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 page contains shade gardening tips.


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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, 2012

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, 2005

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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What type of plants that flower can I put in a mostly shady area that look nice?

Hardiness Zone: 6a

By Andrea from Sarnia, Ontario Canada


September 11, 20100 found this helpful

For an annual, I always plant impatiens. I just love them

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September 11, 20100 found this helpful

Impatiens always work. I, too, love them! If you have dappled shade in some areas, cone flowers actually work, although their flowers are more white than pink. Day lilies will also bloom in light shade, and if it's too dark, they'll at least put out foliage.

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September 15, 20100 found this helpful

Thanks for all the feed back. I cant wait to get started next year.

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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:

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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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November 25, 2019

This page offers several useful tips for adding light to a shady garden space, including the choice of plants, addition of mirrors, lights, and more. Try one or more in a shady area of your garden to create a lighter feel.

How to Bring Light Into Shady Garden Spaces

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

August 31, 2010

What types of flowers grow well in shady areas?

Hardiness Zone: 6a

By GreenEyes from central KS


Flowers for Shady Areas of the Garden

I love impatiens for shade. Hosta does well in shade, and will put out some spikes/shoots of flowers. Caladiums will do well in the shade. I like the look of mixing red and white, so I'll plant either white caladiums with red impatiens around them, or red caladiums with white impatiens around them. Looks great in a large container! (07/31/2010)

By Lisa

Flowers for Shady Areas of the Garden


By joan pecsek

Flowers for Shady Areas of the Garden

Daylilies are our favorite for shade. One advantage is that they don't require as much water as other shade plants. Also, they have great flowers! (07/31/2010)

By Liz

Flowers for Shady Areas of the Garden


By Sandra

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August 19, 2010

We have a 12'x55' space between two mobile homes. There is an apricot tree and a cherry tree, and they create full shade. A few violets are doing well there, but I would like to add some shade-loving plants of medium and low height. Can you suggest a few good plants for an intimate garden?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Coreen Hart from Rupert, ID


Plants for Shady Garden

Hostas are a good shade loving perennial. Some bushes that grow in the shade are azalea, and rhododendron, and the best annuals for shady areas are impatiens. They come in a variety of colors, and they bloom throughout the summer. (07/27/2009)

By Patricia Eldridge

Plants for Shady Garden

Fern or coleus would work. Also, any type ground cover. (08/03/2009)

By Sandra H. Spence

Plants for Shady Garden

Could be a great spot to grow a patch of lettuce and spinach for salads. You could always grow some tomatoes in pots in the sun elsewhere and have a nice addition to your meals. (08/03/2009)

By Gina Johnston

Plants for Shady Garden

Shade perennials:

  • astilbe
  • bleeding heart
  • columbine
  • ferns
  • hardy cyclamen
  • hellebore
  • heucherella
  • hosta
  • lily-of-the-valley
  • periwinkle
  • poker primrose
  • polemonium
  • sweet pea, perennial
  • Tradescantia (spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia, Blushing Bride

By emmamamie

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