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12 best shade-loving plants for your garden

By Ellie Reeves | 29th May 2024 | 6 min read

Your guide to finding plants for a shady garden

Does your garden spend most of the time in the shade? Large trees, high fences, and neighbouring walls can all play a part in blocking the sun your garden gets. If your garden is in deep or partial shade for most of the day, you can still create a calming haven full of colour and texture. With these shady garden ideas, we’ll show you how to create a thriving oasis full of stunning plants that can grow in shade. Carry on reading to discover the best flowers and plants for shaded areas.

Plants that like shade…

ferns for shady garden

1. Ferns

Celebrated for their distinctive leaves, ferns are some of the best evergreen plants for shade. They grow well in high shade with dappled sunlight (they still need a bit of sun to grow to their full potential). So, if you’re after guaranteed greenery and beauty in your garden, consider planting some ferns.

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2. Fuchsia

Bring some colour to your beds and borders with hardy fuchsias. These gloriously two-toned flowers are easy to grow and they’re not fussy at all. They’ll grow in any garden with relatively moist soil. Fuchsias won’t flower in deep shade, so make sure you plant them in a spot that sees a little bit of the sun’s rays.

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3. Digitalis (Foxgloves)

Also known as Goblin gloves or Dead men’s bells, foxgloves can be perennial or biannual. These unique plants will liven up any garden with its attractive spires of tubular flowers. With petals in varying shades of pink, purple and peach – foxgloves have long been loved for their showstopping style.

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4. Lobelia

One of our favourite plants for a shady border. Annual lobelias grow best in partial shade, providing your garden with striking shades of violet and blue. This popular bedding plant prefers fertile, reliably moist soil that doesn’t try out in the hotter months. Grow lobelias in a partially shady spot, out of the way of full sunlight. For prolonged flowering, ensure that your soil is always moist.

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5. Aucuba japonica (Spotted laurel)

Aucuba japonica, also known as spotted laurel or Japanese laurel, has large glossy leaves with delicate dashes of pale green and yellow. This eye-catching plant creates structure and interest all-year-round. You can plant Aucuba at any time of the year, and it can be planted in sun, partial shade, or full shade depending on the variety.

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6. Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle) 

Alchemilla mollis, also known as Lady’s mantle, is a beautiful and versatile herbaceous perennial that brings charm to any garden. It has scalloped leaves that catch the morning dew and, in summer, long lasting sprays of tiny lime-green flowers that float above the foliage.

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7. Astilbe (False goat’s beard)

Astilbes are the perfect plants for a shady border with speckled sunlight. They thrive best in partial to full shade. Each plume consists of densely packed tiny flowers which create a magical feathery effect. We suggest planting them in groups for a breath-taking impact.

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8. Ilex crenata (Japanese holly)

Ilex crenata, more commonly known as Japanese holly is a slow-growing evergreen hedge plant with glossy dark green leaves. Japanese holly is popular with gardeners as it can bring structure and colour to any garden space. This compact shrub can be trimmed into topiary shapes or used as a hedge.

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9. Hosta (Plantain lily)

Hostas, also known as Plantain lilies, are a popular choice in a shaded garden. Their heart-shaped leaves are often huge, deep blue-green or sometimes edged in white or yellow. This shade-loving perennial thrives in rich, reliably moist soil. So, dig plenty of compost into the hole when you plant.

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10. Aquilegia (Columbine)

Also known as Columbine or Granny’s bonnet, this beautiful perennial is made up of elegant bell-shaped flowers. Available in a variety of attractive colours, from pale blue to vibrant violet. It may look delicate, but Aquilegia is a tough little plant. It grows best in partial shade and well-drained soils.

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11. Fatsia japonica (Paperplant)

Fatsia japonica goes by many different names, including Fatsi, Paperplant, False castor oil plant, or Japanese aralia. If you want to bring a touch of tropical flair to your outdoors, then plant this shade-tolerant shrub in your garden. It’s huge glossy leaves bring structure and style to your shady garden.

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12. Heuchera (Coral bells)

Heuchera, commonly known as Coral bells, can have a wide variety of leaf colours, from deep burgundy to burnt bronze. They thrive best in partial or dappled shade. Heucheras are great for filling in gaps between taller plants and trees, so plant them in your containers and borders for a gorgeous show of colour.

Looking for more advice on the best plants for your garden? We’ve got you covered, check out our plant encyclopaedia to find out everything you need to know about bedding plants, alpines, perennials, shrubs, and grasses.