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10 plants for shade

By garden designer Jill Anderson. Jill gives advice about selecting plants for shade and how to help them thrive.

There are simply two things you need to know to grow plants successfully in shady areas:

Improve the soil

Whatever your soil is like, it will be improved by incorporating organic matter in some form or other.  Use plenty of home-made compost, soil improver or well-rotted farmyard manure and dig it into planting holes or spread it as a thick mulch (10cm/4in) over the damp soil.  A  mulch will seal in moisture, inhibit weed growth and gradually breakdown over a period oftime to improve the structure of the soil.

Choose the right plants

Make sure that the plants are suitable for shade, if they’re not they’ll always struggle and be susceptible to pests and diseases. Choose some plants with light coloured leaves or flowers to lighten up a shady area. Here are some good choices:


1.    Skimmia japonica Rubella- a low growing evergreen shrub with glossy leaves, they have clusters of dark red flower buds in winter that open revealing white flowers in the spring.  1m high x 1m wide
2.    Daphne mezereum Alba - a woodland plant, 1.5 x 1.5m, it has sweetly scented flowers in Feb/March before the leaves appear.
3.    Aucuba japonica  - a reliable large evergreen shrub, 1.8m high x 1.5m, with splashes of pale yellow on the leaves,  it’s easy to grow, even in dry soil.
4.    Fatsia japonica - an exotic looking shrub, has large glossy leaves and doesn’t like very dry soil. It  grows to 2m high x 1m wide.
5.     Viburnum davidii - evergreen with handsome deeply veined leaves

Hardy perennials

Perennial are plants that usually (there are some exceptions) die back in the winter and re-emerge again the following spring.

6.    Acanthus mollis (bears breeches) - a deciduous plant with large glossy, it has large purple/white tall flower spikes 1.2  x 1m,
7.    Arum italicum Marmoratum - has glossy arrow shaped marbled leaves,  in spring it produces spikes of bright red berries above the foliage, 30cm high x 25cm wide
8.     Bergenia Bressingham White - large evergreen leaves, it produces attractive clusters of white flowers in early spring, 20cm high x 20 cm wide
9.     Liriope muscari - a small plant with neat, grassy leaves that has spikes of blues flowers in summer, 25 cm high x 25 cm spread
10.    Milium effusum Aureum ( Bowles golden grass) - golden yellow grass like foliage appears in spring, 60 cm high x 30cm spread.

Jill Anderson