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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Planning Your New Shade Garden

Michael Nolan
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In many landscapes across the country, shaded areas are often neglected, largely because people just don’t know what to plant in areas that get minimal sun. Shade gardens can indeed be lush and beautiful, full of texture and color.

In nature, shady areas such as those on the forest floor have soils that are rich in leaf litter and other organic matter. Enriching the soil in your shade garden with shredded leaves and compost before you plant will help to ensure that your shade-loving plants receive all the nutrition they need to thrive.

What kind of shade do I have?

Before you get too far into planning your shade garden, be sure what type of shade you are dealing with. Areas with dappled or partial shade will be amenable to a different range of plants than will full shade areas and it helps to be armed with this information before you search for plants.

Full Shade means that the area gets less than three hours of sunlight per day. Filtered or indirect sunlight does not count. Some plants that will work well in a full shade environment include:

  • astilbe
  • coleus
  • ferns
  • heuchera
  • hosta
  • impatiens

Partial Shade means that the area receives between three and six hours of sunlight per day. Some examples of plants that you might find in a partial shade garden include:

  • bleeding heart
  • boxwood
  • clematis
  • coneflower
  • dianthus
  • hydrangea


Design Tips

When considering plants, don’t overlook white flowers. Just as white walls do for indoor spaces, white flowers reflect light, instantly brightening the shade garden. Impatiens and hydrangeas are great choices for introducing white flowers.


You should also bear in mind that some of the most popular shade plants are also prolific growers. Hostas, coleus, and ferns all have the tendency to grow in quite thick, so it is important to follow the planting instructions that come with them to leave enough space for them to grow.

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