Hardy Plants for a Shaded Garden

If you have a shaded garden it can be tricky to plant up with interesting plants that will tolerate the shade conditions. Often a shaded area goes with other challenges such as damp, moss and heavy sticky soil.

The good news is that there is plenty of choice out there but you may need to seek out some of the plants from specialist nurseries that specialise in plants for shady places.

Plants that tolerate the shade have usually evolved as forest floor plants. It is relatively easy to design a spring display in a shade corner because most forest floor plants make use of the early part of the growing season. They do this to produce growth, photosynthesise and produce flowers before the trees come into full leaf and steal the light.

You may need to hunt around a little more for shade loving plants that give a display later in the growing season but here are some exciting and more unusual ones to try.

Actaea simplex Atropurpurea Group (syn. Cimicifuga)

A beautiful tall herbaceous perennial that produces dark purple divided foliage. In summer it produces tall fluffy spikes of white delicately scented flowers. This plant is a little challenging to grow. As long as it has humus rich soil that doesn’t dry out completely and some shade from direct sunlight it will perform well and clump up. Actaea may need a discrete support for its tall stems.

Thalictrum delavayi

Tolerates some sunshine but thrives in places that tend to be in shade for part of the day. Like many shade tolerant plants a cool root zone with moisture retentive humus-rich soil is preferred. Producing delicate divided ferny foliage rather like a maidenhair fern. Tall clusters of long lasting nodding purple flowers in summer this is a very attractive addition to a shaded herbaceous or mixed border.

Aruncus dioicus

This herbaceous perennial has the common name of ‘goats beard’. It refers to the shaggy spikes of tiny flowers that form a mass of arching plumes above finely divided feathery foliage. Smaller cultivars are available but A. dioicus can make a height and spread of 1.5-2metres and can make an impressive display in summer.

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’

Related to the forget-me-not this lovely spring flowering herbaceous perennial is low growing. The foliage display is as attractive as the flowers with its silver marbled heart-shaped leaves. They last throughout the summer in moist shady conditions.

Pachysandra ‘Crugs Cover’

Rather unusual and striking herbaceous perennial. Especially when compared to P. terminalis which can be bland and spreads rather rapidly. P. ‘Crugs Cover’ produces large, deep green shiny leaves. It has spikes of scented flowers that closely resemble the flowers of Sarcococca. Sarcococca is a winter flowering evergreen shrub also suitable for heavy shade.