Some of most difficult spots to fill in your garden are those that are shaded – but they don’t have to be. Many of the most popular classics that we love to fill up our yard with are sun-loving blooms, but there are just as many beautiful plants that thrive with a little more protection from the sun’s rays. Whether you’re looking for some fabulous foliage to fill up a sheltered spot beside the house or you’re trying to find a splash of color to plant in a darker area in your yard, there are lots of options to make every part of your yard and garden lush and beautiful.
Although there are just as many options, shade loving plants enjoy different conditions and as a result, play by some different rules than their relatives that love to soak up the rays. Here’s some advice from our plant and landscaping experts on filling your garden’s shaded areas with color.
Ted Lare Tips for Growing in Shade:
Shade-loving plants will have a few different things to keep in mind when growing than plants that prefer to bask in the sun. No matter what type of shade growing plant you choose, keep these things in mind to make your shady spot the best fit for your plants as possible:
Identify Your Shade Type – Each shady location is just as unique as the rest of your yard and home. To pick the best plants, you’ll want to know the conditions of your chosen spot. Types of shade range from deep, to partial, to dappled shade. While the deep shade areas get no direct sunlight at all, less shaded locations could have sun for part of the day or filtered through leaves. There are plenty of options of plants that will thrive in each type, but pairing them up well with the right conditions is the best way to have low-maintenance and beautiful plants.
Soil Type and Quality – Taking note of your soil type before you plant gives you the opportunity to amend the soil quality. Soil ideally has nutrients and structure to support your plants as they develop and grow, giving them the foundation that they need to thrive and grow beautifully. Here are some amendments to consider to modify your soil:
Add organic fertilizer – Adding compost is the perfect way to add nutrients to support the long-term growth of your plant. While you can always use chemical fertilizers after the plant is established to give them a boost, starting with some organic nutrients will give your plant the long-term fuel it needs to continue to thrive. Typically, just adding a inch or two of compost goes a long way, then till the new compost into the soil before planting.
Making Room for Roots – Aerate the soil with a pitchfork before planting to help make the air pockets that your plant will need to grow root systems. A good foundation is important for shade-loving plants especially to find nutrients and water.
Mulch Well – After you plant, use mulch to help lock moisture into the soil. Shade from the sun often means shade from other elements like rain, meaning that keeping water near the roots is vital for shaded plants. Mulching to a thickness of about 3 inches is usually sufficient to protect the roots of your plants.
Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.
Popular Perennial Flowers for the Shade:
There are hundreds of popular perennials to choose for that shady spot in your yard. These are some of our favorite popular choices for the shade that will keep returning to thrive each year:
Hostas – An elegant classic that has graced protected corners of backyards for decades, and for good reason. These plants come in many varieties that boast different shades and shapes, but they all provide gorgeous ground cover in shaded and partially shaded locations. Hosta are still the tried and true plant for dense shady areas.
Christmas Fern – Ferns have a delicate style that catches the eye and captures the imagination. Not only good ground cover, these plants offer some drama and a little bit of texture and height to a shady spot in your garden. Christmas Fern is a quick grower that will easily take up whatever shaded spot you have in mind for it, but isn’t invasive and is easy to control with just a little trimming.
Bleeding Hearts – A beautiful and traditional shade decoration, bleeding hearts have delicate pink flowers that are their namesake, adding a pop of color to shady areas. This classic flower is long-lived, mild-mannered, and will fit in well with other shade loving perennials.
Ligularia Dentata – These attractive annuals have fun lily pad-shaped leaves that can vary in color and provide contrast to other plant foliage. During the summer, they burst to life with a yellow flower display. Ligularia Dentata are usually vibrant growers, but they can lay down during hot summer days.
Astilbe – Astilbes give great height to flower beds and come in a wide range of shades. For shady spots, we recommend the ‘Maggie Daley’ variety. Maggie Daley shows off stunning feathery magenta blooms during the summer. This variety also has a reputation for good performance.
Shade Loving Shrubs:
Shrubs are great options for filling large empty spaces and adding structure to your overall garden design. These shrubs thrive in shady patches.
Hydrangeas – Hydrangeas often become the crown jewel of any garden, making it clear that plants in the shady parts of your yard can also be in the spotlight. We love how vibrant and how much life a hydrangea shrub can pack into a spot in the shade, and find them the ideal choice for lining the shaded spots along fences or walls. Our favorite varieties for shade include Little Lime, Mystical Flame, Quickfire, and Endless Summer.
Japanese Yew – These evergreen shrubs have great texture and look a little more interesting than other shade-loving foliage plants. The Everlow variety keeps a low-profile and looks fantastic
Rhododendron – Rhododendrons add an elegant shape and gorgeous pink flowers to your shade garden. Our favorite varieties are the Korean rhododendron and PJM rhododendron.
Azaleas – Like rhododendrons, the shape of azalea shrubs look magnificent in shade gardens, with bold blooms in some lovely jewel tones. Try the deep fuschia Orchid Lights variety, the hot pink Northern Lights variety, or vibrant orange Mandarin Lights variety.
Shade Loving Annuals:
Annuals lack the lifespan of perennials, but they pack a lot of enthusiasm, color, and life into the one season that they do have. While some of our favorite annuals love to bask in the sun, there is no shortage of popular options that will thrive with a little less exposure.
Begonias – With shiny foliage and beautiful cheerful flowers available in every shade of the rainbow, there’s a Begonia out there for any landscape style and taste. Most begonias thrive in full or part shade, offering pretty colors to most sheltered corners of your yard.
Lobelia – These plants are dainty and delicate that have delightfully cheerful pastel colors that thrive in partial shade. Offering great ground cover, this is a great way to have some beautiful color over every inch of your yard.
Impatiens – These multi-colored annuals are the gorgeous poster children for shady locations. While they have a “wildflower” look that adds some whimsy to your garden, filling up shady or partially shady spots with beautiful color.
Sweet Alyssum – These dainty white flowers bloom for the whole summer season, offering a unique and intoxicating fragrance, even into the cooler temperatures of fall.
Bulbs in the Shade:
The classic option for those that want stunning flowers but like the “plant it and forget about it” method, there are many bulbs that will thrive in the shade. Many of these flowers create a natural focal point in your garden, despite being in the shade.
Crocus – Crocus are an always-elegant option that offer a classic late spring look. Try them in delightful shades of white, purple, and yellow.
Galanthus – Also known as Snowdrops, these white flowers stand out against their shady home and offer color surprisingly early in the season.
Daffodils – If you’re looking to brighten up the shaded spots in your garden, these flower’s signature yellow flowers add a little splash of sunshine where there is none.
Tulips – For a classic springtime look, there’s nothing that impresses quite like the tulip. Adaptable and able to bloom nearly anywhere from full shade to partial sun, they offer a truly stunning array of colorful options and styles.
The sun-filled spots in your yard and garden don’t have to be the constant spotlight of your landscape and garden design. With so many different varieties of shade-loving plants to choose from, the lighting conditions don’t have to limit your options and design for your outdoor space. With shade loving plants this stunning, there are options for everyone to enjoy that are the right fit for their home, lifestyle, and landscape design.
If you’re looking for more guidance on planting a shade-friendly garden, visit our garden center, just 10 minutes South of West Des Moines.