Shady gardens

Shady gardens

It’s easy to grow a flourishing garden with plenty of sun, but things get a little trickier under trees, in shaded corners or on the side of the home that gets minimal sun. Fear not! The key to creating a successful shady garden is in the planning, so it’s essential to identify the type of shade you’re dealing with before planting.

  • FULL SHADE means no direct light penetrates. It usually occurs under large trees or on the south side of a building, especially between houses. Complete shade presents the toughest challenge. 
  • SEMI OR PART SHADE means the area gets sun for only half the day. It’s important when working with part shade to distinguish between plants that like morning or afternoon sun.
  • LIGHT OR DAPPLED SHADE refers to an area that receives filtered sunlight during the day, such as under plants with foliage that is not too dense. Other areas that need thought are the pergola, balcony and indoors. A shady garden has the potential to be soothing and restful in a way sunny yards are not. Shaded spots make great summer retreats, so add a comfortable outdoor setting for those hot days.

Here are our top five shade loving plants:


Hostas are long lived under the right conditions; they come in many shapes and sizes and some can be fragrant. Their soil must be moist, fertile and well drained. They should be positioned in semi to full shade as it is ideal for them. No pruning is needed but you can tidy up the plant as it becomes dormant in winter.
Bleeding heart

Bleeding heart

The old-fashioned bleeding heart is truly an easy-to-grow perennial. These plants are quick to pop up alongside spring bulbs and swiftly grow to full size. The bleeding heart plant likes to be planted in organic soil in a shady or part shade area. Work compost into the area before planting the bleeding heart plant in autumn or spring.


Commonly known as winter roses, hellabores are easy and colourful spring bloomers for the shade garden. Plants produce bushy mounds of thick, leathery evergreen leaves. Flower stalks appear in early spring, bearing showy, large, cupshaped blooms. The leaves emerge a rich mahogany shade in spring before maturing to dark green. Plant these where they will stay for many years, as they resent being disturbed. 

Native Violets

This almost unkillable native is a vigorous, creeping evergreen ground cover that features bright green kidney shaped leaves and delicate purple and white flowers. The flowers appear mostly in the warmer months, but it is rare that you will see the native violet without at least a flower or two all year round. These plants thrive in the damp and shady areas of your garden.

Clivias are great dry shade plants.


Native to South Africa, clivias are excellent for growing in dry shade such as under the canopy of a leafy tree. They look spectacular planted en masse, especially when in flower. Whether you grow them in beds or pots, clivias are among the most versatile, hardy and beautiful plants you can include in your landscape.

Article from RCA Villages Evolve Winter 2018 magazine

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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