Almost all of us have an area of full shade in the garden. Far from being a problem, deep shade provides the opportunity to grow a huge and diverse range of plants that relish it.
Read more about the different types of garden shade.
Found under evergreen trees and hedges, and at the base of north-facing walls, fences and buildings, deep shade can be brightened by plants with different foliage colours, shapes and textures.
The shade you have could be dry or damp, depending on where it is. For example, shade at the foot of walls tends to be drier as it’s often in a rain shadow. Luckily, there are plenty of plants suited to dry shade and damp shade, too.
More plants for shade content:
We’ve picked six of the best plants for growing in full shade, for attractive foliage and flowers.
Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae
Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae has lime-green spring flowers and glossy, evergreen foliage, giving this plant a long season of interest. It is the perfect plant for dark areas of dry shade. Flowers April to June.
Height × spread: 70cm × 1m.
Ferns are quite at home in shade and tall Dryopteris wallichiana is evergreen in all but the hardest winter weather. The subtle bronze of new fronds in spring turn dark green in summer. There are so many ferns to grow in full shade, so don’t let this be the only one you try. Flowers June to July.
H × S: 90cm × 90cm.
Beesia calthifolia is evergreen, with prominently veined glossy leaves that are bronze when they emerge and stiff upright stems with white, starry flowers. A beautiful foliage plant for deep shade. Flowers April to June.
H × S: 30cm × 30cm.
Milium effusum ‘Aureum’
A soft, leafy woodland grass, Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ is well suited to growing in deep shade, and the golden foliage and sprays of tiny flowers provide a bright splash of summer sunshine. Try combining with other shade-lovers to create a milium, hosta and astilbe container display. Foliage spring to autumn.
H × S: 50cm × 50cm.
Hosta ‘El Niño Green’
Hostas are indispensable in deep shade. The white leaf edges on ‘El Niño Green’ will gleam out from dark borders. It produces spikes of pale lilac, bell-like flowers in summer. There are a huge range of other hosta cultivars to grow, too. Flowers June.
H × S: 50cm × 60cm.
Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’
Epimediums are robust shade-lovers that spread quickly, covering the ground with their low, leathery foliage. Above the leaves rise airy clouds of tiny flowers. Other cultivars to grow include the buttery yellow-flowered ‘Amber Queen’ and the white and yellow-bloomed ‘Wudang Star’. Flowers April to May.
H × S: 30cm × 30cm.
Planting in shade
Before planting any plant, it’s worth improving the soil first. Read our five tips for planting in shade.
More plants for deep shade
- Hart’s tongue fern, Asplenium scolopendrium
- Japanese shield fern, Dryopteris erythrosora
- Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis
- Lilyturf, Liriope muscari
- Pachysandra terminalis
- Shuttlecock fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris
- Wake robin, Trillium grandiflorum