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18/06/2013 at 13:13



I have a bit down the bottom of the garden, its very shaded with trees and very little light gets through.  I thought it would be a good idea to make this a rhubarb patch, and at the start of the year (around April when there was less foliage over the trees) we did get a decent harvest.

Since then I've planted more BUT it's not exactly thriving.  I had mistaken "forcing" rhubarb with the fact they don't need any light - I don't think this is true!


Is there anything else that will grow without a lot of light?  I know that sounds a dumb question but I'm looking more for people's practical real-world experience rather than the books where most things need "full sun"





18/06/2013 at 13:59

First of all, can you remove a few of the lwoer branches of teh trrees to allow in more light and, more impirtantly, more rain as the ground will get very dry under trees.

Then have a look at forms of brunnera, lily of the valley, geranium macrorhizum, pachysandra, ferns such as Polystichum setiferum and the dryopteris group, pulmonarias and vinca minor, especially the alba form with white flowers that will show up.   bees will love teh geranium, lily of the valley and pulmonarias.

Variegated ivies can also be used as ground cover in full shade but will, when settled, head up thetrees to teh light as they mature.  They do make excellen hosts anf food for insects when they are mature.

18/06/2013 at 14:02

If they are deciduous trees you will get light in spring so an ideal situation for many spring bulbs.

Many ferns will do well [ Dryopteris species ]. Under the shade of 2 large beech trees I grow: Euphorbia amygdaloides, Hellebores, Millium effusum aureum [ pretty yellow grass ], hostas, geranium [ not all types will thrive ], astrantias, primula, woodruff and there are many more.

Shade is often thought of as a gardeners nightmare but, it is really not and you can have beautiful shade gardens.

18/06/2013 at 14:03

You can also grow tradescantia and I have just put in dicentra, both alba and the common one.

For lighter shade you could try astrantia.

18/06/2013 at 15:46

Thanks; I'll sort out some of the smaller trees that I can do something with, and maybe that will let a little more light in.

Any chance of any veg growing in there or should I not waste my time?!

18/06/2013 at 15:48

I'd do a few experiments when you've raised the canopy. There are tree roots to consider as well. Try a few of all sorts of things and see how they go.

18/06/2013 at 18:40

I have just bought Heuchera Key Lime Pie, with instructions to plant it in shade. Also Corydalis, will self seed and give you little yellow flowers for months. Wild garlic and foxgloves; in fact anything that grows in a wood - bluebells. As Nutc says, when you've raised the canopy you could try veg possibly sorrel; but don't get French sorrel it spreads like wildfire.

18/06/2013 at 18:47

Veggies like full sun to grow and ripen.   You could try herbs such as parsley and sweet cicely and chervil.  Lettuce like partial shade so coul dbe worth a try and redcurrants might do OK in the lighter spots but not in full shade.

18/06/2013 at 18:48

Around here, what grows in shade is a mixture of Himalayan balsam and nettles.

The balsam stalks are actually pretty good, cracked open and turned inside out, for wiping away nettle stings.

Both are, supposedly, edible.

Balsam stalks' straight sections have a softer celery texture and a sweet lettuce taste, and are actually rather nice on a walk. Just break off above dogs' hip-height.

The knots where the leaves are taste rather more bitter.

There are plenty of recipes for the stuff, too, and I think you can pretty much use its leaves instead of spinach in a vegetable soup.

Bees love it ... to the point of not bothering to pollinate anything else while it's in flower!

I can't recommend planting it, as it has this tendency to take over the world.

18/06/2013 at 19:46

We have Pulmonaria (sp?) growing like wildfire in complete shade. Also, bracken/ferns, a holly bush and a hardy geranium. 

20/06/2013 at 17:23

I have a weigelia growing in the shade of a tall crab apple tree. It forms a nice fan shape and covers the fence, and also has the benefit of pink flowers in summer. However, it does lose its leaves, so bare branches in winter.

However, I am not sure if they will grow in total shade. The plant often gets some late evening sunshine (e.g. from 6-9pm) and that may just be enough to encourage decent growth/flowering. 

20/06/2013 at 18:41

Try wild garlic.

20/06/2013 at 18:51

Thanks to you all from me. I have the same problem as DMG, so all that information has been so useful. Garden Centre here I come !

20/06/2013 at 19:06

I successfully grow plants under conifers and even under cupressocyparis leylandii. You just have to remove all the lower limbs, add loads of, preferably home made compost, use shade loving plants and water them daily.

20/06/2013 at 21:24

Hostas would be ok.  There is such a variety of them.  I know there is the problem with slugs and snails but I have just read that it is best to put out a scattering of slug pellets in Feb / March so they are killed before having young.  I do worry about the birds eating them after they have eaten slug pellets.  Cannot win.

20/06/2013 at 23:16


lovage (in light shade)

21/06/2013 at 12:45

Dont make the same mistake we made, get a tree surgeon in before you start planting

get the trees thinned and topped first, then prepare your beds. I have got lots of interesting plants including a lot that have been mentioned. Aquelegias do quite well, I have just planted a Solomons Seal that looks very pretty and some white fox gloves, ferns, etc

 Oops hope the pic I uploaded isnt too big.

Can think of any veg that will tolerate shade except wild garlic.

21/06/2013 at 12:51

Don't forget the autumn and winter Cyclamen, hederifolium and coum

21/06/2013 at 12:55

Chives will take a fair bit of abuse in terms of growing conditions and don't need full sun. When it's dry shade you either have to pick plants accordingly or be prepared to get some goodness into the soil and keep on top of the watering as many shade lovers  also require moisture! A mulch will help those plants too once you've got them in the ground and watered them in.

21/06/2013 at 16:21

solomon's seal  is a fascinating plant but that and hostias will be preyed upon by slugs and snails. Use nemotodes for slugs, collect snails and relocate regularly.

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