Hostas and geraniums

Plants for a north-facing border

We pick some the best plants to grow in the shade of a north-facing border.

North-facing borders are in shade for much of the day, providing the ideal conditions for a variety of shade-loving plants.

With the right choices, you can transform this area into a valuable part of the garden. We've picked a collection of gorgeous plants with lush foliage, scented flowers and evergreen colour to fill your borders with.

The soil around north-facing borders and walls can be quite dry – if you're after more plants for spots like this, take a look at our feature on plants for dry shade.

Not sure what aspect your garden is? Find out in our handy guide to the types of garden shade.

Discover five plants for a north-facing border, below. 



Snowdrops are a cheery sight in winter as the fresh foliage and flowers emerge from dormancy. The flowers don't last as long in sunny areas, so grow them in a north-facing border for the best display.

Snakes's head fritillaries

These pretty, native wildflowers are unmistakeable. They're also trouble-free and easy to grow. Try combining snake's head fritillaries with wood anemones and snowdrops, that enjoy growing in similar conditions. 

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is well-known for its richly scented flowers. It thrives in full shade and will gradually spread to form a carpet of foliage and flowers. Makes a great cut flower.


Dog's tooth violets (Erythronium dens-canis) are pretty spring-flowering bulbs. They don't grow to a great height, so are ideally planted towards the front of borders. Here's how to plant dog's tooth violets in autumn.


North-facing borders will receive a bit of morning sun, which for hostas helps to bring out the colour of the leaves. Here it's planted with Gillenia trifoliata and Geranium phaeum 'Album', both of which can be grown in a north-facing border. 


Try growing rhododendrons if you're gardening on acid soil. They provide evergreen colour, plus colourful, often scented blooms in spring. Not all cultivars can be grown in shade, so be sure to check this before buying. 

Hydrangea vine

Hydrangea vines (Schizophragma) are deciduous climbers producing panicles of summer flowers similar to those of hydrangeas. Ideal for covering north-facing walls and fences. 


Astilbes are moisture-loving herbaceous perennials that are often used in boggy planting schemes. The fluffy flower plumes are perfect for adding colour to borders. 'Deutschland' has white flowers and 'Rheinland' has ice-pink blooms.


There a lots of ferns you could grow in the shady conditions of a north-facing border. Large ferns include the royal fern (Osmunda regalis)  and shuttlecock fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)For the front of the border, consider small ferns like the common polypody (Polypodium vulgare).


Sweet, or Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) is an evergreen shrub, with sweet-smelling blooms that appear from December to March. Plant near a path or doorway to make the most of the fragrance.
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is well-known for its richly scented flowers. 


Spade cut out

Improving the soil before planting

Before you plant, make sure you improve the soil you'll be planting in by incorporating plenty of organic matter, such as leaf mould. Here's our full advice on how to improve your soil.

Discover more ideas and inspiration

Related content

Plants for an east-facing border

How to improve the colour combinations in your borders

How to sow astrantia seed in summer

Related offers

SAVE 10%

Save 10 per cent on native ferns

Save 10% on native ferns collection

Create a pretty woodland-floor look with a 10 per cent saving on a lovely collection of native ferns. The collection includes three varieties, Asplenium scolopendrium, Blechnum spicant and Dryopteris filix-mas.

Use code: GWFERN

Order now


Farmer Gracy save 15 per cent plus free bulbs

Save 15% at Farmer Gracy plus receive free bulbs

Save 15 per cent on the entire range of fantastic spring and summer bulbs at Farmer Gracy, plus receive 20 free double freesia bulbs with your order, worth £3.40.

Use code: BBCFREES15

Order now


Heather offer

Save on heathers

Inject some colour into your winter and spring planting schemes with this beautiful collection of hardy heathers from only £2.55 per plant. These ericaceous plants make brilliant weed-suppressing ground cover and look fantastic with spring bulbs. Order now and your plants will be despatched from February 2018.

Order now