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Made In The Shade Gardens (Beautiful Ideas for Your Shade Garden)

There’s just something so tranquil and serene about shade gardens. I’ve been lucky enough in both of my yards to have both sun and shade gardens, but my favorite place to take a break in my gardens is in one of the shady spots.

Although beautiful and serene, Shade Gardening can sometimes have its challenges. Come along on this virtual shade garden tour that includes some Tips for Gardening in Shade, as well as some Shade Gardening Ideas. Perhaps you’ll leave with a few ideas or tricks to try in your own Shade Gardens.

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 Shade Gardens

Shade Garden Design

Try not to overthink design, especially if you’re a beginning gardener. The beauty of gardening with perennials is that most don’t mind if you move them around. If you need some help with Garden Design, take a few minutes to check out Flower Garden Design. The general principles of garden design that are covered in that article are the same ones used in Shade Garden Design.

When designing your Shade Garden, be sure to use a variety of perennials for different textures and color and add in some annuals for lots of pops of color.

 Shade Garden with Hostas
My Shade Gardening Picks:

Perennials for Shade:

There are lots of other Perennials for Shade, but I am listing the ones I am most familiar with and have actually grown. For more ideas and pictures of shade plants, be sure to check out – 20 Perennials for Shade to Jazz Up Your Gardens when you’ve finished up here. It’s also fun to do a Google search for shade perennials in your gardening zone to come up with many more varieties. Be sure to watch for the words: invasive or vigorous spreader, and stay away from those varieties.

  • Hosta – there are thousands of varieties of Hosta.  
  • Ferns – my favorites are: Japanese Painted Fern, Maidenhair Fern and Lady Fern 
  • Lamium – a lovely groundcover that flowers most of the season
  • Bugleweed (Ajuga) – another groundcover that flowers in spring (seen in the picture below).

Shade Garden with Hosta, Ajuga and Ostrich Ferns 

  • Bleeding Heart – this perennial can get quite large and blooms in the spring.
  • Astilbe – lots of different varieties and blooms in early summer.
  • Goatsbeard – spikes of white plume flowers that bloom for a few weeks in mid summer.
  • Brunnera – has tiny blue forget-me-not type flowers that bloom in the spring (seen in the picture below).

Jack Frost Brunnera
 

  • Corydalis – sometimes referred to as yellow bleeding hearts, but I’m not sure if they are even in the same family.
  • Ligularia – beautiful foliage with spikes of yellow flowers.
  • Coral Bells – many, many varieties grown mainly for their lovely foliage.
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria) – a lovely plant with spotted foliage and pink flowers in the summer.
  • Hydrangeas – lots of varieties work well in shade, especially Annabelle.
  • Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium) – very cool foliage.
  • Foxglove – see the picture below.
  • Columbine (Aquilegia) – a late spring early summer bloomer that works well in part shade.

To add consistent pops of color in my shade gardens, I always add a variety of annuals.

Annuals for Shade:

  • Impatiens
  • New Guinea Impatiens
  • Coleus
  • Wax Begonias
  • Tuberous Begonias
  • Caladium – grown from a bulb and in warmer zones as a perennial
  • Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes)
  • Fushia
  • Torenia (Wishbone Flower)
  • Lobelia

Here is my good friend, Julie’s shade garden oasis. It really is gorgeous!

Shade Garden - Tips for Creating a Shade Garden

Tips for Gardening in Shade

My shade gardens are the best low maintenance gardens. Once they are mulched in the spring, it’s just some very minimal weeding and watering to keep them looking good. Here are a few Shade Garden Tips that I’ve found helpful:

Shade vs. Partial Shade

Shade means less that 2 hours of sun a day. Partial Shade means 2 – 4 hours of sun per day. I could probably do an entire post on light requirements in the garden, but I’m just going to keep it simple. I’ve found that you just have to experiment in your own garden. For example, if a partial shade plant is subjected to 4 hours of hot afternoon sun per day, it will more than likely fry. Just play around and see how your plants fair. If they don’t like a spot, move them to a new one.

Mulch 

Whether you use shredded leaves and/or grass clippings or you use a purchased mulch, you’ll find that mulch is a gardener’s best friend. It breaks down and helps to nourish the soil, it keeps the weeds down, it’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye and makes the plants and flowers pop.

Dry Shade

I have a few areas of dry shade and while there are some perennials that do okay in dry shade, I believe shade plants look better when they are well watered. The problems can be remedied by winding either a soaker hose through the plants, or by installing a DIY Drip Watering System. One of the top items on my to do list this spring is to install this irrigation drip system set up in my new Shade area that we worked on last year. Our Shade Garden Makeover is an astonishing transformation, so check out the before, after and all the details, when you’ve finished up here.

Battling Slugs

Slugs are a common problem in shade gardens. I tried several methods of controlling slugs in my shade gardens and the best one by far is an organic product called Sluggo. I sprinkle it around the base of the plants in the spring when they are first emerging and again in mid to late June. I’ve tried egg shells, beer and a few other methods, and Sluggo wins.

Invasive Plants

Here’s a pretty little area under some tall pine trees with lamium, various types of hosta and ostrich ferns. Ostrich ferns are so pretty and you’ll see lots of them in my pictures today, but I cannot recommend them. You see I have a love/hate relationship with ostrich ferns. They spread by very long runner-type roots and unless one is very diligent and constantly weeds them out, they will take over an area in as little as one season. I worked hard to contain them in a few small areas at my former home. I take so much flack for calling Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) “invasive” because they are native to North America. They do tend to crowd other perennials out and they know no boundaries. So beware. 

There are Ostrich Ferns at my new home and I will work to either contain them or annihilate them. It sounds harsh, I know, but if you’ve ever had them take over a garden, you’ll understand what I mean. Here’s a list of plants I recommend staying away from – Plants You Don’t Want In Your Garden.

Shade Gardens - Ostrich Ferns, Hosta and Lamium

Shade Garden Ideas

There are so many fun and interesting varieties of Hosta, and miniature hostas are some of my favorites. Below is an area with several different varieties of hosta, including quite a collection of miniature hostas. These pictures are from my former home and I still regret not moving more of these hostas.

Urn filled with impatiens surrounded by hostas.

In the shady area below, we had to have the lower branches of the pine trees trimmed and this became a beautiful shade garden area. Bleeding Hearts are one of my favorite shade plants and the one below was huge and loved its home in the dense, moist shade. Again tons of beautiful, unruly Ostrich Ferns.

Bleeding Heart and Ostrich Ferns

Another one of my favorite flowers (I know, I say that a lot) is Foxglove (digitalis). It’s a biennial that does well in part shade.

Foxglove in a Shade Garden

Shade Garden Decor Ideas

Once all the spring chores are done in the garden and the mulch has been added, I love to add some garden decor pieces to my gardens. Whether it’s natural elements like stone or logs, or an upcycled item, it’s fun to add some whimsy to the gardens. 

A place to sit and a water feature can take an ordinary shade garden and turn it into something extraordinary.

This old vintage chair has made several appearances in my gardens. Here it is again featured with a Twist and Shout Hydrangea, an Asiatic Lily and a galvanized pot of Fushcia.

Shade Garden Vignette

This is another little area under pine trees where I added some birch logs to create a bit of whimsy. Be sure to add some annuals like these impatiens and hypoestes (polka dot plant) to shady areas for some  pops of color. 

Hosta, impatiens and variegated impatiens

A good friend of mine who just happens to be a gardener too, puts together the cutest little vignettes. Just by plopping down a rustic birdhouse on a stump she added a ton of personality to this shady area.

Whimsical decor in a Shade Garden

The same friend picked up this wheelbarrow (probably from a neighbor’s trash) and upcycled it for a planter. From the minute I saw her flower planter wheelbarrow, I knew I was going to do the same and I did. You’ll see my old wheelbarrow turned planter in lots of posts.

Upcycled Wheelbarrow Turned Planter
Container gardens are so fun to put together and work perfect for filling in spots in the gardens that need help over the summer. The shady container below is filled with New Guinea Impatiens, Caladium, Coleus, Impatiens and a Fern. I added in the glass totem that I made from thrift store finds. Pop over and check out my post on Creative Flower Container Gardens for some more ideas.

Flower pot filled with flowers for the shade.
 Below is a Tipsy Pot taking over a bare spot where a shrub was removed.

Shade Garden Tipsy Pots with Impatiens

Do you have some shady areas that you’ll be working on this spring and summer? Hopefully, you’ve picked up a few tips and ideas for your shade garden today. Here are a few of my Shade Garden Makeovers for more inspiration:

20 Perennials for Shade
Shade Border & Junk Gardens
Shade Garden Makeover
Small Shade Garden Transformation

Feel free to share the pictures on Pinterest, or to save them for later reference. You’ll see a Pin button when you hover in the upper left-hand corner of the picture and there are more collages to pin at the bottom of the post. 

I came across this article – Shade Plants: 15 Garden Greats to Grow in Full or Partial Shade and I thought it had a good list of additional plants, more along the lines of native or forest type plants. The writer has a quirky style and I think you might find it entertaining as well as informative. Again, be sure to do your research if you’re concerned about invasive or aggressive species in your area. 

As always, thanks a bunch for stopping by! Please make yourself at home and hang out for awhile in the gardens. I’d love to hear from you, so be sure to leave a comment and tell me about your shade garden or ask a question. 

Happy gardening,
Joanna

p.s.  I’d love to have you follow me on Pinterest. Lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy.

 

Pins to Share:

Image of a Shade Garden with Text Overlay - Made in the Shade Gardens

 

Image of Shade Garden Plants with Text Overlay - Ideas and Tips for your Shade Garden

28 Comments

  1. I’m interested in the back yard raised garden, were and how do I get one of them? Let me be clear, I am speaking of the ones with lids.

    1. Hi Rochelle – I’ve never used a raised bed with a lid. I’m assuming the lid is to keep critters out of your plants. I did a quick search on Amazon and found a few. Sorry I couldn’t help you more. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

  2. Good morning Joanna,

    So happy that I have found you! I have been struggling with my shade gardens for a couple of years now. You have given me hope that with some more effort in the right areas I too can have some lovely gardens. Since I’m not working due to the global pandemic and probably won’t be for spring and most of summer I can really put my total effort into gardening. Thank you so much for the inspiration. You made it seem doable for the common person. I don’t feel overwhelmed or over my head at all. I wish I found you sooner.
    Have a great day. Stay safe.

      1. I very much agree with Catherine. I have been doing lots of research to gather information about planting my mostly shady flower beds. Yours was the most concise and easy to follow site, and so many of my questions were answered. I’m starting over after purchasing a cottage home whose gardens had been long neglected. You have given me so many wonderful ideas! Thank you so very much!

        1. Thank you so much, Joanne. I’m glad you found Gingham Gardens. Be sure to subscribe so you receive my weekly newsletters that are always filled with gardening goodness.
          Happy gardening, Joanna

  3. I enjoyed your shade garden ideas. I would add lamium to the do not plant list at least here in Easter NE.; takes over any shade area and wipes out my vinca ground cover that IS well behaved.

    1. Hi Terry – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens and taking the time to comment. Yes, I agree that lamium can get out of control. I have it in my gardens, but I find that it’s fairly easy to weed out. Also, if you read the comments, others have commented that vinca vine is very aggressive in their gardens. It truly is different for every one. Happy gardening, Joanna

  4. Good morning Joanna, Thank you for this post & the list of plants . There is a wet partial sun area in my yard that was a dismal failure last year. I will use t your plant list & find out if some of them will work there. Thank you & good luck this spring, Joe.

    1. Hi there Joe. Thanks for stopping by. Hostas would probably do okay in that area. You might want to do a search for perennials that like moist partial shade. I’m definitely looking forward to spring. Until then, we’ll keep planning and dreaming.

  5. Another great blog! So many great ideas! I can’t wait to get out in the dirt to start digging.
    Julie

  6. My shade garden is one of my favorites. I have many of the same plants. Your shade areas are gorgeous! Crazy me, I love that the fern are a little unruly. 😉 I have them on my East side and I just let them do their thing. One of my favorite shade plants are my Hellebores. Have you tried those? They bloom very early and last a long time. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

    1. Hi there, Jann, thanks for stopping by! I actually have some hellebores ordered for a shade garden I’m working on this year. That is if spring will ever come.

  7. Do you mean that you plant the seeds out in The garden and cover the. with a cut off milk jug for protection? If so, when do you start that process? Thanks

    1. Karen, check out my post on Winter Sowing- Yes You Can Garden in Winter and that will explain how I propagate the seeds in winter.

  8. Good morning! I’m new to your blog and enjoy it! I’ve tried to establish Foxgloves and it never works for me. What’s your secret? Do you Start with plants or do you start seeds inThe garden? I’m still waiting for spring to come here in Iowa! Happy gardening!

    1. Welcome Karen and thanks for taking the time to comment. Foxgloves are tough to get going. They are a biennial which means the first year it grows leaves, stems and roots. The second year it grows flowers and then it’s done unless you’re lucky enough to get some babies from seeds. So if you buy a plant that is flowering from a nursery that means it’s a 2nd year plant. So basically I treat them as annuals and plant them every year. This year I have a few milk jugs winter sowing with foxglove seeds. Surely spring will be here soon. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. I just finished redoing a shady bed that started out more sunny ten years ago when we first moved here. I’ll probably write a post about it at some point soon. Given how different our zones are, there are probably some plants you can’t grow, but I still depended quite a bit on standards like Hostas and Brunnera. Does Columbine grow in your zone? I have loads of that too. Love the old chair with the galvanized pot!

    1. Most of these pictures were from gardens at my former home. In my new gardens, I have more shady areas, so I’m working on incorporating more variety, like different types of ferns, coral bells, Japanese forest grass, astilbe, goats beard, monkshood… just to name a few. Oh and yes, columbine too. I’m just past ready to get out and dig in the dirt. Thanks for stopping by. Happy gardening!

  10. Good morning Joanna, Thank you for this post. It’s chock full of ideas & I am particularly interested in the foxglove. s that in full shade or partial? Your container combination is also eye catching.
    Good luck with your new home & garden this spring, Joe

    1. Hi there, Joe. Foxglove does really well in partial shade. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words.

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