Diana was a Member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.
Have you ever planted seedlings, bulbs, and cuttings with great enthusiasm and considerable expense, only to find that the plants become weedy and die off? I certainly have! And what a disappointment it was.
You do all that work—clearing, digging, planting and watering—only to find it was all in vain, and you begin to wonder whether there's any point in even trying to create a nice garden.
Take heart--don't think of it as failure, but rather as discovery of what works and what doesn't work. Different plants have different growing requirements.
Know Your Plants
It helps to know which plants actually need or tolerate shade, and which ones need bright sunshine and will simply fail to thrive in the shade.
It helps to be imaginative and think about how the plants would grow in their natural habitats—are they woodland plants, or sun-loving plants which grow in open ground, like meadows, or even desert?
I have found out the hard way that it's no good planting sun-loving plants in the shade, or shade-loving plants in the sun. It has taken years of trial and error to discover what plants will tolerate shade and which ones simply don't flower or wither and die when they are not in full sun. Most of the plants listed below will grow in dappled shade but you may be lucky and find they grow in full shade.
Here are the secrets I have learned about shade-loving plants, through trial and error.
10 Plants That Tolerate Shade
- Vinca major and Vinca minor (Periwinkle)
- Solomon's seal
- Bleeding heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)
- Forget-me-not (Myasotis)
Learn more about each below.
- Big green leaves with pink flowers in spring and early summer.
- Evergreen (sometimes known as elephants' ears), low lying, about 1 - 2 feet high.
- Bergenia is a very hardy plant which spreads very gradually. It flowers in mid to late spring for about two months and you can propagate it by tearing off a few leaves and stem with some roots attached.
2. Vinca Minor (Also Known As Periwinkle)
- Small, shiny leaves; small violet star-shaped flowers in spring and then intermittently during summer and autumn.
- Good ground cover. Vinca is evergreen and low-lying and gradually spreads, so needs to be kept under control.
3. Vinca Major
- Similar to Vinca minor, but slightly larger leaves and flowers, and not quite as hardy, so make sure it is watered when very dry.
- It will grow in dappled shade.
- Propagate by tearing off a few stems which have rooted.
4. Solomon's Seal
- A root which puts out a few stems in spring with tiny, white, drooping flowers tinged with green.
- The flowers last about two months and gradually the plant dies off and disappears, only to return the following spring.
5. Dicentra Spectabilis (or Bleeding Heart)
- In spring, roots put out stems with soft, interesting-shaped leaves with a small dark pink or sometimes pink-and-white flower which does indeed resemble a heart.
- It flowers for about two months and looks lovely grown near bergenia and Solomon's seal.
- Propagate by dividing the roots after it has finished flowering. I have never found it very easy to increase and usually end up buying more plants.
- There are numerous types of hellebore, including the one called Christmas rose which flowers shortly after Christmas and is fairly low growing, with palmate leaves. Some of them are taller.
- They are mostly creamy white tinged with green, sometimes with mauve or pink colours.
- They flower for about three months, sometimes more, and when they die back, they put out new leaves which are very attractive in their own right and ensure the garden doesn't look bare in winter.
- You can propagate them very easily from seeds which form in large seedpods when the flowers have finished. Be very careful, though, when harvesting the seeds. It is best to wait until the seed pods dry out and then just shake them into a container or collect them from the ground.
A Warning Story About Hellebore Seeds:
Last summer, I picked the seed pods whilst the seeds were still green and spent about twenty minutes squeezing the seeds out of the pods, so that my fingers were in constant contact with the sap. I began to feel a tingling pins-and-needles feeling in my fingers and thumbs and it got so bad that I had to sit down and my hands were almost paralyzed and burning.
After a few more minutes, I realized what had caused the problem and ran my hands under cold water to wash away the juice. My fingers turned very red, almost purple, and were throbbing.
After 24 hours they were worse, and I went to the doctor. She said I had done the right thing washing off the poison, and prescribed an emollient cream to rub on, and I certainly needed that.
Over the next few days the skin on my fingers and thumbs turned almost black and became so hard that I could actually hear them scratching like a beetle when I tapped them on the table. They were very painful and burning, and I couldn't bear to come into contact with anything for a few days.
It took nearly two weeks for the dead skin to peel off and the pain to go away, leaving a rather red-looking layer of skin underneath, which eventually took on a healthier hue and there were no lasting ill effects. It was pretty scary at the time though.
- Mahonia is an evergreen shrub with very shiny dark green leaves, a bit like holly and just as spiky, with purple-black berries from autumn through winter, and a mass of bright yellow tiny frothy flowers in spring.
- They multiply by sending out sucker-type shoots, so keep them under control. The type I grow (Mahonia aquifolium) is fairly short, no more than 3 feet high, but my neighbours have a different type which is more like a tree, about 10 feet high.
8. Myasotis (Forget-Me-Not)
- They range in colour from bright to pale blue, some tinged with pink, with soft small leaves, and flower in late spring for about four months.
- Forget-me-nots are about 6 - 8 inches high and quite bushy.
- They are annuals, not perennials, but always seed themselves abundantly, so they never go away if the position is right for them. They grow in sun and shade.
- After a few years, they tend to spread and become invasive, but it's easy to control them by digging up unwanted plants. The trouble is, it's tempting to keep them anyway, because a sea of blue spring flowers round a garden is breathtakingly beautiful.
- Small pink and blue flowers and green leaves speckled with white spots.
- Pulmonaria is a small perennial which grows to about a foot high, flowering in late spring.
- It can be propagated by dividing the plant and roots after it has flowered.
- This is a shrub which comes in many different bright, almost fluorescent colours to pale mauves, pinks, whites and oranges and can be anything from dwarf (1 foot high) to about 6 feet, depending on the type.
- Azaleas flower in late spring and need to be kept watered in dry weather.
- They also benefit from being fed with Sequestrene or anything else suitable for Ericaceous plants.
Here's a Poll About Gardening
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the best plant for shady areas that you recommend?
Answer: There is no "best" plant as such. It depends on whether you want the prettiest, the most unusual, the easiest to cultivate, the longest-flowering, and so forth.
My personal favorites are Hellebore and Bleeding Heart, because Hellebores bloom in winter when there are very few flowers blooming, and, if the growing conditions are right, they flower for several months, and Bleeding Heart because, although it is more delicate, it looks spectacular.
© 2009 Diana Grant
Let me have your comments and views - I love to hear from people with similar interests
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on February 24, 2016:
Yes, not long now, and we'll all be out in the garden doing what gardeners do
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 22, 2016:
Good to see this again in preparation for Spring. Can't wait.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 19, 2015:
Yes, since having some success with my gardening, I've been a lot more thoughtful about what to plant where, and it's made a lot of difference
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 19, 2015:
Don't get alarmed about hellebore - see my recent reply to Margaret Schindel
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 19, 2015:
It's still OK to grow them - just don't let the sap stay in contact with your skin for long, and don't lick your fingers after touching them. I still grow them, but I'm more careful!
RaintreeAnnie from UK on May 01, 2015:
Very useful and interesting page. We have a shady border and its important to do research on which plants will survive and thrive in shade or its an uphill struggle. Much better to choose from the lovely plants that love shade. I like and grow many of these you have listed :) Enjoyed your photos too !
Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on May 01, 2015:
You've convinced me that I don't want to risk trying hellebore in my garden. I actually don't have very much shade here, and I'm not currently living where I do have it. I will keep this in mind, though.
Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on April 29, 2015:
Diana, we're always looking for shade-tolerant plants to grow in the front of our house, so this is really helpful. My sister (who lives next door) plants Hellebore near her front door every year and they're very pretty. I had no idea they were poisonous, so thanks for the warning!
AlleyCatLane on May 11, 2014:
Caladiums and impatients are favorites of mine.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2014:
@kindoak: Periwinkle makes good ground cover under trees.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2014:
@Gypzeerose: Good to be able to help
kindoak on May 07, 2014:
Thanks, I've been wondering what to plant in the shady area near my birch trees.
Rose Jones on May 06, 2014:
I really appreciate these suggestions - they are all new to me. I hope to really add to my garden this year.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 06, 2014:
@John Dyhouse: Yes, I have the purple one too - I got the seedlings from the Royal Horticultural Society
John Dyhouse from UK on April 25, 2014:
I feel so at home with these flowers, my garden is almost all heavyily shaded, trees and high fences all around. So I know many of the plants well.
I did not know about the effects of Hellebore sap though. I have only one plant (purple) but have been thinking about propagating it as it flowered so profusely this year (W Midlands UK). Will be careful now, thanks.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 09, 2014:
@burntchestnut: Yes, they have beautiful strong colors - I love them too
burntchestnut on April 09, 2014:
I love azaleas, especially when people have a whole row of them.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on February 17, 2014:
@GrammieOlivia: That's great - thanks. I did indeed give Weekend Gardeners FB a like
GrammieOlivia on February 17, 2014:
Great lens and great choices of plants for shade areas. I'm moving this one over to the Weekend Gardeners FB page! You can join us there and give us a like too!
Takkhis on February 07, 2014:
Some of these plants were unknown to me but this lens helped me to learn about them, thanks for sharing.
tonyleather on October 25, 2013:
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 11, 2013:
@BLouw: That's right - nothing more disappointing than watching your plants wilt before your eyes
Barbara Walton from France on May 11, 2013:
A great collection of shade-loving plants. I have many of these in my garden and they do well. Nothing like getting the right plant for the right place to cut down work and failure in a garden.
Bartukas on April 17, 2013:
Interesting and well made lens thank you this lens is great
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 19, 2013:
@playercoach: Thanks for your nice comment - sometimes, when I buy plants and then forget to plant them, or don't check what conditions they like, I think I should give up gardening altogether, so I know what you mean!
playercoach on March 19, 2013:
It is spring and time to plant flowers. Your lens here is a great wake up call for me. Quite often I will be attracted to purchase a certain flower because it looks great at the nursery and then bring it home, plant it in a shady area and then find out too late it needed a more sun. I will start paying more attention to this now. Really nice job on this lens by the way.
Giovanna from UK on March 09, 2013:
Great - I know slugs will eat a lot of the veggies that I will try to grow in my garden, the birds get to eat most of my strawberries! But I think it is worth it. So much of my garden is in the shade - so I will take your advice. Thanks for your tips.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 05, 2013:
@Gala98: Very good idea - I'll try that, thanks
Gala98 on March 05, 2013:
@Gloriousconfusion: You know the very tall 'lily' pots you can get - plant your hostas in those & vaseline around the top outer inch of the pot - perfect hostas all summer long & movable too :)
lesliesinclair on February 26, 2013:
I can't help but favor forget-me-nots!
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on February 19, 2013:
@techmom: Where I live, hostas get eaten by slugs, unless you put down slug pellets
techmom on February 19, 2013:
We have a lot of shade, but we also have a lot of deer. :( While they are pretty, they eat just about everything! In the shade at our old house, we had a lot of hostas. Those don't do as well here...
tomoxby on February 19, 2013:
I have a big old and shady tree in my backyard and hopefully one of these plants will grow because the grass won't. Thanks for the lens.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on February 19, 2013:
We have a lot of vinca and azaleas in our yard and I am looking forward to Springtime when they are in bloom. Enjoyed this visit and learning about more Plants that grow in the shade.
jayavi on February 16, 2013:
Great lens Diana ! i love gardening too. nice lens
Fay Favored from USA on February 03, 2013:
Hi Diana, found this on your blog. Thanks for the info. I have some of these, but would like to add more. Apprecite this.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on January 04, 2013:
@RadaFrancis LM: Today was so mild that I nearly (but not quite) did some gardening
RadaFrancis LM on January 03, 2013:
Wow a lot of great info! I am looking to get my garden going soon :) *Blessed*
malualhati on November 12, 2012:
so many good tips about plants in the shade! thank you for sharing :)
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 29, 2012:
@LeopoldBlatt: I'm sure they will indeed prosper, as I am in almost the same weather zone as you South-East England.
LeopoldBlatt on October 29, 2012:
This is a great reference work. I have many shady spots here as we do not get so much sun here in Ireland, so some of these plants might prosper. Nice article!
David Stone from New York City on October 26, 2012:
Not much room for green space in our New York high rise, but we do keep as many plants that don't need a lot of sunlight as we can fit in.
GardenIdeasHub LM on October 26, 2012:
I really enjoyed your article about plants that will grow in the shade and I did pick up some good tips.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 18, 2012:
@anonymous: That sounds interesting - I don't know Corsican mint, so will look it up
anonymous on October 18, 2012:
Thanks for the info. I have several shady areas of my yard, where I have hostas, but it would be nice to have more variety in my plantings.
A nice shade loving ground cover between stepping stones is Corsican mint. It spreads nicely. Small pieces can be broken off to be transplanted to new locations. It makes a lovely carpet but it does not like to dry out.
best-writter on October 17, 2012:
The only way to remove the shade is by cut downing the trees, but you loose many with doing this.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 17, 2012:
@CoffeeWriter LM: That's a good idea. My solution would be to knock down my neighbours' extension......but my neighbours wouldn't agree to that either, so we are a bit stuck, aren't we?
CoffeeWriter LM on October 17, 2012:
My solution to the shade problem is simply cut down the trees, but my wife never agrees with that!
olmpal on September 18, 2012:
I do have a shady corner in my garden and this lens about plants that grow in the shade is very helpful! Thanks for sharing your knowledge about plants and your bad experience with hellebore seeds.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 14, 2012:
@Deadicated LM: But I'm not sure they would enjoy growing indoors
Deadicated LM on September 11, 2012:
Thanks for all the cool shade plant ideas, love this lens, my apartment has very limited light.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 09, 2012:
@MizzMary: Yes, it's amazing what knowledge you can pick up off the internet - we find out all sorts of interesting snippets almost by chance when looking for something completely different
MizzMary on September 08, 2012:
Fantastic and helpful list you have compiled here. Sorry to hear about your painful lesson with the Hellebore, which I'm sure that by sharing that story you are helping other people to avoid doing the same thing!
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 02, 2012:
@MintySea: And so you shall, if you continue to pick up information from all the gardening web pages you see around (provided, of course, that you translate that into action, and not just web-surfing!) :)
MintySea on September 01, 2012:
thanks I am so bad with plants. I want to get better.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on August 31, 2012:
@JoshK47: Thanks for that. I'm going to celebrate with some of your Queso Fundido!
JoshK47 on August 29, 2012:
Popping back in to bless these lovely shade-tolerant plants!
anonymous on August 21, 2012:
Your story about poisonous plants was scary. Glad you were okay! Our yard is mostly shady, so all of the plants you mention would thrive in our yard. All the best.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 23, 2012:
@ContentEmployee: I think African violets (St Paulia) and orchids like light but not necessarily hot sun. Also tradescantia
ContentEmployee on July 22, 2012:
Nice! Can you recommend an "indoor" plant?
I was searching for something that might be kept in the house most of the time and not die because of little sun.
dellgirl on July 18, 2012:
Congratulations on getting Purple Star, AND Lens of the Dayfor this amazing lens! Awesome! I've already SquidLiked this wonderful lens before so, I can't do that again. ~~Blessed by a SquidAngel~~
getmoreinfo on July 06, 2012:
I had to come read this lens, because I have a shady area near my house and now it only has these beach rocks because I have been wanting to put some green plants there instead. Thanks for all the helpful information I can really use it.
SailingPassion LM on June 13, 2012:
Need to find plants for some shady areas in the garden, so this is perfect. Just need to work out how to bookmark this page :-)
orangegirl6020 on June 10, 2012:
I'd love to dig up my backyard and back a huge vegetable garden, but alas, I live in an apartment complex. I think I might get scolded.
themeaparty on June 08, 2012:
Great information! My house is facing north, so it only gets a bit of the morning sun. I tried Azaleas, but they didn't thrive well (likely because I didn't water the front very much!) I just planted vibernums, so wish me luck!
WriterJanis2 on June 05, 2012:
Beautifully done. Blessed!
flycatcherrr on June 04, 2012:
Lovely choices! Pulmonaria is one of my great favourites - we call it "William and Mary" for the pink and blue.
arcarmi on May 27, 2012:
Thank you so very much for the blessing! Nice lens!
mizrae on May 17, 2012:
My absolute favorites are "Lilly of the Valley".
Marc from Edinburgh on May 16, 2012:
Very useful to know! Thanks!
JoshK47 on May 16, 2012:
Popping back in to bless these shady fellas. ;)
MBradley McCauley on May 16, 2012:
I'm an apartment dweller, on the 2d floor with a balcony and a nice sized landing. Am going to quickly take advantage of your advice about shade plants since I don't get much sun on the two areas. I am a container gardener and will be putting a link to this lens on my Pot Gardens are Easy site. Thanks so much for this info.
anonymous on May 09, 2012:
My Mother Loved Azalea Bushes and Especially when them Bloomed in the Spring! :D
mrsclaus411 on May 08, 2012:
mel-kav on May 07, 2012:
So enjoyed this lens. I think the forget-me-nots and the vinca major are my favorites on this lens. Thanks for the info!
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2012:
@MelonyVaughan: Don't forget to look at my two other Squidoo web pages about plants that grow in shade, to give you more ideas.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2012:
@flicker lm: Forget-me-nots do grow in shade - they seem to seed themselves everywhere in my garden, and I am always giving seedlings away - the plants are too pretty to destroy!
MelonyVaughan on May 05, 2012:
Excellent and very useful information. I'm expanding my flower garden and will be utilizing your tips!
Fcuk Hub on May 03, 2012:
Great pictures of shade tolerant plants :) Very informative lens.
flicker lm on April 29, 2012:
I have Hosta and Bleeding Heart in my shade garden, but would love to try Forget-me-nots. Didn't know they could tolerate shade. They're so pretty!
anonymous on April 24, 2012:
I have developed an interest in Bromeliads. There are so many and a lot of them love shade.I have about six different kinds out of thousands.would love to have some more. Know anything about them and where to buy them?
gradientcat on April 13, 2012:
My favourite shade plant is forget-me-nots. I'm looking forward to seeing them in my gardens soon. I have about 7/10 of the plants on your lens. I'll have to try more this spring, thanks.
AJ from Australia on April 07, 2012:
Thank you for the shade-tolerant suggestions - I need to try a couple. Spring Blessings.
anonymous on April 02, 2012:
i learned a lot from you, thanks for the info as well as the pictures of shade loving plants.
anonymous on February 29, 2012:
really helpful lens.Good to know.
Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 22, 2012:
I love azaleas but they don't do well in the desert. I've done well with the low-growing Plumbago (beautiful purple flowers) and Rosemary for the dry shady areas, also Juniper.
Thanks for the great info. Wish I could have Hellebore, too.
anonymous on February 03, 2012:
What a special and rewarding article for those that read this. Great tips on placement for plants ... *blessed*!
anonymous on January 24, 2012:
@iWriteaLot: There's also a wrapping vine that will attach it's self to almost anything the wind will blow it next to. Like a choking wisteria. Both my son and I came in contact with it's sap while clearing area. He went to the doctor and it nearly put me in the hospital.A year or so ago I packed up a plant with roots and sent it to Cornell -Chang couldn't I.D.It's sad that these Agricultural Experts make the big bucks but can't do or erradicate.what they are being paid for.Every Spring it appears in our garden lot-long sleeves,gloves and watch out for cut branches blowing in the breeze.Can't forget how it shut my eyes,neck,ears, bubbled up broke blisters and spread-it wasn't poison oak,ivy,or sumac.My older son's arm was almost twice it's normal size
Barbara Isbill from New Market Tn 37820 on January 14, 2012:
Great, interesting and helpful lens.
jimmyworldstar on December 04, 2011:
Great pictures! I don't know any of the flower varieties except Azaleas. I always thought that plants needed lots of sunlight and would just wither in shade.
iWriteaLot on November 29, 2011:
Wow! I was interested in the Hellabore because of what you said about it blooming around Christmas. But then I read your story. How awful! Who would have thought a pretty flower could do that much damage?! You're very lucky you only got it on your hands!
spartakct on November 20, 2011:
thanks for the informative lens!
Iudit Gherghiteanu from Ozun on November 10, 2011:
great info about shade tolerant plants, what i needed badly, thanks a lot.
lesliesinclair on November 09, 2011:
Your garden photo is sumptuous. I mean that, it enlivens nostalgia for my longing to have a garden again. thanks
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on November 03, 2011:
@baumchen: Oh thanks. I took a normal photograph of my garden, cropped it to home in on the tulips, and then changed the colour/hue until it turned blue and then very slightly intensified the colour. Most photo-editing programmes have the facility to do this. I use Paint.NET, a free editing programme.
baumchen on November 03, 2011:
How did you take that first picture on here? I love it!!!
hsschulte on October 28, 2011:
My hasta do pretty well in the shade and the flowers smell amazing.
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anonymous on October 26, 2011:
Interesting. Lots of good information here. Two thumbs up! Squid-liked it.
franstan lm on September 21, 2011:
Thank you for the valuable information. I will be starting a flower garden on the back of my house and this lens has been very helpful