Dappled shade can present itself anywhere. Beneath trees is probably the most frequent area you’ll find it, but it could also be underneath climber-covered trellis or pergolas.
This presents a unique opportunity for gardeners to select plants that will enjoy the soil enriched by leaf mould that you’re likely to find in these spots. The plants we’ve picked are best for the shade beneath deciduous trees, as opposed to evergreens. This allows plenty of light through in spring, but in summer equates to around three hours of sun a day, providing plants with constant, but low-level light.
Discover six plants that will relish dappled shade, including starry tiarellas and fragranced daphnes.
Lamprocapnos ‘Burning Hearts’
Grey-green filigreed foliage in early spring is soon topped by stunning heart-shaped flowers, produced over a number of weeks. Those of ‘Burning Hearts’ are deep ruby red, but there are also pure white-flowered cultivars like ‘Alba’. Lamprocapnos dies down in winter.
Flowers April to June.
H × S 40cm × 40cm.
Heart-shaped red flowers and grey-green foliage of Lamprocapnos ‘Burning Hearts’
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is an evergreen shrub that provides scented winter flowers at a time where there’s not much else happening in the garden, especially in shade.
Flowers January to February.
H × S 2m × 1.5m
Clusters of pale-pink daphne flowers
Acer palmatum ‘Coral Pink’
Position this small tree where you can enjoy the changing colours of its leaves. Those of ‘Coral Pink’ turn from bronze-pink to lime-green and then amber in autumn, but there are many other beautiful acer cultivars to grow, with foliage in varying shapes and shades.
H × S 1.5m × 1.5m.
Foliage March to October.
Bronze-pink and lime-green leaves of acer ‘Coral Pink’
Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa)
Wafting wonderfully sweet winter scent from its delicate flowers, sweet box is a tough evergreen shrub that copes well in dry shade. It brings year-round interest to gloomy borders.
Flowers December to March.
H × S 2m × 1m.
Delicate white flowers hanging along a stem of sweet box
Fumewort (Corydalis solida)
Finely divided grey-green leaves appear from fleshy tubers in early spring. Produces clusters of small tubular flowers over a long period. Disappears below ground for the winter. You could also grow Corydalis flexuosa in dappled shade.
Flowers March to May.
H × S 25cm × 25cm.
Tubular pink-mauve flowers and grey-green foliage of fumewort
Tiarella ‘Neon Lights’
Plant Tiarella ‘Neon Lights’ in groups to get maximum impact from the frothy flower spikes, which open in late spring. It also has distinctive bronze patterns at the centre of the leaves.
Flowers May to July.
H × S 20cm × 20cm.
Cream flower spikes of tiarella
Dealing with darker areas? Try our pick of plants that will thrive in partial shade and full shade.
Know your shade
When choosing plants for your garden, it’s important to know what type of shade you have, which is affected by the aspect of your garden, as well as the objects and plants in it that cast shade.
More plants for dappled shade