When many people picture lush landscapes, they imagine a sun-filled space full of colorful flowers and greenery. The shade garden, in contrast, is often seen as a peaceful, more subdued retreat. While shade gardens may not be ideal for growing veggies or a cutting garden for cheerful bouquets, there are plenty of opportunities for plants with various textures, unique foliage, and yes, even colorful blooms.


One of the aspects I appreciate most about shade gardens is that they offer the right habitat for a vast number of plants with large leaves. Large leaves have more of a tendency to scorch in the sun – especially in the afternoon heat – so areas that offer shade are a great place for interesting specimens. One of the things I love about large-leafed plants is that they can lend a tropical look to landscapes. Plants like Hostas, Fatsia japonica (Japanese Aralia), and Podophyllum (May Apple) are a few favorites that I have in my shady back yard. While more subtle than many, they also feature impressive blooms.

Plants with bright foliage can help lighten up a dark spot in the landscape; chartreuse or silvery-blue are great options for livening up a shady corner. Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’ (Coral Bells), Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese Forest Grass), and Liriope ‘Silver Dragon’ (Lilyturf) are just a few of wide range of choices.

What about flowers, you might ask? Yes, there are abundant floral options too! We aim to create planting plans that offer beauty and interest year-round, and there are shade-tolerant plants that will provide a sequence of flowers throughout the seasons. During spring, Dicentra (Bleeding Hearts), Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft), and Pieris (Andromeda) put on a cheerful show. During summer, Hydrangea, Astilbe, and Tradescantia (Spiderwort) are in their prime. For fall delights, look to Anemone (Japanese Windflower), Actaea ‘Black Negligee’ (Snakeroot), and Hydrangeas to still put on a colorful display. Through the winter months, Hellebore, Camellia, and Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ add pops of color.

So, don’t despair if your planting spaces are shady. There are many ferns, ornamental grasses, and a wide variety of evergreen and deciduous options to choose from. Our “Shade Tolerant” plants Ideabook on Houzz may offer you some inspiration, or allow our sales and design team to create a beautiful planting scheme for you!