What To Grow In Shaded Areas: Exploring Options For A Lush Garden

The right plants for shaded areas Mark Cullen Toronto Star
The right plants for shaded areas Mark Cullen Toronto Star from www.thestar.com

When it comes to gardening, one of the biggest challenges that many people face is dealing with shaded areas. Whether it’s due to tall buildings, large trees, or fences, limited sunlight can make it difficult to cultivate a thriving garden. However, with the right knowledge and selection of plants, you can transform even the shadiest spots into lush and beautiful areas. In this article, we will explore some options for what to grow in shaded areas.

The Importance of Understanding Shade

Before diving into specific plant recommendations, it is essential to understand the different types of shade and their impact on plant growth. Shade can be classified into three categories:

  • Full Shade: These areas receive less than two hours of direct sunlight each day. They are typically found under dense tree canopies or on the north side of buildings.
  • Partial Shade: These areas receive two to four hours of direct sunlight each day. They generally receive sunlight in the morning or evening, with shade during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Dappled Shade: These areas receive filtered sunlight through a canopy of trees. The sunlight is scattered and constantly changing throughout the day.

Understanding the type of shade in your garden is crucial as it will determine the suitability of different plants.

Plants That Thrive in Shade

While many plants require full sun to grow, there are numerous varieties that can thrive in shaded areas. Here are some options to consider:

1. Hostas

Hostas are popular shade-loving plants known for their attractive foliage. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, making them a versatile choice for any garden. Hostas prefer partial to full shade and moist, well-draining soil.

2. Ferns

Ferns are excellent choices for shaded areas as they thrive in the cool and moist conditions typically found in these environments. They add a touch of lush greenery and can be planted both in the ground and in containers.

3. Astilbes

Astilbes are perennial flowers that thrive in partial shade. They produce beautiful feathery plumes of flowers in various shades of pink, red, and white. Astilbes prefer moist soil and are perfect for adding pops of color to shaded areas.

4. Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts are delicate and charming flowers that prefer shady areas. They produce heart-shaped flowers that hang from arching stems, creating a romantic and whimsical look. These flowers are perfect for adding a touch of elegance to shaded gardens.

5. Coral Bells

Coral Bells, also known as Heucheras, are versatile plants that thrive in shade. They are valued for their attractive foliage, which comes in a wide range of colors, including burgundy, green, and silver. Coral Bells can add texture and interest to any shaded garden.

Creating a Shaded Oasis

To make the most of shaded areas in your garden, consider these additional tips:

1. Use Containers

Containers offer flexibility in a shaded garden. You can move them around to catch sunlight during different parts of the day, ensuring your plants receive sufficient light. Additionally, containers allow you to create height and depth in your garden by placing them at different levels.

2. Add Lighting

If your shaded area is too dark, consider adding lighting to highlight specific plants or create an ambient atmosphere in the evening. Solar lights or low-voltage lighting options are ideal for shaded gardens.

3. Incorporate Shade-Tolerant Ground Covers

Ground covers not only help to suppress weeds but also add color and texture to shaded areas. Some shade-tolerant ground covers to consider include Pachysandra, Ajuga, and Vinca minor.

4. Monitor Soil Moisture

Shaded areas tend to retain more moisture, so it’s important to monitor soil moisture levels and avoid overwatering. Use a moisture meter or simply stick your finger into the soil to check the moisture content before watering.


Gardening in shaded areas may present challenges, but with the right plants and techniques, you can create a lush and beautiful garden. Understanding the type of shade in your garden is crucial for selecting suitable plants. Consider incorporating shade-loving plants like hostas, ferns, astilbes, bleeding hearts, and coral bells. Additionally, using containers, adding lighting, incorporating shade-tolerant ground covers, and monitoring soil moisture can further enhance your shaded oasis. By embracing the unique qualities of shaded areas, you can create a garden that is both vibrant and inviting.

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