Gardening In The Shady Garden

Gardening In The Shady Garden

Gardening where the sun doesn’t shine is not the easiest of tasks, but it can be one of the most rewarding. It requires patience, perseverance, and trust that, yes, some plants will grow in the shadiest of places. There must also be an understanding forged between you and that shady spot, stating clearly: “I will not try to plant large, showy flowers, like sunflowers and zinnias, where there is no direct sunlight. Instead, I will enjoy the challenge this shade garden presents and choose beautiful plants that are appropriate to this location.” Now, put your heavy-duty gardening gloves on; we’ve got a challenge ahead.

Gardening in the Shady Garden

First, let’s evaluate that shady area of your yard. Is it located under a tree or next to the house? Most shady spots are not only deprived of sun but also of moisture. The tree’s roots take up a lot of the moisture available; similarly, the average home has an overhang preventing rain from reaching within a foot (0.5 m.) of the foundation. Pay special attention to the water needs of the plants you locate in these areas and don’t skimp on soil preparation. The soil may be not only dry but compacted as well. Try adding compost and organic matter, such as rotted leaves, to the soil. It will hold moisture more efficiently and send air and nutrients to the roots of your shady plants.

The amount of sunlight a shady area receives is also important to understand. If there is no direct sunlight reaching the desired area, be sure to select plants that are suitable for “full shade” like:

  • ferns
  • impatiens
  • lily-of-the-valley

If the bed you’re working with receives dappled sunlight throughout the day or perhaps a few hours of direct sunlight, you will be able to work with a wider variety of plants and most likely can choose plants suitable for “partial shade” such as:

  • astilbe
  • gloriosa daisy
  • hibiscus

Simply keep an eye on that bed for a day and jot down in your garden journal how much direct sun the bed receives, if any.

Shade cast by a deciduous tree, like a maple, can be one of the easiest spots to reckon with because it has little or no leaves for half of the year. Planting sun-loving, spring-blooming crocus or tulips under such a tree is ideal, while then moving on to a few warmer weather shade plants like caladium, with its beautiful, tropical foliage, or the showy hosta. Even pansies and Johnny-jump-ups are content in the shade, given some sun throughout the day and a good supply of food, water, and love.

The maintenance required of the shade garden is one of its finest features, especially if you’ve chosen to mulch it with bark, rock, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Mulching will retain moisture and since it’s already shady, you won’t lose moisture to the hot sun’s rays. Thus, you won’t have to drag that watering can out nearly as often. Also, shady spots tend to be miraculously short on weeds that prefer the sunlight of your vegetable garden instead. So you can spend your time enjoying the shade of your favorite hammock instead. Aaaah, the shady life, ain’t it grand?

16 Vegetables to Grow in Partial Shade

The Spruce / Catherine Song

It's a fact that most plants do best if they grow in a sunny location, and this is especially true of vegetables. Most species of edible vegetables need at least 6 hours of daily sun to produce at optimal levels. This is not a universal rule, however.

As a basic rule of thumb, vegetables grown for their fruit or roots—such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash, potatoes, or carrots—require full sun, which is defined as a garden location that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day. Vegetables grown for the leaves, stems, or buds often do quite well without full sun. A good number of vegetables can produce nicely with three to six hours of sunlight per day, or with constant dappled sunlight for the entire day.

Keep in mind, though, that no vegetable can thrive in deep, dense shade. While ornamental gardeners have choices for plants to grow in full shade, that's not the case for vegetable gardeners.

Here are 16 edible plants that will produce well if they receive three to six hours of direct sunlight each day, or constant dappled light for the full day.

In the Northern Hemisphere, vegetable gardens should face southward. A south-facing garden receives the largest amount of sunlight as the sun passes overhead throughout the day. If possible, plant your garden on the south side of your property. If that's not possible, the second best option is to situate your garden on the east or west side of your property, as these directions also receive a large amount of light.

A garden on the north side of your property is the least desirable. In the Northern Hemisphere, a garden on the north side receives the least amount of sunlight. Surrounding homes, buildings, trees and shrubs cast shadows over your garden for the majority of the day in a north-facing garden.

Feed for Brilliant Leaves

Dramatic, color-saturated coleus foliage depends on proper nutrition. The right fertilizers keep energy directed into colorful leaves. The richest, most brilliant colors rest on balanced nutrients at planting, followed by gentle, season-long feedings. Lilly Miller All Purpose Planting & Growing Food 10-10-10 blends traditional plant foods and slow-acting ingredients to start newly planted coleus out right.

Too much fertilizer diminishes vibrancy, but low-level organic nutrients reward shade gardeners with outstanding coleus color. Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1, listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), combines low phosphorus and potassium with a high level of nitrogen to enhance foliage growth and color. Ongoing feedings are especially important for container-grown coleus, which often lose nutrients due to increased watering.

Types of garden shade

Check out our guide to the types of garden shade and the plants best suited to them

Published: Tuesday, 19 November, 2019 at 8:22 am

It’s vital to understand what kind of shade you have, so you can choose the right plants. Are you dealing with dry shade or damp shade? And what degree of shade have you got? This all depends on what’s casting the shade and which aspect your garden has.

The ‘aspect’ is the direction your garden faces – north, south, east or west. This affects which areas get plenty of sun and which ones are in shadow for all or part of the day.

The easiest way to work out your aspect is to stand by the outside wall at the back of your house with a compass and see which way is south. If south is directly ahead of you, then your garden is south-facing.

For the degrees of shade explained, from deep to dappled (and what grows in it), don’t forget to check out the bottom of this page.

Use our handy guide to the types of garden shade, and pick up tips on which plants will thrive in it.

South-facing gardens

Little shade with lots of sunshine on the back of the house. The far boundary faces north, so will be mostly shaded all day. With your back to the house, your right-hand boundary will be east-facing (morning sun), while your left-hand one will face west (afternoon and evening sun). Our diagram shows the degree of shade cast in the morning, noon and evening (L-R).

South-facing planting tips

Climbers for the north-facing wall include Parthenocissus henryana and ivy. For foliage, add ferns and hostas, and for flowers plant daphne, brunnera and fragrant lily of the valley. In the hottest areas, grow sun-loving plants like Verbena bonariensis, bearded irises and Mediterranean plants.

North-facing gardens

This garden will have areas of shade for much of the day. Though, north-facing surfaces, like back of the house, will get decent evening sun from May-Oct. All but the most heat-loving plants enjoy midday shade, which also stops pale colours burning out. Our diagram shows the degree of shade cast in the morning, noon and evening (L-R).

North-facing planting tips

Try woodland plants, such as hellebores, snowdrops and pulmonaria, which flower early, before the tree canopy shades out the light, and put on growth through summer despite the shade overhead. They’re ideal for areas that only get early morning sun.

West-facing gardens

These gardens are in shade in the morning and get sun during the afternoon and evening, which is ideal for camellias. Plants in a west-facing garden or area must also be able to withstand the heat of the afternoon sun over the summer months. Our diagram shows the degree of shade cast in the morning, noon and evening (L-R).

West-facing planting tips

Plants that will suit these conditions include magnolias and camellias, which like the morning shade, and perennials such as sedums and fuchsias.

East-facing gardens

East-facing gardens get mostly morning sun. Plants that like partial shade and need shelter from strong sunlight will thrive here. Afternoon shade protects plants from the sun at its hottest while evening shade will enhance the impact of white flowers that attract pollinating moths. Our diagram shows the degree of shade cast in the morning, noon and evening (L-R).

East-facing planting tips

White-flowered Nicotiana sylvestris likes evening shade and adds scent to the garden too. Plants that will cope with morning sun and cool conditions include Clematis alpina, honeysuckle and berberis.

Sun-loving Herbs

You’ve got a pretty good salad with the fruits and veggies on this list, but where would you be without some veggies to season them with?

This list is your cheat sheet for sun-loving herbs that are hardy and have-to haves:

  1. Basil
  2. Tarragon
  3. Dill
  4. Lavender
  5. Chives
  6. Echinacea
  7. Stevia

So when you plan your garden, this time around, make sure you put this list of sun-loving vegetables and herbs in the sunniest spot possible in your garden. And come harvest time, you’ll have refreshing veggies to eat straight from the garden.

5 Great Shade Loving Perennials


Astilbe plants produce colorful plumes of flowers that shoot into the air. Their dark and glossy fern-like foliage is a great contrast to the blooms.

Although large, the gorgeous flowers do not require staking as they grow on stiff stems. And as a bonus, the blooms hold their color for months!

They are versatile in size ranging from tiny dwarfs to large, oversized hybrids.

Astilbe thrive in moist and shady areas, making them the perfect choice for hard to grow shaded flower beds. Plant Link : Little Visions Pink Astilbe Plants


Liriope is a wonderful choice for both shade and semi-shady areas. It is extremely shade tolerant.

It also makes an excellent ground cover or border plant.

The simple beauty of lirope

Liriope forms small clumps that grow 6 to 12″ high.

It spreads slowly to fill areas and is extremely hardy. It grows in much the same way as an ornamental grass.

In the fall. lirope flowers with spiked shoots of blue or white, depending on the variety.

Late in the fall, they also produce small berries that can help feed wildlife through the winter. Plant Link : Lirope Plants – 25 pack of plants

Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Oakleaf Hydrangeas have big, thick flowers that form in clusters, The Oakleaf is actually a shrub, and provides year-round interest to the landscape.

Oakleaf Hydrangea prefer shade over sun

Most Hydrangeas can handle a touch of sun. Morning sun is the most gentle and will not disturb their growth or blooming habits.

They come in all sizes, from dwarf varieties for containers, to large 8 foot and up hedge line shrubs. Plant Link : Ruby Slipper Hydrangea Plant

Coral Bells

Coral Bells, also known as alum root, are another terrific option when looking for shade loving perennial.

Their unique and dramatic foliage provide a variety of colors to spruce up shady beds.

The low-growing leaves can range from green to dark purple in color. Coral Bells’ foliage can also be found with in types of variegation.

This is the perfect choice to use as a ground cover.

Coral Bells produce delicate flower spikes on wiry stems above. They are that are long-lasting and beautiful to look at but won’t obscure the plants behind them.

This makes them the ideal choice for placement in the front of your landscape bordernull


The Hosta is the king of the road when it comes to shade loving plants. In fact, most varieties thrive in low sunlight.

Hostas come in all shades of beautiful greens, blues, and even whites. And many varieties are variegated, adding even more interest to their leafy foliage.

The greenish yellow tint of the wide brim variegated hosta

Their lush leaf structure can spread out over a large area, making them a perfect choice for planting under shade trees or close to the house.

One word of caution when it comes to hosta, deer love them! They are certainly not the best choice if Bambi and her friends frequent your yard.

They can also be divided and transplanted easily in the early spring to help fill large areas while not breaking the bank!

So if you have a few shady areas of your yard that have been neglected, how about trying some great shade-loving perennials to add a little color and interest.

This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, publishing two articles every week, 52 weeks a year. This article may contain affiliate links.

Watch the video: Shady Garden