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Plants for dry shade

Most gardens have some dry shade, at the foot of walls where foundations draw water from the soil, or under eaves where little rain falls. Trees also create dry shade, as their roots take up a lot of water.

These beautiful plants will thrive these tricky conditions, as long as you look after them while they get settled in.


Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

This long-flowering Japanese anemone is a late-summer star. Its white flowers, with a ring of yellow anthers, are held on tall, swaying stems. View more anemones

Astrantia

Astrantia

Astrantias have delicate, pincushion-like flowers from June to August. These clump-forming perennials come in a range of colours, from white and dusky pinks to deep red. View more astrantias

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

Pumping out vivid lime flowers in late spring, this tough, fast-growing wood spurge is perfect for dry spots under trees. View more euphorbias

Fatsia

Fatsia japonica

One of the most dramatic shrubs for shade, this exotic-leaved evergreen is completely hardy outdoors and will eventually make a magnificent plant. View fatsias

Hellebore

Hellebore

The sumptuous flowers of hellebores open from late winter. The colours of this invaluable perennial range from white to pink, plum and near-black. View more hellebores

Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangeas are valuable plants with large, colourful blooms. They do well in shade, even under trees, and put on a show from summer to autumn. View more hydrangeas

Ivy

Ivy

This evergreen climber is synonymous with shade. Our native Hedera helix has lustrous leaves and is ideal for ground cover or clothing a wall. View more ivies

Ivy-leafed cyclamen

Ivy-leafed cyclamen

Perfectly adapted to growing under trees, Cyclamen hederifolium sends up a volley of tiny shuttlecock flowers in early autumn. View more cyclamen

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

Convallaria majalis has one of the loveliest fragrances in the garden, produced by small, waxy bells that appear in early summer. Surprisingly robust, it forms dense ground cover, even in sites with very limited light. View profile

Lilyturf

Lilyturf

Liriope muscari is a tough perennial that copes even in the darkest and driest of conditions. Its purple blooms are a valuable asset in autumn, rising above its evergreen, straplike leaves. View liriopes

Pheasant grass

Pheasant grass

A versatile grass with bronze-green foliage, Anemanthele lessoniana flowers from June to September, turning shades of copper and gold in the autumn. It self-seeds freely to create more plants. View profile

Pyracantha 'Orange Charmer'

Pyracantha 'Orange Charmer'

The zesty berries of this evergreen shrub almost glow during autumn in a shady spot. It can also be trained against a north-facing wall. View pyracanthas

Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana

Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana

These vivid berries ride out winter intact, perking up a gloomy spot. View skimmias

Snowdrops

Snowdrop

Galanthus nivalis has no issues with a shady spot and does particularly well under the canopy of a deciduous tree. View snowdrops

Tiarella cordifolia

Tiarella cordifolia

This gentle little woodland plant is a choice addition to a shady border. Several spikes of white flowers rise above the foliage in spring, making a frothy contribution for many weeks. View tiarellas

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus

Shiny, evergreen foliage sets off the white flowers, which appear from April to December. Trim away the lower leaves to reveal the shrub's stems. View viburnums

Anemone nemorosa

Wood anemone

Native Anemone nemorosa creates a carpet of spring flowers beneath trees. The blooms are often flushed with pink.





Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Plants for dry shade
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Tetley 16/10/2014 at 23:45

Sorry to disagree, but I`ve never yet found a hydrangea that will tolerate a dry situation - they all need lots of water.

SwissSue 17/10/2014 at 06:47

Have to disagree there, Tetley, I have 5 hydrangeas growing very well between/under a hazel and a huge magnolia. Only have to give them water if it's been dry for several days.

Busy-Lizzie 17/10/2014 at 09:06

I am also surprised that astrantias have been included. They like some shade but they don't like being dry. I have found this from experience and all the growing instructions I've read say moist soil.

nutcutlet 17/10/2014 at 09:32

Tiarellas the same, they don't cope well here. If you have to water them if it's been dry for several days they are not plants for dry shade. Most shade plants would be suitable if you watered them. A plant for dry shade is a plant that can look after itself in that situation.

Ginglygangly 17/10/2014 at 17:16

I have to agree with most of the comments above. Hydrangeas like water - the clue is in the name. I have also found that astrantias struggle in too much shade of any kind. Agree with Nut - plants for dry shade need to be able to cope without extra watering by the gardener! some Japanese anemones do well - the pink, single ones I find - although they take a while to get established.