Plants for Shady Gardens

There are so many plants that brighten up a shady spot, and enough varieties to fill a border engulfed in shadow! A shady garden doesn’t need to be boring and lifeless – there are plenty of plants that have evolved to cope in these conditions – don’t give up, just change your plant choices.

An Oxfordshire Country Garden

I have recently been designing the planting scheme for an exposed and chilly garden in the Oxfordshire countryside. Although it’s a very large garden, so a lot of the borders are reached by the sun, there is one particular border, on the most northerly facing wall of the house which is nearly always in shadow. The client wanted the large border to have the feel of a beautiful herbaceous border, but be able to cope with the lack of sun – a challenge in itself!

Garden Design Layout for an Oxfordshire Country Garden

This is the layout I drew up for the garden.

Choosing Your Plants

Plants that grow well in shade are often very lush and green and more often than not, have white flowers. White flowering plants are very useful in a shady situation as the little light there is will reflect off the white and brighten up the dark corners of the garden. Hydrangea Annabelle will bring you big pom-poms of bright white in the summer, and Sarcococca or Osmanthus are great examples of evergreens that will grow in the shade, not to mention the beautiful scent from their tiny white flowers. There are so many examples of shade tolerant perennials, such as Digitalis alba (and Digitalis purpurea, if you want a bit of colour), all types of Hellebore, Ajuga purpurea (deep purple leaves and bright purple flowers), all types of Hosta, Geranium phaeum (lots of varieties available), and many more. With careful selection and appropriate placing within the border, you can create a beautiful garden, no matter how little sun your garden is exposed to.

A Shady Courtyard

This tiny London courtyard garden was carefully created with a water-feature, a bespoke bench, a huge mirror to visually extend the space and subtle lighting. However, it was brought to life by the lush green and white planting palette. The designer, Jon Uglow (Nicholsons) used Ferns, Hydrangeas, Alchemilla, Vinca, Stachys and Ivy, with the odd touch of purple here and there, to make the tiny space feel like a luxurious oasis in the heart of a busy city.

Plants for Shady Gardens
Plants for Shady Gardens

If you would like to know more about choosing plants for shady gardens or are interested in us creating the perfect garden for you please contact us at

Plants for Shady Gardens