20 plants for dry shade

20 plants for dry shade

Discover some of our favourite plants to grow in dry shade, including picks for flowers and foliage.

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. 

As a general rule shade-lovers with large leaves, such as rodgersia and hostas, are best avoided when planting in dry shade, as such lush foliage requires a continually moist soil.

Discover 20 beautiful plants for dry shade that will thrive in these tricky conditions, as long as you look after them while they get settled in.

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Japanese anemones

Long-flowering Japanese anemones, such as 'Honorine Jobert' are brilliant plants for late summer and autumn colour. Their white and pink flowers, with a ring of yellow anthers, are held on tall, swaying stems.

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. Though they prefer moist soil, they'll tolerate drier conditions if mulched. 

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

Revealing vivid lime flowers in late spring, this tough, fast-growing wood spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, is perfect for dry spots under trees.

Fatsia japonica

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

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.

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. 

Ivy

This evergreen climber is synonymous with shade. Our native Hedera helix has glossy green leaves and is ideal for ground cover or clothing a wall.

Ivy-leafed cyclamen

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

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.

Lily turf

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.

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.

Pyracantha 'Soleil d'Or'

The zesty berries of evergreen shrub Pyracantha 'Soleil d'Or' almost glow during autumn in a shady spot. It can also be trained against a north-facing wall.

Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana

The vivid berries of Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana ride out winter intact, perking up a gloomy spot.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops (Galanthus) has no issues with a shady spot and does particularly well under the canopy of a deciduous tree.

Thalictrums

Meadow rue (Thalictrum) are gorgeous, airy perennials, producing clusters of starry blooms. Some species, such as Thalictrum aquilegifolium (pictured) can grow to over a metre tall, while others, like Thalictrum ichangense will stay around 20cm in height. 

Viburnum tinus

The shiny, evergreen foliage of Viburnum tinus sets off the white flowers, which appear from April to December. Trim away the lower leaves to reveal the shrub's stems.

Wood anemone

Native wood anemones, Anemone nemorosa, create carpets of spring flowers beneath trees. The blooms are often flushed with pink.

Geranium macrorrhizum

A beautiful geranium bearing delicate, pale flowers for months on end. Cultivars to grow include 'Spessart' and 'Ingwersen's Variety'.

Dryopteris

Many species of Dryopteris can be grown in areas of dry shade, including Dryopteris wallichiana (pictured). If you're after more ferns for dry shade, take a look at this video guide on how to grow ferns in dry shade.

Epimediums

Epimediums are great low-maintenance perennials that thrive in dry soil, and associate well with plants like hellebores and spring bulbs. Best grown in an acid soil.
Liriope muscari is a tough perennial that copes even in the darkest and driest of conditions.

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Planting in shade

To give plants in dry shade the best chance, it's a good idea to spend a bit of time improving the soil before planting. Incorporate plenty of organic matter such as leaf-mould or garden compost, to make the soil more moisture-retentive.

Discover more ideas and inspiration

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