Which Plants Like Shade

Which Plants Like Shade

Gardens with shaded areas can pose a challenge when it comes to choosing the right plants. Fortunately, there are numerous shade-loving plants that not only tolerate but thrive in shady positions. To successfully grow plants in shade, it’s important to understand the type of shade you have, whether it’s light shade, partial shade, or dappled shade. Additionally, consider the moisture level of the soil in your shaded spot, as it can vary from damp to dry. By taking these factors into account, you can select the best plants that will flourish in your shady garden.

Key Takeaways:

  • Shade-loving plants are ideal for gardens with shaded areas where sun-loving plants struggle to thrive.
  • Understanding the type of shade – light shade, partial shade, or dappled shade – is crucial when selecting plants for shade.
  • Consider the moisture level of the soil in your shaded spot, which can be either damp or dry.
  • Choose plants that are adapted to shade and its specific conditions to ensure successful growth.
  • Creating a beautiful and thriving garden in the shade is possible with careful plant selection and consideration of shade types and soil conditions.

Many gardens have shady areas, where sun-loving plants won’t thrive. The good news is that there’s plenty of plants that can tolerate or even do better in a shaded position. When choosing plants for shade, it’s important to understand the type of shade you have – light shade, partial shade, or dappled shade. You also need to consider the soil in your shady spot, which can be damp or dry. These factors will determine which plants you can grow.

Alan Titchmarsh’s favourite plants for shade

When it comes to selecting the perfect plants for shade, it’s always helpful to take advice from an expert. Alan Titchmarsh, a renowned British gardener and television presenter, has shared his top picks for shade-loving plants. These plants, recommended by Alan Titchmarsh himself, are not only beautiful but also thrive in shady areas.


One of Alan Titchmarsh’s favourite plants for shade is the snowdrop. These delicate white flowers are a welcome sight at the end of winter, pushing through the frozen ground to bloom in early spring. Snowdrops thrive in full shade, particularly in heavy, moist soils. Their dainty appearance adds a touch of elegance to any shady garden.


Foxgloves are another top choice for Alan Titchmarsh when it comes to shade-loving plants. These native woodland plants come in a variety of colors and have distinctive bell-shaped blooms. Foxgloves thrive in dappled or partial shade, making them perfect for adding height and vibrancy to a shady garden.


Aquilegias, also known as columbines or granny’s bonnet, are charming cottage garden plants that make a lovely addition to a shady area. Alan Titchmarsh particularly recommends Aquilegia flabellata, a dwarf columbine with blue nodding flowers. These plants are perfect for growing in partial shade, adding a touch of beauty and elegance to any garden.

“When choosing plants for shade, it’s important to consider the color palette. Too many dark greens can make a shady area look gloomy. Instead, opt for pale, pastel colors like white, cream, pale yellow, lilac, light mauve, and pale pink. Variegated plants can also add splashes of cream, yellow, and white,” advises Alan Titchmarsh.

Plant Description
Snowdrops A delicate white flower that thrives in heavy, moist soils and full shade. Blooms in early spring
Foxgloves Native woodland plants with bell-shaped blooms. Thrives in dappled or partial shade
Aquilegia Charming cottage garden plants with blue nodding flowers. Perfect for growing in partial shade

Choosing the right plants for shade can transform a gloomy area into a beautiful and thriving garden. By following Alan Titchmarsh’s recommendations and considering the color palette, you can create a shady oasis that is both picturesque and inviting.

Stinking Iris

When it comes to shade-tolerant plants, the Stinking Iris, or Iris foetidissima, is a standout choice. This plant thrives in full shade, making it ideal for growing beneath trees or in other shady areas of the garden. Its architectural evergreen foliage adds an attractive touch throughout the year, while its dull purple-green flowers provide a subtle pop of color.

However, it’s during autumn that the Stinking Iris truly captures attention. Large seedpods form and eventually split open, revealing rows of vibrant orange-red seeds that persist throughout winter. This provides a striking contrast against the backdrop of the plant’s dark foliage and adds visual interest to the garden even in the colder months.

The Stinking Iris has been recognized for its outstanding qualities by the Royal Horticultural Society. It has been awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM), a testament to its ability to thrive in shade and contribute to the overall beauty of a garden.

To get a closer look at the Stinking Iris, take a look at the image below:

Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, also known as wood spurge, is a lovely shade-tolerant plant. It bears lime-green flowers above dark green leaves from late spring. This plant is perfect for dry shade and works well beneath trees and in woodland borders. Be aware that it can become invasive if left unchecked. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Wood Spurge Characteristics

Common Name Scientific Name Light Requirements Soil Conditions Notable Features
Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae Shade-tolerant Dry shade Lime-green flowers, dark green leaves

Wood spurge, with its vibrant lime-green flowers and dark green leaves, is a standout plant for shady areas. It thrives in dry shade, making it an excellent choice for planting beneath trees or in woodland borders. However, it’s important to monitor its growth, as wood spurge can become invasive if not properly managed.

The Royal Horticultural Society recognizes the exceptional qualities of wood spurge and has awarded it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

“Wood spurge brings a touch of vibrancy to shaded gardens, adding a pop of lime-green color against the backdrop of dark green foliage.”

When considering shade-tolerant plants for your garden, wood spurge should be high on your list. Its award-winning qualities and ability to thrive in dry shade make it a valuable addition to any shaded landscape.

Next, we will explore the beauty of snowdrops, another shade-tolerant plant that will brighten up your garden in late winter.


I absolutely adore snowdrops. These delicate plants bring a touch of magic to the end of winter with their pure white flowers. Snowdrops, scientifically known as Galanthus nivalis, are shade-tolerant plants that thrive in full shade, especially in heavy and moist soils.

Picture this: a frozen ground covered in a blanket of white snow. But amidst the cold, little snowdrops start to emerge. Slowly and steadily, these resilient flowers push their way through the frozen soil, defying the harshness of winter. Then, they bloom, creating a stunning display that lasts for weeks.

As the snowdrops grace our gardens, they pave the way for the arrival of daffodils and spring. These charming little flowers deserve all the recognition they receive, and that includes the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the beauty of snowdrops:


Winter Aconites

When it comes to shade-tolerant plants, winter aconites are a true gem. These beautiful flowers, scientifically known as Eranthis hyemalis, bring vibrant bursts of colour to the garden during late January and February. As their name suggests, winter aconites brave the cold and bloom when other plants are still in hibernation. Their clumps of bright yellow flowers create a stunning contrast against the winter landscape.

Winter aconites are particularly well-suited to damp shade, making them a perfect addition to areas with moist soil, such as shady borders or woodland gardens. Their ability to thrive in these conditions makes them a popular choice among gardeners seeking to add a splash of colour to areas that receive limited sunlight.

These plants can truly brighten up a shady corner and bring cheer to a winter garden.

The Royal Horticultural Society, renowned for its recognition of outstanding garden performance, has bestowed upon winter aconites the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). This esteemed recognition further validates their suitability for shady areas and the exceptional beauty they bring to the garden.

Creating a Stunning Winter Display


Bellflowers, specifically Campanula lactiflora, are a stunning addition to any shade garden. These plants bear pretty clusters of purple-blue bell-shaped flowers that gracefully hang above heart-shaped green leaves. The beauty of bellflowers is enhanced by their long blooming period, which extends from summer to autumn, providing a vibrant display of color all season long.

When designing a shade garden, it’s important to consider the placement of different plants. Bellflowers are an excellent choice for growing toward the back of a border, where their tall, upright stems can create a dramatic focal point. Planted alongside other shade-tolerant plants, such as Stinking Iris and Wood Spurge, bellflowers add depth and visual interest.


Bellflowers not only bring beauty to the garden but also attract beneficial pollinators. Bees and other pollinators are drawn to the nectar-rich flowers, helping to support the local ecosystem and promote biodiversity in your garden.

Creating a shade garden doesn’t mean sacrificing color and beauty. With the addition of shade-tolerant plants like bellflowers, you can create a stunning and vibrant garden even in the shadiest corners of your outdoor space.

Benefits of Bellflowers in a Shade Garden

Benefit Description
Long blooming period Bellflowers bloom from summer to autumn, providing a continuous display of color in the shade garden.
Attractive to pollinators The bell-shaped flowers of Campanula lactiflora attract bees and other pollinators, supporting the local ecosystem.
Tall, upright stems Planted toward the back of a border, bellflowers create height and add visual interest to a shade garden.

Incorporating bellflowers into your shade garden not only adds beauty but also enhances the overall ecological balance of the space. With their stunning flowers and ability to thrive in shade, Campanula lactiflora is an excellent choice for any garden seeking to bring color and life to shady areas.


Foxgloves, or Digitalis purpurea, are native woodland plants that thrive in dappled or partial shade. These stunning flowers come in a variety of colors and have different shaped blooms, adding height and vibrancy to a shady garden.

Most foxgloves prefer to grow in partial shade, but some varieties can tolerate more sun. With their elegant flower spikes and attractive foliage, foxgloves create a striking focal point in any garden or border.

A Selection of Foxgloves

Variety Color Blooming Season
Foxy Pink, white, yellow Early summer
Candy Mountain Purple Late spring to early summer
Excelsior Mixed colors Early to mid-summer

If you’re looking to attract bees and other pollinators to your garden, foxgloves are an excellent choice. The tubular flowers provide a valuable source of nectar, making them a favorite among our buzzing friends.

I always find it fascinating how foxgloves seem to effortlessly brighten up even the shadiest corners of my garden. Their tall, majestic flower spikes add a touch of whimsy and elegance, creating an enchanting atmosphere in my outdoor space. Plus, the visiting bees and butterflies are an absolute joy to watch.

In summary, foxgloves are shade-tolerant plants that bring a touch of beauty and charm to shady areas. Their wide range of colors and unique blooms make them a delightful addition to any garden. Whether your garden receives dappled or partial shade, foxgloves can thrive and create a stunning display of flowers.


Aquilegias, also known as columbines or granny’s bonnet, are charming cottage garden plants. They bear bonnet-shaped flowers in a variety of colors and are perfect for growing in partial shade. Aquilegia flabellata, specifically, is a dwarf columbine with blue nodding flowers. This variety has received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Aquilegia flabellata

Tips for Growing Aquilegia in Partial Shade:

  • Choose a location with morning sun and afternoon shade.
  • Ensure well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging.
  • Water regularly to keep the soil slightly moist.
  • Apply a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.
  • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming.

Aquilegia is a versatile plant that can add beauty and vibrancy to any garden, even in shady areas. Whether you choose the traditional columbine or the dwarf-flowered variety, you can enjoy the delicate charm of aquilegias in your partial shade garden.

“Aquilegias bring a touch of whimsy and grace to shaded gardens, effortlessly combining beauty and resilience.” – Gardening Enthusiast

Bleeding Heart

One of the most enchanting and shade-tolerant plants you can grow in your garden is the Bleeding Heart, scientifically known as Lamprocapnos spectabilis. This beautiful perennial flower is a favorite among gardeners for its stunning pink-red, heart-shaped flowers with delicate white tips. The flowers hang gracefully from arching stems, adding a touch of elegance to the garden in late spring to early summer.

Bleeding hearts thrive in light, damp shade, making them ideal for planting in shaded areas under trees or alongside shrubs. The foliage of the Bleeding Heart is also worth mentioning – the lacy, fern-like leaves provide a lush backdrop for the exquisite flowers, adding texture and interest to the garden even when the blooms are not in season.

Award-Winning Beauty

The Bleeding Heart has rightfully earned its place as a cherished garden plant, receiving the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society. This recognition speaks to the plant’s exceptional beauty, performance, and suitability for UK gardens.

Cultivating the Bleeding Heart

If you want to introduce the Bleeding Heart to your garden, here are some tips for successful cultivation:

  • Choose a well-drained location with light, damp shade.
  • Prepare the soil by adding organic matter to improve its moisture-retaining capacity.
  • Plant the Bleeding Heart in early spring or autumn, ensuring that the crown is level with the soil surface.
  • Water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist, especially during dry periods.
  • Apply a layer of mulch around the plant to help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.
  • Divide the Bleeding Heart every few years to maintain its vigor and promote healthy growth.

Companion Plants

The Bleeding Heart looks absolutely stunning when planted in clumps among other shade-loving plants and shrubs. Here are some companion plants that can enhance the beauty of your Bleeding Heart:

  • Hostas: These leafy perennials complement the delicate flowers of the Bleeding Heart with their various shades of green and textures.
  • Ferns: The feathery fronds of ferns provide a perfect contrast to the heart-shaped blooms, creating a harmonious and lush woodland setting.
  • Astilbes: These vibrant and feathery flowers add a splash of bold color to the shady garden, creating an eye-catching combination with the Bleeding Heart.
  • Anemones: The graceful, cup-shaped flowers of anemones create a gentle and romantic ambiance when combined with the elegant Bleeding Heart.

By planting the Bleeding Heart alongside these companions, you can create a captivating garden display that thrives in the shade while providing a feast for the eyes.


In conclusion, there are many plants that thrive in shaded areas. Whether you have light shade, partial shade, or dappled shade, there are shade-loving plants that can bring beauty and life to your garden. Consider the soil conditions in your shady spot, whether it’s damp or dry, to choose plants that will flourish in that environment.

Some popular shade-loving plants include stinking iris, wood spurge, snowdrops, winter aconites, bellflowers, foxgloves, aquilegia, and bleeding hearts. These plants come in a variety of colors and sizes, adding interest and charm to your shaded areas.

By selecting the right shade-tolerant plants and giving them the appropriate care and attention, you can create a thriving and vibrant garden in the shade. Embrace the beauty and uniqueness of your shady spots by incorporating these plants, and enjoy a garden that brings joy and tranquility.

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