It can be difficult to find good plants for shaded areas in your garden design, but many attractive evergreen and flowering shrubs will grow well in a shady garden.
Most gardens have shaded areas created by buildings, walls, fences or tall trees. Too often these areas contain a few sad looking plants quite unsuitable for the conditions. However there are a number of attractive garden shrubs which will happily grow in shade.
Some of these are evergreen shrubs, and some are grown primarily for their attractive foliage, although as a general rule variegated species and varieties are less happy in shade than their plain-leafed counterparts. However, there are also a number of attractive flowering shrubs which make good shade plants.
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Most of these plants are bushes or small trees, but some are climbers, like hedera or ivy, and there are a number of different species of clematis in particular which are especially suitable for growing on a north wall.
Below is a selection of shrubs for different areas in a shady garden.
In this article:
- Shrubs to Grow in Dry Shade
- Shrubs to Grow in Moist Shade
- Climbing Shrubs for Shaded Areas or to Grow on a North Wall
Shrubs to Grow in Dry Shade
The combination of dry soil and shade is a particularly difficult environment. Nevertheless, several shrubs will happily grow in this very tough situation, including:
#1. Buxus sempervirens or Box
Glossy green evergreen foliage. Good for small ornamental hedges or topiary.
#2. Eleagnus x ebbingei
Glossy green evergreen leaves with silvery undersides, small very fragrant flowers and autumn berries.
#3. Hypericum calycinum
Bright green semievergreen leaves, and bright yellow flowers up to 2 1/2 in across from mid summer to autumn. Good as a specimen shrub or for ground cover.
#4. Kerria japonica
Dull green leaves, but abundant single yellow flowers up to 2 in across in late spring.
#5. Ribes sanguineum or flowering currant
Mid green matt leaves and small pink/red tassles of flower in spring.
#6. Sarcococca or Christmas Box
Glossy green evergreen leaves and small, very fragrant white flowers in mid winter.
#7. Symphoricarpos or Snowberry
Mid green deciduous foliage and insignificant flowers, but grown primarily for it abundant white, pink or red winter berries.
Glossy green leaves and lavender to purple flowers, with a very long flowering season. Good ground cover but can be invasive.
Shrubs to Grow in Moist Shade
Damp but well drained shade is somewhat easier, and the selection of shrubs for damp shade includes all those listed above, and also:
#1. Aucuba japonica
Glossy green evergreen leaves and small spikes of red flower, followed by bright red berries on the female forms, provided a male plant is present. The spotted and variegated forms do less well in shade.
#2. Fatsia japonica or Castor Oil Plant
Huge (12 inch) glossy evergreen leaves and sprays of white flower in early autumn.
#3. Hamamelis mollis or Witch Hazel
Unexciting mid green deciduous leaves but glorious clusters of golden blossom on the bare winter branches.
#4. Hydrangeas macrophylla
Mid green deciduous foliage and huge heads of white, pink, red or blue flower. Both the “Mophead” and “Lacecap” forms do well in shade.
#5. Kalmia Latifolia or Calico Bush
Glossy mid green leaves and clusters of 1 inch white, pink or red flowers in midsummer. Requires acid soil.
#6. Mahonia x media Charity
Glossy evergreen foliage with spiky leaflets and spires of bright golden scented flowers in late autumn and winter.
#7. Pieris japonica
Glossy mid green evergreen leaves and drooping sprays of white (sometimes pink) flowers in early spring. Prefers acid soil.
Climbing Shrubs for Shaded Areas or to Grow on a North Wall
Most clematis are good shade plants, but these varieties are especially good:
#1. Clematis Alpina Hagley Hybrid
Shell pink 5-6 inch flowers from June – September. Height 6-8 ft.
#2. Clematis Dr Ruppel
Deep pink-mauve 6-8 inch flowers with paler margins and cerise bar from May to July and in September. Height 8-10 feet.
#3. Clematis macropetala Blue Bird
Masses of bell shaped blue flower in April and May, followed by tasselled seed heads. Height 6-10 feet.
#4. Clematis montana Freda
Deep cherry pink, almost red, 2 inch flowers with paler bars, in May and June. Attractive purple-bronze foliage. Height 20-30 feet.
#5. Clematis Nelly Moser
Huge 7-8 inch pale mauve-pink flowers with light cerise bars and red anthers in May-June and September. Height 8-10 feet. Gives best colours in shade.
#6. Clematis Tangutica Bill MacKenzie
Bright yellow lantern shaped 2.5 – 3 inch flowers from August to October followed by silky seedheads. Height 10-15 feet.
Other climbers for shady situations or a north wall are:
Hedera helix or Ivy. Glossy green foliage (the variegated varieties do less well in shade). Can be invasive.
Hydrangea petiolaris, the Climbing Hydrangea. Attractive glossy green ddeciduous foliage, with red stems to give some winter colour. Glorious tiers of creamy white flower in early and mid summer.