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colour in a shady garden??

what plants- particularly the colourful flowery variety (if any) grow well in a shady garden

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hi, im looking for plants and flowers to brighten up my drab garden, which is over looked by woodland and partial shady at best (though better now someone thinned overhanging branches). this year mum and i have decided to re-landscape our 20x15(feet) aprox garden. we also have two big enerjetic dogs who love to stick there noses in flower pots and plants in general so anything tthats on the durable side would be great. we have quite a few privit bush/trees, christmas roses (but their purple ? :S) and ontainer potatoes- we also have a slug problem...

thanks for any advice you can give


p.s. my mum is allergic to lavender


There is a website called Plants for Shade which might be helpful.  I have a similar situation to yours and what I have done is planted and scattered the seed of yellow Corydalis which grows very well in shady areas. It's a wild plant and is rampant but is very effective and very colourful in problem areas.


I have a shady bank under trees - apart from greenery (ferns, hostas etc) we have foxgloves, primroses, English bluebells, wood anemones, pulmonaria, japanese anemones, hardy geraniums, lamiums, hellebores, honeysuckles, dicentra alba, clematis montana, rambler roses (there are some that do really well under trees - look at the Peter Beales website - brilliant, lots of help), periwinkles, alchemilla mollis and I've only just started ... 

Lavender wouldn't do well in shade so looks like your garden is really suitable for your mum 



We have a deep north facing border. At the back are climbing roses, some are fine with less sun, honeysuckle, clematis montana, pyracanthas for colour when the berries are out, ceanaothus for blue in spring, woodland type bulbs are fine. Forget me not was a lovely splash of blue a month or so ago. Hardy geraniums. I finally got a japanese anemone established there for tall pink flowers in autumn, but I'm not sure how well it will flower yet. Same with aquilegias, I've got them established finally, but they probably flower more in sun. I'm trying some thalictrum aquilegifolium but it's not that colouful. 

Most of the spring colour in ours somes from camellias, azaleas & dwarf rhodedendrons, but your soil has to be acidic for them. In the autumn a lot of colour comes from asters. 

Clematis is a great splash of colour, but slugs have eaten every variety I've tried, except the enormous montana. Nelly Moser is good in shade, with pretty pink stripes. 

If the border is large enough, small maples can give great colour with their foliage. 

I always think there are a lot of shade tolerant plants, but looking at the reply above we both have lots of the same plants, so there are definitely some more commonly used ones. 


Try Tradescantia. I find once established is quite strong and a really long flowring season.


Your garden sounds a lot like my little South London plot and I've been amazed at how much colour it's possible to have. I completely support Gracie5, corydalis lutea is beautiful and grows anywhere (and everywhere). Bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis) is lovely, and 'goldheart' has bright gold leaves with pink flowers if you like that combination. Tradescantia 'sweet Kate' has done very well in my border with only a couple of hours' sun a day,again it has strong golden-yellow leaves and mauve flowers. I have a camellia 'ruby wedding' in a pot, which (against all the odds) flowers its heart out in full shade in February. If you like speedwells, veronica 'Eveline' is supposed to tolerate light shade, and so far it seems to be happy under my apple tree, it hasn't died yet and it has lovely spires of lavender-purple flowers.

The other thing that a lovely person on this forum recommended to me is heucheras and I've become a complete convert. The flowers are small (though quite graceful) but the leaves are everything from orange to lime yellow to burgundy to almost-black, and a lot of the most colourful ones actually dislike sun. And they're evergreen which is perfect!

And I should have said - violas. Having spent the first year after we moved in digging up 120 square feet of the wretched things I can guarantee that wild violets *thrive* in shade. I believe the more domesticated ones do too, although I now loathe the whole genus and I haven't planted any! 


For a lovely shrub how about Pieris? They are evergreen and all different colours at different ties of year. I grew two in pots when I just had a little city courtyard gardens and they did really well. Also Pulmonaria I find are great, I have them on the shady side of my current garden and they seem to love it, They can get quite big though so be careful how close you plant them to other things!


I agree with everyone else, except I just cant grow corydalis!

Accept that your garden will probably be best in the Spring, before the overhanging leaf canopy increases. It could also be quite dry beneath that canopy, plus from the tree roots, so for any planting you do do, make 'soil pockets' & add as much compost/leaf mould at planting time as you can. The plants will thank you for it.

A book I had on permanent loan from the libary, until I got my own copy is Green Tapestry by Beth Chatto. Also The Woodland Garden by her- but on a much bigger scale than most 'normal' size gardens. Lots of ideas though.

Absolutely inspirational to me when I was despairing of my part shade plot. J.


I happily grow Ox-eye daisies in my shady border, underplanted with bulbs.


Now you see I lost all mine! There were loads along the verges as I drove to NWales t'other day- kept saying I must try again now have more light in the garden. J.

Emma Crawforth

Hello one girl and her dog(s),

I have a lot of shade in my garden, mostly because I can't stop planting small trees and shrubs, which cast shade over everything on the ground. Because this can look a bit dark, I tend to go for light coloured flowers and foliage to lift it. This may not exactly be bright, but white flowers look great next to dark areas. At the moment real favourites are Brunnera 'Betty Bowring' and Pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White'. They're tough plants, and dogs and slugs are not usually interested in them. Try these plants for shade as well.

Emma team


I'd also recommend heucheras for year-round colour.  As Viola111 says, they now come in an amazing range of leaf colours, love shade are trouble-free and evergreen.

 hi these do well  with littel or no sun  columbines, periwinkle, fog glove and hyssop

I would like to recommend 'Skimmia Japonica'. Leathery green leaves and red berries in winter, followed by tiny bunches of white flowers in spring. Also get a female or hermaphrodite 'Skimmia'. (eg Reevesviana)


Consider getting some colour from foliage as well as flower - euonymous fortunei are tough, easily available and give a patch of yellow or white in shady spots. Other than whats already been mentioned, I've found hellebores, hemerocallis (day lilies) and astilbe flower well in shade. Pleioblastus is one of the few tall elegant grasses that doesn't mind it - carex are good too if you want something smaller and more tussocky. Heucheras are essential for me - particularly the lime green or silvery ones for shade. Hardy geraniums are excellent - if you've got several clumps you can cut back every other one before they flower and they'll happily grow back, but will flower after the ones you left alone have finished, giving you colour for longer. There are gazillions, in white, pinks, deep burgundy and purples. Allium bulbs also do fine in shade in my experience so long as the soil isn't boggy. Overall, my advice is not to forget to vary your foliage colour and texture to stop it all being flat green and you'll get away with the fact that you'll have less flower colour than in a sunnier spot.

My garden is surrounded by very high walls, tall buildings and mature trees.  It only sees the sun in the middle of the day in the middle of summer yet I find pelargoniums do reallly well, even where the sun don't shine!  Last winter one even overwintered in a pot against a northfacing wall and has flowered its head off all summer.  Try them and prepare to be amazed.

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