Ideas for the Perfect Shade Garden

Many of the most avid gardeners get frustrated when planning a new garden for a shady location!  Just when you fall in love with something, you flip over the tag or google it and BAM…it’s for SUN!  Don’t fret!  There are many beautiful plants that thrive in shady locations!  Take the Aquilegias (see left) that will bloom in early spring in all shades of pink, blues,  purple, whites and many shades in between! What constitues a “shade” garden you ask?  “Shady” locations are deemed as such due to the lack of direct sunshine throughout the day.  If your area receives just filtered daylight or morning sun only or less than 6 hours of direct sun, chances are that is a shady area! Hostas are a great plant for shade!   There are thousands of varieties to choose from sporting golden leaves, blue leaves, variegated and green leaves!  ‘Paul’s Glory’ is absolutely one of my favorites!  There are small varieties like ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ and Big Varieties like ‘Sagae‘ and varieties that will make a very nice groundcover like ‘Golden Tiara’ so do your research and determine your “must-haves”! Ligularia is an excellent choice for damp shade as this plant tolerates wet areas (actually prefers it!) and has bold foliage  that will give you distinct foliage contrast in you shade garden.   This variety, “Othello” has yellow flowers and dark colored undersides to the leaves. 

You can include a variety of ferns which all love the shade and give a variety of shapes and form in the garden. Try Hypericum or Asarum or hardy geraniums for ground covers.  When planning your area, remember that most plants will take more space as they become established so be sure to give everything room to spread their wings!   For shrubs, try Viburnum,  Clethra or Microbiotas and Rhododendrons.  Other perennials that enjoy a shady spot include Polygonatum, Tiarella, Heuchera, Epimedium, Astilbe or Hecherellas.    I have found that with filtered daylight you can add Shasta Daisy and Rudbeckias and other sun-loving perennials as well.  If you do try a sun-lover and they don’t bloom well…then you probably will have to move them to a sunnier spot but it’s worth a try!   If you have room for a trellis….add Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ for spring color!  Shade tolerant!!  Oh the possibilities are endless!  If you have the room, plant at least three of a variety….that will give you a more full garden in  less time. Make sure you keep your new plantings watered until they can get established!  Once they do, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy and just pick the occasional weed!  You’ll see that after a couple of years, the garden will all come together! You’ll be adding this here, moving that there, dividing this to share with a friend….adding a birdbath for your feathered friends! You will have become the gardener you never thought or always hoped you’d be!  Enjoy!

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One response to “Ideas for the Perfect Shade Garden

  1. Thank you for all the great ideas for our own shady flower bed. The Mrs. and I have tried so many varieties of plants for our garden over the years, some fair(ed) much better than others, with some elbow work and luck, but, this past winter knocked out almost everything we have managed to grow well, You have helped us decide on some plants and shrubs that will look great for us and can get along well together with what we have left, so now we can search up and learn more about, and possibly re-start with some new stuff, without anymore of all the trial and error of ‘if this or that can or will grow in our shady garden’. Thank you again! I’m so inspired to get started NOW! LOL. Your page here has sure helped us gain some fresh, new ideas that will wonderfully add to what we had in mind for re-sprucing up our poor ol’ flower garden, We’re in NYC, zone 6 or 7A, depending which chart you read, LOL! Happy Gardening!

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