Shade Gardening

The Garden Advisor, By Lisa Ray, Grow Something Today For Tomorrow, Grow a Shade Garden

Gardening in the shade presents unique opportunities.  Shade gardens aren’t as weedy or thirsty as full sun areas, so they tend to require little maintenance.  You can tend a shade garden on a hot day without getting sunburned.  Best of all, a shade garden has a restful aura that almost whispers that you should rest a while amidst a hundred shades of green.

Types of Shade

  • Filtered shade:  A lightly shaded area where shafts of sunlight filter through tall trees to the ground
  • Partial shade:  An area gets bright light or direct sun for half the day and shade for half the day
  • Full shade:  Sun is obstructed for most of the day from spring to fall
  • Dense shade:  Dark shade that lasts all day and year-round

Plants for Shade

All shade-loving plants thrive in the close company of trees, but to let in a little sun the branches may need to be cut higher if they grow too low to the ground.   If you need more shade, add small trees such as Japanese maples, dogwoods, redbuds and serviceberry.  If your shady area is large, you can give it needed structure with shrubs such as azalea, hydrangea, and witch hazel. 

Green is the main color to work with in shade gardens, with a little help from bronze-red and white.  Hostas, moss, ferns, and Solomon’s seal are some plants that are available in hundreds of green shades.

Colorful perennials brighten the dark corners with their flowers.  Astilbe, bleeding heart, and hellebores have beautiful summer flowers.

Bulbs such as tulips, aconites, snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, and scillas welcome the spring with color and surprise.  When the bulbs are gone, the foliage remains.

Annuals can be used to fill in the spaces while your plants mature, or used each year if you don’t mind replanting.  Impatiens, wax begonias, and variegated coleus add more color to the shade garden.


Don’t forget to include a path winding through your shade garden.  The most natural would be a wood chips path or a cleared path, but stone or cement paths looks nice too.  A bench to relax and enjoy your garden will be very inviting especially on a hot summer day.

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