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10 Garden plants suitable for shady and dark places



Are garden plants a bit like people, perhaps? Many British folk seem to be obsessed by the weather and a multitude feel unable to contend with rain, gloomy skies, shade, or indeed, winter in general. Their inability to cope could be compared to the way that plants behave when they are placed within an alien environment. Not on the planet Mars, but in bright sunlight when they crave shade, for example. Let's look at what plants need - each one is different...Place a sun-loving indoor succulent in a damp, gloomy corner and it will fade away. Likewise outdoors, there are many bright and beautiful flowers that need sunshine. Many foliage plants prefer the shade. How can you tell which plant needs a desert and which one needs a shady bank by a river?


J‍ust take a look at this native British fern. Who would imagine it could survive growing in a crack within some shady steps?

Firstly, look at the natural environment, if you can. Where do these plants grow in the wild? Primroses, for example, can be seen in early spring, growing on shady slopes and on the woodland edge. There's a good reason that they don't last way into the summer in the centre of a hot, baked flower bed. 


All plants have preferences, and some are more flexible and tolerant than others. Much like people.


S‍ome folk experience anger issues and some of their problems are blamed on the weather!



It makes good sense to look at the needs of your plant (husband/wife/partner) if you want harmony and good energy! We all know that pushing a square peg into a round hole is a bit tricky. It's far better to hunt for a suitably-shaped orifice in order to save long-term angst!

Some of the trickiest places in the home and garden are the shady ones. But every challenge presents a great opportunity to think outside of the box.

Every garden has a few dark, shady and possibly damp corners. There will always be a north or east-facing wall or fence. Perhaps a  wind-tunnel and some bleak areas where nothing seems to thrive. There could also be some dry shade under trees. Indoors many rooms have only small windows and there could be dark corridors. All these places need careful planting consideration. There is always something that will grow, provided you choose wisely and prepare your site before trying to establish the plants. 


E‍ven a bird house benefits from being positioned in a sheltered site that receives the optimum amount of sunshine.

Which plants love shade?

Fortunately for all who seek them out, there are dozens of beautiful examples that will thrive in seemingly inhospitable environments.  Many plants have evolved some clever characteristics which enable them to survive in the shade. If only these positive traits could be transferred to humans!


10 garden plants that delight in shady and dark places


Garden ferns

Most ferns not only survive, but thrive in damp and darker places. Some can even cope in dry shade, and this is probably the trickiest spot of all.

Ferns are really well adapted to living in the shade. They have a light-sensing pigment called neochrome that helps. This is also common to the moss-like plants called hornworts. What’s more, ferns are incredibly beautiful, although they can be so easily overlooked by many. Ferns planted en-masse can look stunning and they also lend themselves rather well to being used within vertical planting systems where irrigation can be regulated. They provide delightfully cool contrast to the more effervescent plants that inhabit sunnier places.



Heuchera, loved for their different foliage colours, can also cope very well with shade, if you select the most appropriate varieties


These foliage plants can be teamed, highly effectively, with ferns, enabling some stunning colour combinations. Their vibrant foliage is every bit as impressive as colourful flowers as the leaves come in many different shades of purple, red, yellow, coral and green. In common with many shade-loving plants, these are slow growers as plants need plenty of light if they are to grow fast.  


Another foliage groundcover that prefers shade is Brunnera, with its gorgeously highlighted, silvery and green leaves. There are several different varieties including Brunnera 'Alexanders Great', pictured, and the charmingly-named B. 'Jack Frost'. As the season progresses, this forms an attractive mound that can spread surprisingly far. It also produces blue, forget-me-not-type flowers in spring. It's amazing how the light, silvery tones of the leaves can brighten up a gloomy position.

Never forget Hellebores!


When most plants are still dormant in the late winter garden, Hellebores are heavenly!

These perennials have beautiful nodding flowers that often have most attractive, speckled markings. They tend to face downwards in order to provide protection from rain and cold - therefore you might need to plant them high in containers where you will be able to see them more clearly.  


Hardy Geraniums

Most hardy Geraniums are happy to be planted in shade or semi-shade. They produce flowers during late summer and many of them will keep flowering right into autumn.  




Masterwort, or Astrantia which is also known as Hattie’s pincushion, copes very well with light shade or partial sun. It's a summer-flowering perennial which will keep flowering all the way through until early autumn. It has with a multitude of attractions, not least its delicate beauty and the fact that it is slug and snail resistant. 



The low-growing Vinca is another brilliant groundcover that will not only hug the shady soil and decorate it with attractive foliage, but will also produce a happy bunch of purple flowers during spring, summer and autumn. There are several different varieties which will gradually spread - and this keeps out weeds at the same time. 

Japanese Anemone   

The tall-growing Japanese Anemones grace the garden with pink or white flowers later in the summer. They are truly a joy to behold.              

These gorgeous perennials deserve a place in every garden. They are happy to decorate shady or semi-shady areas where a bit of height is required. The wiry flower stalks can reach more than 100cms high where the cheerful white or pink flowers add grace and charm particularly when they nod in the breeze.
Asters, members of the Michaelmas Daisy brigade, bring a vibrant splash of colour to the summer and autumn garden. Some varieties will be happy in shade, whilst others prefer sun. As always, choose with care and give them what they need or your flower show will be poor. There's no doubt that this colourful perennial tops the 'vibrancy chart' for purple, mauve and lilac flowers.

T‍hen there are ornamental grasses

Hakonechloa, hakone, ornamental grass, grass for shade, aureola, gardening, plants for shade,,  

Last, but by no means least in the top 10 selection for plants that cope well with shade, are grasses. Some like it hot and sunny, but others, such as the Beautiful Hakonechloa 'Aureola' ornamental grass above, are happy in shade, semi-shade and light sun. These particular grasses can even cope with dry shade under trees and shrubs. The mounded foliage is a delightful lemon-lime colour which brightens up dark places like sunshine. The Hakonechloa above tends to turn a subdued tone of yellow in shade.

Or how about a tree fern? Watch the video to find out more.

Perfect Plants Ltd is an on-line supplier of garden plants, house plants, garden equipment, furniture and gifts for all seasons.  

By Perfect Plants


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