Field of different coloured foxgloves

Foxgloves thrive in a shady position
Image: Foxglove ‘Mixed’ from Thompson & Morgan

Need the perfect plant to bring a shady spot to life? See this helpful compilation of articles, videos and Instagram posts from some of our favourite gardening experts. Whether you have a dry north-facing border or a damp woodland garden, find out which plants transform gloomy gaps into an eye-catching feature.

From tall and exotic Australian tree ferns to silvery athyriums, browse our high quality plants for shade collection to find your favourites.

Choose drought-tolerant plants for dry shade under trees

Pink bergenia flowers in shade

Bergenia is a low-maintenance, floriferous way to fill a dry shady spot
Image: Bergenia ‘Pink Ice’ from Thompson & Morgan

If you have a tall wall and/or a group of trees in your garden, you’ll have dry shade,” says Alexandra of The Middlesized Garden. This is where your drought-tolerant, shade-loving plants need to go. Bergenia is ‘indestructible’, drawing pollinators all summer long to its pretty pink flowers and earning a place in Alexandra’s carefully curated list of top plants for dry shade. See her full article for more ideas.

Damp shade is the perfect place for woodland bulbs

White and purple snakes head fritillary

Fritillaria meleagris bulbs flower in spring and naturalise quickly in the right spot
Image: The Sunday Gardener

At the other end of the spectrum, damp shade is the perfect place to plant woodland bulbs like Fritillaria meleagris. “Easy to grow, and once established, Fritillaria meleagris will multiply and populate a suitable damp area of the garden and come up reliably each year,” says Carol at The Sunday Gardener. Interplant the traditional chequered pink variety with the snow white ‘Alba’ for an extra special spring display. Her full article has lots of suggestions for damp shade.

Hostas make perfect patio container displays

Green and white hosta in a container

Choose a variegated hosta like ‘Patriot’ to enjoy lush white edged leaves 
Image: Hosta ‘Patriot’ from Thompson & Morgan

Are you struggling with a shady patio? John Moore, at the popular gardening blog Pyracantha, recommends filling your pots and containers with hostas. These popular perennials produce huge leaves in lush greens, blues and white and even produce lovely scented flower spikes in summer. They don’t need repotting every year so are fairly low-maintenance too, says John. A real no-brainer! Visit his article to read more about his twelve favourite shade-loving plants for containers.

Cover bare soil under deciduous trees with Cyclamen coum

White and red cyclamen

Cyclamen coum produces delicate upswept blooms late in the year
Image: @country_garden_jottings

Cyclamen coum is a magical little plant that makes excellent shady ground cover. The plants reveal their secret, luminous blooms in late winter when nothing else is quite in the mood. Over at @country_garden_jottings, Joy enthuses that“the pretty leaves alone are superb for ground cover – but the flowers are definitely the ‘icing on the cake’!” Follow her on Instagram for colourful photos of her very special garden.

Shade-loving spring bulbs are ideal for a woodland garden

Purple vinca major flowers

Vinca major thrives in Dawn’s shady woodland garden
Image: @dawns_gardening

May is a magical time of year in Dawn’s woodland garden. Her semi-mature deciduous trees are coming into leaf and her carefully planted carpet of beautiful shade-loving spring bulbs including Vinca major, hardy geraniums and trilliums are blooming. Head over to @dawns_gardening to read about her journey from young tree whips to the dreamy enchanted woodland she enjoys today.

Use grasses and ferns to brighten up open woodland areas

Man holding carex plant

Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ brightens the semi-shaded area below a woodland canopy
Image: Get Gardening!

What makes up a woodland garden? Trees are the first step, says Alan Gray at his fantastic YouTube channel Get Gardening! He suggests removing the lower branches of the trees once a year to raise the height of the canopy and allow dappled sunlight through to the plants underneath. Watch his video to see the wide range of gorgeous shade-tolerant plants he’s chosen for his woodland. Including evergreen soft shield ferns, ajugas, and golden carex, he brings it all to life in spring with a carpet of snowdrops and bright narcissi.

Grow brassicas in a shady veg garden

Dark coloured kale plant on allotment

Plant up the shadier side of your veggie patch with tasty brassicas like kale
Image: Byther Farm

It’s not only the ornamental garden that suffers from shady corners. If you have beds in your veggie patch that get more than their fair share of shade, use them to grow tasty brassicas like broccoli, kale and cabbages, says Liz from Byther Farm. Read her full article to find even more shade-tolerant fruit and veg suggestions.

Plant shade-loving foxgloves for a burst of colour

Foxgloves in shade under trees

The tall spires of foxglove flowers sparkle in a shady woodland
Image: @greengoddessgardening

Foxgloves are a quintessential woodland flower that feature pure white, coral and deep pink in their repertoire. These lovely biennials happily self-seed and naturalise in a shady spot. Alasdair at @greengoddessgardening sows his seeds early to make sure there are plenty of flowers to enjoy the following year. Judging by the stunning show from last year’s batch of seeds, it’ll be a beautiful display! Check out his Insta for some truly sensational planting schemes.

Add shade-loving tree ferns for height and drama

Man standing in shady garden

Mark enhances his tiny courtyard space by layering heights, shapes and textures
Image: Mark’s Garden UK

Over at Mark’s Garden UK, YouTuber Mark brings height to his shaded courtyard using tree ferns, proving you can create something really special even in the smallest and shadiest of spaces! The Jurassic-style tree ferns are underplanted with leafy hostas and carefully chosen ground cover. Complete with a tiny winding path, watch Mark’s video for a fascinating peek at this gorgeous secret space.

Choose flowering perennials like hellebores for spring colour

Colourful assortment of hellebores

Hellebores thrive in semi-shade and produce flowers early in the year
Image: Hellebore ‘Winter Flowering Hybrid Mix Improved’ – Seeds from Thompson & Morgan

Hellebores offer the best of both worlds. Their glossy evergreen foliage makes great ground cover, and their flowers brighten the garden in early spring. Then add easy-to-grow hardy geraniums, pink-petalled pulmonaria and fragrant lily of the valley to create a flower-filled garden that positively thrives in low light. Check out Sue Sanderson’s favourite top ten hardy perennials for shade over at Thompson and Morgan for more ideas.

We hope this has helped you to choose the perfect plant for a tricky dark spot. Find everything you need to know about shade-loving plants and flowers at our dedicated hub page. 

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