Most gardens will have areas that get sun for only part of the day – between three and six hours in summer. Where these spots are in your garden depends on the type of garden shade you have, or its aspect.
We've picked beautiful plants for shade that can cope with both full sun and shade at different times. To help avoid leaf scorch, aim to site these plants in areas that get morning sun and afternoon or midday shade. That way, they're protected from the hottest, brightest rays.
Discover 12 beautiful plants that will thrive in partial shade, below.
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Lady's slipper orchid, Cypripedium kentuckiense
Lady's slipper orchid
This showy form of lady’s slipper orchid is relatively easy to grow in cultivation. Broad strappy leaves in summer, with yellow and purple blooms in June and July. North-facing gardens are ideal, as they'll largely receive cooler, morning sun while being shaded from the hottest midday sun. You could also try other cultivars – 'Pueblo' has lovely buttery-yellow flowers, while 'Siggi' has burgundy-red blooms.
Height × spread: 30cm × 25cm.
Solomon's seal in flower
Polygonatum x hybridum, or common Solomon's seal, has green-tipped flowers that hang from arching stems and lush, green foliage. The flowers are often followed by black, berry-like fruits and butter-yellow autumn foliage. You could also try attractive red-stemmed varieties such as Polygonatum odoratum 'Red Stem'. Flowers May to June.
H × S: 1.1m × 30cm.
Geranium phaeum 'Album'
Hardy geranium 'Album'
Geranium phaeum ‘Album’ is one of the best hardy geraniums for shade and it has attractive foliage, too. Its pure-white blooms will show up well in shady spots. Other geraniums with bright blooms to try include 'Stormchaser' and Geranium macrorrhizum 'Spessart'. Flowers May to June.
H × S: 60cm × 80cm.
Purple Roscoea humeana flowers
A dense, clump-forming perennial that dies down to rhizomes in winter, Roscoea humeana has upright, strap-shaped leaves, topped by large, purple orchid-like flowers in early summer. Best planted in a spot where it'll be shaded from the hottest sun, as this can bleach the blooms. Flowers June to July.
H × S: 30cm × 40cm.
Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba'
Bleeding heart 'Alba'
This elegant perennial, also known as bleeding heart and Dicentra, produces arching sprays of enchanting early flowers that will light up gloomy spots. Its delicate filigreed foliage lasts until midsummer. This cultivar can also be used to create an acer, bleeding heart and tiarella container display. Flowers April to May.
H × S: 75cm × 75cm.
Evergreen in all but the coldest winters, this rounded shrub produces masses of brilliant flowers at the tips of the branches in late winter. Grows well next to a wall or hedge. You can easily layer rhododendrons, should you want to propagate them for more plants. Flowers February to March.
H × S: 1.2m × 90cm.
Bellflower, Campanula pyramidalis
This striking bellflower is a short-lived perennial usually grown as a biennial from seed each year. It's a lovely choice for moist, neutral to alkaline soils in full sun or partial shade. Campanula pyramidalis makes a brilliant addition to cottage and pollinator-friendly planting schemes, alongside plants like veronicastrums, ammi and deschampsia. Flowers June to August.
H × S: 2m x 60cm.
One of the many striking and architectural angelicas, Angelica archangelica produces stunning umbels of apple green flowers that have inspired many a designer. This biennial species thrives in partial shade and does best when growing in moist soil. The roots and stems are edible and can be used in the making of jams, omelettes and cakes. Flowers June to July.
H × S: 2m x 1.2m.
Melica altissima 'Alba'
Melica altissima 'Alba'
Commonly known as Siberian melic, Melica altissima 'Alba' is a beautifully delicate grass, which reaches its peak in spring and early summer as sprays of white, rice-like flowers are produced. It's easy to grow and looks lovely with Siberian irises, amsonia and ranunculus. Melica uniflora is an equally lovely choice. Flowers April to June.
H × S: 90cm x 60cm.
Not grown nearly as much as it should be, mukdenias make great foliage and ground cover plants in partial shade, and produce charming white flowers in spring. Mukdenia 'Karasuba' provides additional interest in the form of striking autumn colour as the leaves turn crimson before dying back. Easy to grow and enjoys growing in moist soil. Flowers March to April.
H × S: 30cm x 40cm.
Fragrant winter hazel, Corylopsis glabrescens
Fragrant winter hazel, Corylopsis glabrescens, is a spectacular spreading shrub or small tree that illuminates the garden in early spring with its fragrant, fondant-yellow flowers. Throughout the year it impresses with an attractive branch structure, while in autumn the leaves turn vibrant shades of orange and red before falling. Enjoys a sheltered site in moist, acidic soil. Flowers in March.
H × S: 8m x 4m.
The Bethlehem lungwort, Pulmonaria saccharata, is a delightful perennial with spotted foliage for most of the year, and pink, purple or blue spring flowers depending on the cultivar. Bees love the flowers and plants look fabulous growing at the front of a shady border. Flowers March to April.
H × S: 30cm x 30m.
More plants for partial shade
- Ajuga reptans 'Braunherz'
- Camellia 'Water Lily'
- Clematis tubulosa
- Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aphrodite'
- Helleborus x hybridus
- Limelight hydrangea
- Silene dioica