Tips and tricks for planting in a shaded garden

Shaded garden and patio with shade-loving plants
ARTICLE Patricia Moore

Landscape Architect Rachael Farthing of Zones Landscaping Specialists explains, that landscaping a space which is mostly covered in shade, provides an opportunity to bring colour and life to areas with the potential to be neglected.

While many plants thrive in sunshine, there are probably just as many that like to stay cool. But before looking at planting options, it’s important to understand whether you’re choosing plants for full shade with no direct sun; partial shade with some sun; or light but ‘bright’ shade due to the angle of the sun or the presence or plantings that filter it.

Depth of shade also changed with the seasons. Other points to keep in mind are soil moisture and the temperature, which is usually cooler in a shady situation. Remember too, that as the garden matures, shade patterns alter.

It’s hard to go past New Zealand natives when considering shade plantings; Astelia chathamica, the Chatham Island Astelia; the climbing stemmed Freycinetia banksia or Kiekie; Jovellana sinclairii, the NZ Calceolaria and Metrosideros perforate, Akatea or climbing white Rata, which, as a bonus, attracts bumble bees. These all are worth considering and there are various native grasses that do well in the shade.

Aucuba, with its glossy green and gold foliage, also flourishes in a shady spot and, given plenty of moisture, ferns such as Polystichum vestitum (Shield fern) and Asplenium bulbiferum (Hen and chicken fern) will thrive. The taller Dicksonia squarrosa – the classic Punga – will provide shade for underplanting.

While the colour palette of foliage plants is restful on the eye, a burst of colour can add excitement to even the shadiest corner. Hostas, Hellebores, Hydrangeas, Lily-of-the-valley, Violets and Cinerarias are perennial favourites. Popular shady annuals include Torenia – the wishbone flower – Lobelia, larkspur, Calendula, Impatiens and Alyssum. And, although tropical in origin, Bromeliads will grow in warm, damp shady spots under trees.

And to complete a woodland theme think Bluebells, Dog’s tooth violets, Grape hyacinths, Primulas and Crocuses.

The shadows created by planting in a shady space can be made more intriguing at night by clever use of lighting with flares or candle lanterns, rather than LED solar lighting.

Rachael’s cool hints for shady spots:

  • With the change of season, comes the change of sun patterns. A spot which might be partially shaded in summer, can become fully-so in winter. Make sure the plants you choose can survive all seasons.
  • Many local parks have areas of dense bush creating shaded habitats for plants. They’re used because they are hardy and can take care of themselves (low-maintenance). A walk-around may provide you with some clues for your own garden.
  • If your garden is heavily shaded or you fancy plants that need a little more light than you are currently getting, have a look at what is creating the shade. Big trees and large shrubs may need to be pruned or thinned to let a little more light into the garden.
  • Deciduous plants, like Hydrangeas, can provide you with a changing seasonal palette, while also providing cut flowers for inside your home.
  • Remember, shady does not mean a default green garden! Plants like Hostas and Heucheras have foliage that comes in an array of patterns and colours, which will be sure to brighten up any garden.

You might be interested in reading: How much does it cost for outdoor shades

Get in touch with Zones to discuss your landscaping project

If you would like to discuss options and ideas for your outdoor landscaping project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your landscaping design and build. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.

*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

Read Next

All Zones Landscaping franchises are independently owned and operated.

Landscaping Enquiry

We're ready to help you with your landscaping project.

If your enquiry is not related to renovating your home, you may wish to use one of our other enquiry forms to ensure your message reaches the right team:

Please Wait ...


Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Are you ready to discuss your ideas?

Please fill out your details in the online form provided and we’ll get back to you within 48 hours to arrange a free, no obligation consultation.

Get in touch