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Shade Gardening Tips

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To have success with plants in the shadows, it helps to use varieties that benefit by the protection of shade. This guide contains shade gardening tips.


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By 5 found this helpful
November 1, 2015

I had a small area with a small flowering tree and decided under that tree I could make a pretty little shade garden. It is fading this time of year, but will get a redo in spring!


  1. Photo Description Had a small area with a small flowering tree and decided under that tree I could make a pretty little shade garden. It is fading this time of year, but will get a redo in spring!
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June 29, 20120 found this helpful

If part of your yard is subject to shade, instead of trying to modify it, why not raise an attractive, diverse garden of shade loving plants? Shade gardens offer gardeners a lot of unique opportunities. The plants often have bolder and more colorful foliage than sun plants. And because shade gardens are not as prone to weeds or droughts as sun gardens, they tend to require less maintenance.


Guidelines for Shade Gardening

Assess Your Site. Different types of shade support different kinds of plants. Survey the shade in the different areas of your yard, and note the time of day that each area is shaded. This will help you determine the best plants for your shade garden.

Types of Shade

Lighten up with color: To lighten up deep shade, use plants with variegated leaves or bright blooms. For foliage, try coleus, pulmonaria, Jacobs ladder, coral bells, ivy, hosta, or Solomons seal. For flowers, grow forget-me-nots, astilbe, impatiens, monkshood, columbine, or bleeding hearts.

Make green work for you: The main color you will work with in the shade garden is green. The good news is that there literally thousands of shades to choose from. Mixing bright greens with dark greens and mid-tone greens creates a sense of harmony. The light silver-green foliage of Jack Frost Brunerra or the green and white variegated foliage of Solomons seal work to brighten dim corners and make small spaces seem larger.


Compensate for competition: Soil fertility can be a source of trouble in the shade garden because the feeder roots from trees and shrubs tend to hog most of the water and nutrients. If your shade plants are located near trees, you will need to give them extra fertilizer and waterespecially during droughts.

Choosing the Right Plants


Four Quick Tips for Starting a Shade Garden

  1. Start by cleaning up the area. Thin out unwanted saplings, damaged or unattractive trees, and undesirable brush. Then if necessary, prune off a few low hanging branches to allow in more light.
  2. Amend existing soil with organic matter to better hold soil moisture and give the roots of new plants a good start. If possible, dig in a 4 to 6 inch layer of organic matter each time you plant something.
  3. Follow natures lead by stacking plants in layers. Use taller trees to provide the ceiling, ground covers, bulbs, and perennials for the floor, and fill in the mid-level with shrubs and small trees. Plant around large tree roots instead of trying to cut through them.
  4. Water each plant as you set it in the ground, and apply organic mulch like bark, woodchips, or pine needles immediately after planting.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

May 17, 20050 found this helpful

I have an area in front of my house that could use some planting. It's under the eaves and shaded by trees, one being a pine. So I need something that would tolerate dry, acidic, shade. I live in zone 4b. Any suggestions?

Thank you.


May 17, 20050 found this helpful

Have you checked with your local Agriculture extension office? They usually have great ideas.

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By Janette (Guest Post)
May 17, 20050 found this helpful

Try shade hostas. There are about 350 different kinds. You have a wide variety to choose from. Hostas will grow just about anywhere. A little watering occasionally especially when first planted will help to keep them lush.

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By Leona (Guest Post)
May 17, 20050 found this helpful

Try ferns they thrive in the shade.

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May 18, 20050 found this helpful

I don't know how the hostas would be under the pine in acidic soil. Check that out with your local plant nursery. They do like moist conditions, so unless you watered them they will grow but just grow very slowly.

Have you tried bergenia? It has a thick stem and large leaves with pink flowers stalk in the spring. Bergenia will grow in shade and sun, anywhere. It will fill the area quite nicely and if you need to get rid of it for some reason it is easy to pull out and doesn't have any little runners like goutweed or ferns do. I have been told that it doesn't mind the acidic soil, so that would be something to check at your local plant nursery.

Goutweed will also be an option for you but I don't like it because it is so invasive.

Ferns usually like moist areas, but my grandma did have them growing under an overhang on the north side of her house. They will also fill an area in quite nicely.

Good luck!

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By Shirley (Guest Post)
May 19, 20050 found this helpful

Pachysandra is a nice ground cover for shade.

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By 0 found this helpful
August 19, 2010

What grows best in the shade? We have a raised box 15 x 4 next to the house. It is almost completely shaded by our carport. We are looking for things that will grow there. I don't think this area gets more than a couple hours of sun, if that, so it can't even be considered partial shade. Will anything: plants, flowers, vegetables, etc. grow here? Thanks for any help!

Hardiness Zone: 5b

By Angela from Wickliffe, OH


August 19, 20100 found this helpful

You can't go wrong with hosta, but look beyond the basic green ones. There are varigated ones that add such a nice look, and can brighten up a shady spot. Also try huchera and ferns. Things may take longer to grow, but when cared for well, they will grow. Heres more:
http://www.oldh  our-garden.shtml

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August 21, 20100 found this helpful

There are many ground covers that probably would do well in the shade, pachysandra comes to mind right off.

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