears to my eyes. Hope he can get more to keep his collection going. Cyclamens do much better in the garden than inside. Heat kills them and over watering is their biggest drawback. They are, after all, outdoor plants and hop that you will try them again in a nice shady spot.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We've been looking at shady areas in Mom's yard to give a little face lift too and hardy is the word we are looking for....I was surprised to learn that cyclamen is a tough plant, I've killed them off in the house, maybe it was with too much kindness and really drowned them with too much water. Daisies are always a winner for me because the are my favorite flower since forever. I do have a sad story about tuberous begonias. A man I know is renting a house with no basement and has had some tubers for up to 20 years that he was so proud of. He had them stored loosely in a cardboard box under his bed. Well, he had a medical condition that meant hospitalization and even nursing home care for a couple months....and then he took an apartment in town for another few months. Well, in the mean time, his landlord had built him a garage. When he checked the house, he saw the tubers under the bed and for some reason thought that wasn't the place for them. He put them in an unheated garage in the winter. Walter was devastated, he was only able to save one of his babies. The landlord paid for new ones but some were impossible to find. I guess when we think we are doing a good thing, we should check out the need for it sometimes. Beautifully presented with your usual heart of love for all living things! :)

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I moved to a new home over the Winter and we have been redoing all of the landscaping since the weather has turned nice. The last owners were not 'yard people' so we have had some serious work to do!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a huge open shady spot right outside my front door, will be filling it up with plants soon. Thanks for the info and the lovely photos!

    • DLeighAlexander profile image

      DLeighAlexander 4 years ago

      Thanks for the information! I will be planting some shade loving plants this year.

    • profile image

      masunyoananda 4 years ago

      I do have some of these plants and they are really great. Thanks a lot for this wonderful sharing. These flowers are really amazing...:)