Your Perfect Full & Partial Shade Garden

Your Perfect Full & Partial Shade Garden

Most homeowners have some degree of shade somewhere on their property whether it’s from buildings, a fence, or mature trees. Since shade varies from heavy, where no direct sunlight penetrates, to partial or dappled, you need to observe what kind of shade you are dealing with and plant accordingly.

• Plants with non-green foliage colour like the blue-grey of Junipers or the yellow in Euonymus will not do well in shade.

• Red leaved shrubs like Purpleleaf Sand Cherry or Purple Smoketree or golden shrubs such as Golden Mockorange lose their vibrant colour if they are planted in shade.

Choose wisely from a wide range of shade-tolerant plant materials and arrange them with variety of form, size, texture and colour in mind.

Plants for Full Shade

Boxwood, Yews, Sarcoxie Euonymus, and Hemlock are dependable evergreens that add year-round structure to any garden.

Emerald Gaiety Euonymus, Silverleaf, Silver and Gold Dogwood, Variegated Kerria, Variegated Hosta, Goutweed, or Variegated Solomon’s Seal will contrast successfully when planted next to the above.

• Flowering plants that will flourish in low light are the broadleaf evergreens such as Periwinkle, Mountain Laurel, Japanese Pieris, and Oregon Grape.

• Deciduous shrubs include False Spirea, Annabelle and Bigleaf Hydrangeas, and Double Kerria.

Eastern Redbud, Downy Serviceberry, and Pagoda and Gray Dogwood are examples of small trees that will tolerate a lot of shade especially in the city.

purple bellflower

Bugleweed, Astilbe, Bellflower, Hostas, Bugbane, Bergenia, Forget-me-not, Christmas Rose, Monkshood, and Lily-of-the-Valley are the best perennials for full shade. Many of these can also be used as ground covers to replace grass.

• Native wildflowers like Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and ferns originated in full shade so they’re obviously good choices for your shade garden.

• Annuals like the Non-stop or Tuberous Begonia, Torenia, Browallia, Coleus, and Mimulus are good choices for continuous colour and will brighten up any dark corner.

• Plants that produce berries are also interesting in any garden. The evergreen ground cover, Wintergreen, and the female shrub, Winterberry, produce bright red fruit.

• The vine, Virginia Creeper, has blue-black berries in fall that attract birds. Boston Ivy is highly valued because it grows so quickly.

• There are also great flowering vines for full shade like Climbing Hydrangea, Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle, and Virgin’s Bower.

Design Tip for Shade Gardens

• To make a shade garden appear more luminous use the palest colours that will jump out from a dark background. White, pale pink, light yellow and peach-orange are very lively.

• Red, blue, and purple, on the other hand, recede into the shade and are, therefore, less noticeable.

Practical Tip for Shade Gardens

Consider hiring a professional arborist to thin out branches on your mature shade trees to allow additional light into your garden. Air circulation will also be improved which should help limit the proliferation of moss.

linden tree blossomsPlants for Partial Shade

All the plant material listed for full shade can, of course, go into lighter, partial shade.

• Trees like Honey-locust, Ginkgo, Linden, Flowering Dogwood, Golden Chain Tree, Weeping Peashrub, and Saucer Magnolia can be added to the list of trees that do well in partial shade.

• Shrubs that flower well include Oakleaf, Peegee, Pink Diamond, and Unique Peegee Hydrangea, Caryopteris, Mock-orange, Rose-of-Sharon, Carol Mackie Daphne, Summersweet, and Bridalwreath Spirea. Dappled Willow is worth mentioning for its elegant white, pink, and green leaves and Japanese Maple for its feathery, red foliage.

• There are many perennials for partial shade such as Bleeding Heart, Foxglove, Primula, Bearded and Siberian Iris, Lilies, Lupine, Columbine, Globeflower, Ligularia, Coral Bells, and Daylily.

• Wherever there’s a gap in colour in your partial shade garden, plant annual shade Impatiens, Fibrous Begonias, Fuchsia, or Lobelia.

Hall’s Honeysuckle is not only a semi evergreen flowering vine, but it’s also highly fragrant in June.

• Evergreen interest is created with Spring Heath, Siberian Cypress, Mugho Pine, Nest Spruce, Bearberry and Coral Beauty Cotoneaster, Cedar, and English Ivy. Bright red berries are the hallmark of female evergreen Holly while Firethorn is remarkable for its clusters of orange berries that last well into winter.

Don’t feel as though your options are limited when choosing plants for shaded areas. There are lots of interesting plants to choose from. You can also test the full sun plants in partial shade. Often they prefer the afternoon shade as it’s considerably cooler and moisture is better retained in the soil.