dogs tooth violets

Plants to grow under trees: part 2

In the second of our two-part guide, we highlight plants to grow under trees in summer and autumn.


Plants that are to be grown under trees and at the bases of hedges need to be chosen carefully, as not all plants will thrive in these tricky conditions.


Read about plants that will grow under trees in winter and spring.

The soil under trees can be dry, depleted of nutrients and shady, so the soil needs to be prepared well before planting.

Choose from our selection of plants below, which will give colour and interest in summer and autumn.

The soil under trees can be dry, depleted of nutrients and shady, so the soil needs to be prepared well before planting.


Aquilegias flourish in dappled shade. They come in many pretty colours and flower shapes. Stalwarts of the cottage garden, they are equally at home in a woodland setting, where they self-seed happily.

Flowers: May to June


Hardy cranesbills

Hardy cranesbills are a reliable source of flowers and colour in shady spots and bloom for months. Geranium ‘Wargrave Pink’ flowers right through the summer and will self-seed to create new plants.

Flowers: May to October



Not only does Lunaria annua have pretty, nectar-rich flowers in late spring – it produces disc-like seedheads that are a feature in themselves and remain throughout winter. This popular biennial is easy to grow from seed.

Flowers: May to June


Solomon’s Seal

With green-tipped flowers on arching stems and lush green foliage, Polygonatum x hybridum is an elegant choice for a shady spot with moist, humus-rich soil. The flowers are followed by black, berry-like fruits.

Flowers: May to June


Sweet woodruff

Native Galium odoratum thrives in damp shade, but will cope in dry shade if given a cool spot. It’s a good choice for a woodland setting among shrubs, where it will form a carpet of hay-scented flowers.

Flowers: May to June


Clustered bellflower

The tall, densely-packed flowerheads of Campanula glomerata make a big impact all summer. This reliable perennial will soon spread to form a large patch.

Flowers: June to August


Dog’s tooth violet

Swept-back petals give great character to graceful erythroniums. It comes in a range of colours, including white and yellow, and loves a cool, shady spot with moist, humus-rich soil. In the right site it will spread slowly to form a thriving colony.



Foxgloves (Digitalis) love the shade under trees and are great for adding height in borders. ‘Candy Mountain’ has upward-facing flowers, which makes their speckled throats easier to admire.


Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium is well adapted to growing under deciduous trees, as it goes dormant in summer, then sends up a volley of tiny shuttlecock flowers in early autumn. Its evergreen leaves remain over winter. 


Flowers: September to October


Cyclamen hederifolium growing tip

Mulch Cyclamen hederifolium annually with well-rotted leaf mould – this will prevent the tubers from drying out in summer.