Most gardens have at least one area that is in the shade.  This could be caused by nearby buildings, walls, trees or hedges.  But it is still possible to create a beautiful and interesting feature out of a shady area by using plants are adapted to cope with woodland conditions.  These will often have lush foliage that has developed to catch the maximum amount of sunlight, but they can also have eye-catching flowers.  It is easier to fill a shady area with interest in the spring as there are plenty of bulbs such as daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells that will flower with little light and early flowering primroses, anemone nemorosa and epimediums are also happy in shade.  But in the middle of summer the choice is more limited, so above is my favourite shade border, photographed in early July that shows a range of attractive, shade-loving plants that are hardy, slug-proof and complement each other.  For details of each plant see below.

Silver Foliage Plants for Shade


Pulmonaria longifolia ‘Diana Clare’

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

These two plants brighten up a dark, shady area with their stunning silver foliage that is on display long after their blue spring flowers have faded.  They will spread slowly and usually avoid slug damage due to their hairy leaves.

Evergreen shade plants

Euonymous fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’


Helleborus argutifolius

The Euonymous isn’t an exotic plant, but it’s white and green variegated leaves cheer up a dark area and it is perfectly happy in a pot or the ground and requires little maintenance.  The Hellebore keeps it’s striking, leathery serrated leaves throughout the year with the added advantage of extravagant sprays of lime-green flowers from January to April.

White flowers for Shade

Astrantia major


Although white flowers may seem uninteresting in bright sun they come into their own in a shady area where they reflect the maximum amount of light and offset green foliage.  Astrantias cope well in partial shade or sun and have a long flowering season from late May into October.  Cut down the old flowering stems to the ground and you’ll be rewarded with a second flush of flowers to take you through to October.  They have the added bonus of attracting hoverflies and ladybirds into your garden, which will help reduce greenfly numbers.  Astilbes have spikes of flowers through the summer and you can leave the dead flower heads intact for interest in the winter when the leaves die back completely.

Foliage Plants

Rodgersia podohylla

The Rodgersia family of plants all like to grow in damp soil in shady conditions.  The different species all have lush foliage but R.podophylla is probably the most striking and emerges in April with chocolate/purple leaves that gradually fades to green tinged with red.