Plants for shade

Posted: Monday 17 June 2013
by James Alexander-Sinclair

At the extravaganza that was BBC Gardeners' World Live last week, my friend Joe Swift gave a couple of jolly talks about shade-loving plants.


At the extravaganza that was BBC Gardeners' World Live last week, my friend Joe Swift gave a couple of jolly talks about shade-loving plants. During which, I was asked up to the stage several times to help out.

We discussed a vast variety of great plants for shade. I thought it would be good to share some of the list, for anyone who missed it (or those that were there but did not manage to write them down fast enough).

10 great plants for growing in shade are:

  • Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ (Japanese anemone)
    The flowers are a bit like fried eggs on elegant stems. They are late flowering, usually around September/October.

  • Asarum europaeum (asarabacca)
    It has heart-shaped, shiny leaves and is great ground cover for deep shade. It does flower but they are small and brownish so nothing to set the world on fire.

  • Astrantia major (masterwort)
    Astrantia is not right for deep, dry shade, but it can bring a bit of welcome colour into partially dark areas.

  • Cyclamen
    Growing from corms, cyclamen will produce little pink flowers in shade, even right in among the roots of mature trees.

  • Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (wood spurge)
    This is a really good, spreading ground cover for dark areas. It is evergreen, with acid-greenish-yellow bracts, which really light up the ground. It’s particularly good in dry shade.

  • Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia)
    This is a big glossy-leaved number, with white nubbin-like flowers and black berries. It adds a bit of architecture and drama to a dark corner.

  • Hedera helix (ivy)
    Common, old small leaved ivy is really good for colonising and adding foliage to a dark area, even under trees.

  • Rodgersia podophylla (rodgersia)
    Rodgersia has big, glamorous leaves. It needs a bit of moisture in the ground to really thrive, and it’s excellent in partial shade.

  • Sarcococca confusa (Christmas box)
    A winter flowering, highly scented shrub. Compact in size, Sarcococca is ideal for planting near a pathway or gate.

  • Viburnum tinus (laurustinus)
    This is a workhorse of a shrub, which has pinkish-white flowers in winter, followed by little black berries.

So there you go. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a good start. It covers pretty much everything Joe and I talked about - only without the bad jokes.

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Talkback: Plants for shade
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oldchippy 18/06/2013 at 12:50

Just been down the garden pulling the forget me not's out that have gone over,giving my hand a work out after being in a splint for 5 weeks,they look so grey after flowering make's the garden dull.

Scampi57 23/06/2013 at 17:00

We have had great success this year with Pulmonaria. They are in dappled shade from our yew hedge and we have had long lasting succession of flowers, ranging from white to pink to blue, some with spotted leaves. They do however, benefit from a downpour and can get very shrivelled up if it is very dry for a long period.