Woodland plants to grow

Woodland plants to grow

We pick 10 of the best woodland plants to grow, including plants for foliage and flowers.

Woodlands cover millions of hectares of land in the UK and abroad, so it’s no surprise that many woodland plants have made their way into gardens.

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To grow them, you don’t have to live next to or amongst woodland. Creating the habitat woodland plants enjoy is simple – plant trees or shrubs to provide shade, or utilise the shade provided by garden boundaries.

Be mindful that the soil in these areas may be rather dry, so incorporate lots of well-rotted organic matter when planting, and mulch generously in spring. Leaf mould is ideal for this.

Discover the types of organic matter to use in your garden. As for planting, watch this video guide on planting woodland perennials.

We recommend 10 of the best woodland plants to grow, below.

No woodland border is complete without the rich greenness of ferns, and with so many species and cultivars, you're spoilt for choice.

1

Wood anemones

Wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) are pretty perennials native to Europe, including the UK, where they carpet woodland floors with their blooms. There are lots of cultivars to grow, including ‘Vestal’ and ‘Bowles’ Purple’. Flowers late winter to mid-spring.

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2

Primroses

Common primroses, Primula vulgaris are a familiar sight in spring. They thrive in areas of damp shade, clay soils included, and are a source of nectar and pollen for pollinators in early spring. Other primulas to grow include Primula vialii and Primula sieboldii.

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3

Red campion

This beautiful perennial is often found growing wild on broadleaf woodland floors. When the flowers are finished, give the seedheads a shake where desired to help them self-seed. Try growing red campions alongside bugle and Welsh poppies. Brilliant for bees.

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4

Foxgloves

Foxgloves are an essential component of any woodland planting scheme. The tall flower spikes bring height and structure, and are especially loved by bumblebees. Check out the huge variety of foxgloves to grow on our Plant Finder.

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5

Erythroniums

Erythroniums are commonly known as dog’s tooth lilies, due to the fanged shape of the bulbs. The petals have a distinctive swept-back appearance, with the flowers appearing from March to May. Try combining erythroniums with snake’s head fritillaries, trilliums and corydalis.

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6

Sweet woodruff

This vigorous, robust perennial is ideal for growing in difficult, shady spots. Sweet woodruff has fragrant, white flowers that appear from April to June, and can be used to provide ground cover under shrubs and trees.

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7

Wood sage

Wood sage (Teucrium scorodonia) grows best in well-drained, acidic soils, in a position of dappled or part shade. While not especially showy, the pale green-yellow flowers will help to brighten shady areas. Attractive to pollinators.

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8

Ferns

Like foxgloves, no woodland border is complete without the rich greenness of ferns, and with so many species and cultivars, you’re spoilt for choice. Shuttlecock ferns look fantastic planted en masse, while royal ferns impress with their grand size. For evergreen colour, try the hart’s tongue fern or hard fern.

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9

Solomon’s seal

This graceful perennial produces arching stems, with dangling white blooms in spring and early summer. Solomon’s seal looks exquisite paired with ferns, bleeding heart and hostas. You could also consider false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum).

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10

Ivy

Ivy is a brilliant climber for shady, woodland plantings. It’ll provide a leafy backdrop for other plants and will provide nectar, pollen, berries and shelter for wildlife. Browse the cultivars to choose from in our Plant Finder.

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Trees and shrubs to consider