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 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.
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).
- 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).
- 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:
- New Guinea Impatiens
- Wax Begonias
- Tuberous Begonias
- Caladium – grown from a bulb and in warmer zones as a perennial
- Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes)
- Torenia (Wishbone Flower)
Here is my good friend, Julie’s shade garden oasis. It really is gorgeous!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
p.s. I’d love to have you follow me on Pinterest. Lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy.
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