Shaded areas in the garden are often unpopular, as the possibilities for beautiful design seem much more limited here than in sunny locations. Admittedly, many design approaches and plant combinations that work wonderfully in the sun are doomed to failure in the shade. But not all of them!
We have 15 tips for planting darker parts of the garden for you.
Table of Contents
choose suitable plants
Proper plant selection is paramount to the success of a shady garden. Look for plants that are suitable for garden areas with less light. The range of shade plants available at nurseries and garden centers is not quite as large as that of plants for sunny garden areas, but it is definitely sufficient for a beautiful and harmonious design.
However, not all shade is the same. Is the garden section shaded by woody plants or is it located in an urban canyon of houses?
Is the soil rather moist or rather dry? Decisive for the right choice of plants is not only the amount of light, but also the general soil conditions and humidity.
go for foliage decoration instead of flowers.
When designing beds, go for plants with eye-catching leaves, because it’s not just flowers that can be seen for a few weeks a year that contribute to a beautiful garden!
Large or fancy leaf shapes, unusual colors such as red, yellow or even black, and leaf designs in yellow or white all accent the shade garden. Think about fall color, too! And even the leaf green can have a variety of nuances.
Especially funkien Hosta are suitable as foliage ornamental plants in dark corners of the garden, but in the sun their leaves can burn. Funkias come in different species and varieties of different sizes, with blue-green to fresh green or yellowish leaves, sometimes variegated.
Caucasian forget-me-not Brunnera macrophylla in some varieties shows white leaf markings, such as the variety ‘Jack Frost’, which blooms sky blue. ‘Mr. Morse’ has similar leaves and white flowers. All Brunneras grow better in partial shade and shade than in sun.
In the picture in the container, the shade-tolerant black snakeweed Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Niger’ is growing. Fuchsias (right side) also grow well in less light, but unfortunately they are often not quite hardy and are therefore mostly used as container plants in our latitudes.
play with contrasts in texture and structure.
Use plants with different growth forms and leaves to create contrasts in texture and structure. This makes the areas look lively and varied, but at the same time subtle and unobtrusive. More on more striking designs later.
The decorative leaves of the funkie contrast beautifully with the delicate fronds of the fern. The different shades of green also stand out from each other.Especially with ferns and grasses good contrasts can be set in the shade garden. Here, for example, Japanese rainbow fern Athyrium niponicum ‘Metallicum’ and Japanese mountain grass Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ grow alongside lily of the valley and Christmas roses.
lay mulch paths
Paths made of stone mulch in wet shade. This can be annoying and sometimes even dangerous if it makes the surfaces slippery. A cost-effective alternative for garden paths that are not driven on, but only walked on, are scatters of bark mulch.
plant the area under shrubs and trees.
Lawns will not grow in the shade under trees and shrubs. Therefore, prefer to plant ground-covering perennials that can cope with the scarce light, but also the root pressure of the woody plants. For shady parts of the garden, it is best to take woodland perennials or those that grow along the edge of the woody plants.
A traditional English border under woody plants is possible, but requires much more expertise and care than a flat planting.
brighten dark places in the garden with white flowers.
White flowering plants brighten dark corners of the garden.
For example, splendid spireas, probably Astilbe thunbergii, were used along this path. A native alternative would be forest honeysuckle Aruncus dioicus.
Lily of the valley, woodruff and star umbels can also brighten up dark garden areas. Think also of white-panicled leaves as in some hostas!
plan splashes of color with it.
While the shade garden thrives on greenery in varying shades, it is not as limited in color as many believe.
Here, the flower of the splendid aspen cultivar Astilbe-arendsii-Hybride ‘Fanal’ forms a fantastic contrast to the yellow-green leaf of a funkie.
plant hydrangeas and rhododendrons.
For the shade garden, there are not only perennials, but also woody plants. Hydrangeas, azaleas and rhododendrons bring eye-catching flowers and colors into play.
plant bulbs for the spring.
Some geophytes form colorful carpets in the spring. These include, for example, blue star scilla and the yellow-flowered winter bulb Eranthis hyemalis. These grow best under deciduous woody plants, so stand sunny in early spring when the trees are not yet bearing leaves, and shady later.
Some spring bloomers are particularly suited to shade such as Elf Crocus Crocus tommasinianus and some daffodil varieties such as Narcissus ‘Jetfire’.
use structural highlights and sculptures.
Properly greening difficult garden sites is often difficult. With structural highlights such as pergolas and walls or decorative elements such as sculptures, you can set accents even without a green thumb.
design a seat in the shade.
A hidden bench in the shade allows you to enjoy the garden even in midsummer temperatures – when the terrace on the south side is much too hot at noon.
emphasize the magic of the shade garden.
Shade gardens can have a special magic. They seem more enchanted than a sun garden, and their design often seems more haphazard – even though that’s not true. Let some plants grow unrestrained: ferns and climbers are ideal.
A spring stone or a cleverly placed water basin can also contribute to a fairy-tale atmosphere. Clear forms anchor the design in modern times.If the location of the pool is under trees, however, keep in mind that you will have more work to do in the fall with falling leaves than if the pool is freestanding in the sun.
choose summer flowers suitable for the shade.
Most annual summer flowers are light-hungry. Fuchsias, on the other hand, can be grown well in the shade.
Pansies and horned violets also grow in partial shade.
enjoy edible plants for the shade.
Sure, the choice of edible plants that grow in the shade is not very large. Wild strawberries and woodruff are recommended. Rhubarb and black currant can also cope with off-sunny locations. Likewise, the climbing mini-kiwi (sharp-toothed ray-grass Actinidia arguta), for example, the variety ‘Weiki’, is suitable for shadier locations.
I have 30 years of experience and i started this website to see if i could try and share my knowledge to help you.
With a degree a Horticulture BSc (Hons)
I have worked as a horticulture specialist lead gardener, garden landscaper, and of course i am a hobby gardener at home in my own garden.
Please if you have any questions leave them on the article and i will get back to you personally.