Whether you’ve got an inner city garden that’s tight on space and shadowed by nearby buildings or a north-facing garden surrounded by tall perimeters and trees, you’ll want to find the best plants for shaded areas. Although shade definitely restricts what you can grow, with the right plants and a couple of other clever tricks, it’s easier than you might think to make the most of your shady garden. To make life a littler easier, we’ve narrowed this down to seven easy steps to help you out, whether you’re deep in the city, out in the suburbs or anywhere else that struggles to get the sun’s rays.
1. Opt for shade-loving ground cover plants
No matter what grass seed variety you buy, if your garden is in full shade, growing grass is never going to be easy. There are, however, several shade-loving plants that can help you create your very own oasis no matter the amount of sunlight you get.
Plants such as hosta and sweet woodruff will grow in shade no matter how much natural light manages to make its way through, so these are great starting points. Lily of the valley will also add a beautiful touch of brightness with its white flowers – just be aware this one spreads very quickly! Ferns are also great plants for shady areas. Ferns will tolerate partial sunlight but actually grow stronger in shade so are the perfect option for adding some greenery to your shady space. Mix and match different varieties to create depth and interest.
2. Find the best shrubs for shade
There are a whole variety of evergreen shrubs that are suitable for growing in your shady garden. With the right shrubs at your disposal, you can create a leafy retreat all year around, which you’ll be especially thankful for in winter when everything else has calmed down. Use flowering shrubs to add a touch more colour, such as pieris, a lily of the valley shrub.
3. Choose colourful shade plants
Just because you’ve got a garden with minimal sunlight doesn’t mean you can’t have an abundance of colour. Annuals are a great option for providing diverse colour that you can change every year. Opt for annual flowers for shade like impatiens, alyssum, pansy, lobelia and snapdragon. Annuals are brilliant for a powerful show of colour and are sure to bring some light to even the darkest spots in your garden. If you’re looking for tall shade plants, a great option is a Japanese maple, which will also help add a different depth of colour.
4. Make space for a garden bench
The important thing to remember about having a shady garden is that it’s still a space to enjoy and relax in. You’ll be thankful of a cool place to sit and relax in over the hot summer months so, if you have room, find a place for some outdoor furniture like a garden bench or bistro set where you can at least enjoy a morning cup of coffee.
5. Be inventive with garden décor ideas
Garden ornaments dotted in between your plants are an eye-catching way to make use of space where not a lot else will grow. You can also add some extra colour to particularly shady spots with the perfect shade plants for pots. Begonia will tolerate shade as will anemones, dahlias and hosta. Of course, the great thing about planting in containers is that you can control your soil, creating acidic or alkaline conditions so you can grow things which wouldn’t naturally do so well in your garden. There are even succulent plants which do well in shade and some actually prefer it to sunny spots, such as those in the sansevieria family. Colourful plant pots will also help brighten up a dark space.
When the sun starts to go down, you’re going to feel it a lot quicker than if you had a garden in full sunlight. Keep the party going for longer with pretty outdoor lighting and another source of heat like a chimenea or fire pit.
6. Plant vegetables that grow in shade
People often think it’s not worth growing veg in shady conditions, but actually there are quite a few vegetables that will tolerate shade, including beetroot, salad leaves, leeks and radish. If possible, start seeds off on a sunny windowsill then move outside when they’ve had a chance to properly establish. Growing vegetables from seed is also a great cost-effective option for trying out different varieties and seeing what works for you and your garden. Looking for fruit that grows in the shade? Rhubarb, Alpine strawberries and gooseberries will have no problem in semi-shade to shady conditions.
7. Install a decorative gravel path
Installing a gravel path in a shady garden is a great way to generate intrigue, encouraging you to wander into its depth. Gravel is a wise alternative to wooden decking and paving slabs as it won’t become slippery and dangerous from wet algae and moss. Sharpen up the borders of your path with edging plants for shade that will add a bright touch of colour. Impatiens, begonia and trillium are all great options. Thyme will also grow in partial shade and will generate a beautiful scent as you brush past when walking down your path.
The most important thing about enjoying your shaded garden is to submit to it and the growing conditions it offers. Learn which areas of your garden get sunshine (if any) and play to them. If you like sitting outside, make sure you’ve got space for seating where the sun will hit. Equally, if veg is your thing, start with an area dedicated to it and work around that. Planning your garden layout will help you get the most out of it and will make sure you enjoy your garden whatever its shape or size.
And if you’re looking for some more gardening inspiration, head to our gardening department at wilko.com