Hardy spring summer flowering perennial for shade meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium 'Album')

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. 

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

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Japanese anemones

This long-flowering Japanese anemones, such as 'Honorine Jobert' is a late-summer star. 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

Pumping out 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 (pictured here is Hydrangea macrophylla). 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 lustrous 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.

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.

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.

Snowdrop

Galanthus nivalis 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 Anemone nemorosa creates a carpet 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, here are 10 ferns to grow.
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

Related content

Five perennials to plant in February

Seven ground cover plants for shade

Six plants for full shade

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