Everyone says a healthy garden needs soil, water, and sunlight—but what if the sunlight situation isn’t ideal? Luckily, gardening in the shade is totally possible, and the results can be just as beautiful as a sun-drenched garden. If you choose the correct plants and get creative with your design, you can transform your shady garden into a cozy nook, perfect for curling up with a book and a cup of coffee!
Don’t be dismayed if you feel like your choice of plants is limited—trust us, shade gardening definitely has its perks! One of the great things about gardening in the shade is the reduced maintenance. You won’t have to water nearly as often when there’s less sunshine beating down on the soil and evaporating moisture. Shade-friendly plants prefer soil that is well-draining and nutrient-rich, but even if your soil needs a little TLC to reach its full potential, your shady garden can still be bursting with color and life!
Selecting Plants for Shade Gardening
Many sun-loving garden plants require 6–8 hours of direct sunlight per day, which is usually achieved by planting on the south side of the home. However, if you try to plant these varieties while gardening in the shade, you will end up with a sad-looking garden with sub-par growth. Instead, search for plants that thrive in low light conditions, such as those found on the north side of your home. Luckily, you have plenty of beautiful options!
Here are some of our favorite low light plants for shade gardening in 2022:
This beloved foliage plant is a must-have for shade gardening! Its mounded, compact form makes it perfect for creating borders or filling in gaps. There are many varieties to choose from—some have solid green leaves, and others feature gorgeous variegation. Their delicate bell-shaped blooms emerge atop tall stems in shades of white or pale lavender.
A popular perennial with distinctive, charming blossoms, the Bleeding Heart sprouts arching stems with pink and white heart-shaped flowers that dangle like ornaments. Their exotic appearance and saturated color will brighten up the shadiest corners of your garden!
They’re beautiful, and they’re edible! Violas are quite similar to pansies, except smaller and more plentiful. Their thick, lush growth makes them a delightfully colorful filler plant for garden beds, and they thrive in cooler temperatures away from the bright, hot sun.
These fabulous tropical bulbs are accustomed to shady canopies in the rainforest, so they’re ideal for shade gardening. They’re best suited to container gardening, which allows you to bring them inside for the winter and out again when spring has sprung. Like other bulbs, caladiums have a dormant period during the fall and winter when the days shorten and temperatures drop. Don’t think your plant has given up the ghost just yet—just cut back any dead plant material and keep them cool and dry until it’s time for spring planting.
Also known as Heuchera, these stunning foliage plants have eye-catching leaves available in every color imaginable! From harvest gold to cherry red, purple, orange, lime green, and even jet black—heucheras never fail to liven up a shady space with unstoppable color.
The tufted blooms of this whimsical plant come in all sorts of romantic shades of pink, purple, white, and vanilla cream. They don’t mind a little bit of gentle morning sun or dappled sunlight underneath a leafy tree canopy.
The bi-colored, double-layered blooms of the Columbine almost look like two flowers in one! Plant these pretty perennials in your shade garden, and there will be no shortage of high-impact color through spring and summer!
How Can I Improve My Shady Garden?
If you think about it, a shade garden is even better than a sunny garden if you love to lounge around outside all day! Too much sun isn’t good for the skin, so getting to breathe in the fresh air and bask in nature without soaking up harmful sun rays will definitely do you some good.
To make the most of your shade garden, try to make it a livable, functional space with seating areas and entertainment features. Some comfy patio furniture with outdoor cushions will instantly transform your shade garden into a sanctuary for relaxing and decompressing after a long workday.
Landscape lighting like string lights or stake lights are great, too—they provide illumination and ambiance at night, so you can continue entertaining after dark! Add some garden decor for a few extra flourishes and personal touches to make the space uniquely yours.
Finally, adding a fountain is a perfect way to enhance the natural serenity of your shady space. Installing a water feature in the shade actually helps to cut the amount of maintenance needed, as the shade slows the evaporation process as well as the buildup of algae.
If you’d like to see more outdoor accessories or shade-loving plants to add to your garden, visit one of our Alsip Nursery locations to see what’s new for 2022! Our staff are always happy to recommend products that will suit your unique space and budget.