If you have a shady corner in your garden or even one in complete shade, don’t despair. An apparent disadvantage can be turned into an advantage as a wide range of plants actually prefer partial or even complete shade. Should your garden be sunny then you could create a shady nook behind trees and grow some shade lovers.

Some shade dwellers like dry conditions in the lee of a wall or thirsty trees, shrubs or hedge. Others prefer moist positions in added compost. Many grow happily in dry or moist positions as indicated in both sections.

Many of the plants mentioned below can be viewed on our Plant Finder.

(DS) Tolerates dense shade


The following are ideal to grow in shady spots.  As many happen to be low growing, they are useful to provide a weed-eliminating carpet under shrubs and trees.
  • Alchemellia mollis (Lady’s Mantle): Frothy  flowers. 
  • Anemone japonica (Japanese Anemone): Tall.
  • Bergenia (Elephant’s Ears): Large leaves. 
  • Borago officinalis (Borage/Starflower): Bright blue flowers, tall. Loved by pollinators. (DS)
  • Cortadaria (Pampas Grass): Stately plumes. 
  • Cyclamen: Hardy garden varieties spread. 
  • Endymoin (Bluebell): Familiar spring bulbs. 
  • Epimedium (Barrenwort): Coloured leaves. 
  • Hypericum (St John’s Wort): Moist but well-drained soil. Yellow ‘Rose of Sharon’ flowers – ideal for banks. (DS)
  • Iris foetidissima: Winter berries, blue flowers.  (DS)
  • Lamium (Dead Nettle): Variegated leaves. (DS)
  • Liriope muscari (Autumn Grape Hyacinth):  Violet blue spikes – tolerate only low lime. 
  • Oxalis: Shamrock-shaped leaves. 
  • Pulmonaria (Lungwort/Soldiers & Sailors): Early flowerer, many with spotted leaves. 


  • Aucuba (Laurel): Plain green shiny, spotted or  variegated leaves for deep shade.  (DS)
  • Berberis: Prickly shrubs – red or green leaves.
  • Buxus sempervirens (Box): Ideal low hedging. (DS)
  • Cotoneaster: Short and tall shrubs with attractive  autumn berries & white summer flowers.
  • Euonymus fortunei/radicans: Low growing  gold/silver variegated, good for ground cover.
  • Hedera (Ivy): Provide extensive ground cover.
  • Hippophae (Sea Buckthorn): Ideal for seaside  hedging with attractive berries.
  • Ilex (Holly): Plant male and female for berries.
  • Lonicera pileata: Low shiny leaved spreader.
  • Mohonia aquifolium / pinnata / undulata:  winter/spring yellow flowers with spiky leaves.  (DS)
  • Osmanthus decora: Dome-shaped with stiff growing habit and white flowers.
  • Pachysandra: Low-growing, green or variegated  leaves. Good for ground cover. (DS)
  • Pittsosporum: Small, shiny leaves for flower  arrangers.
  • Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel): Tough shiny  leaved hedging shrubs ideal for under trees. (DS)
  • Rhus (Sumach): Renowned for red autumn leaves.
  • Ribes (Flowering Currant): Familiar spring flowering  shrubs with red or yellow flowers.
  • Rubus calcycinoides (Bramble): Creeping ornamental blackberry often with white stems. (DS)
  • Ruscus aculeatus (Butcher’s Broom):Spiky low grower (DS)
  • Sambucus (Elder): Deeply cut attractive foliage.  
  • Skimmia: Low growing leathery leaved shrubs.  Plant male and female together for berries.
  • Vinca (Periwinkle): Very useful low growing variegated or plain green leaved spreaders with blue, mauve or  white flowers, ideal under trees. (DS)



  • Acer campestre / platanoides / pseudoplantanus: Wide spreading ‘domed’ trees with  attractive maple leaves.
  • Amalanchier (Snowy Mesupilus): Small tree or multi-stemmed shrub with early white flowers.
  • Betula (Birch): Wide range, many with silver bark.
  • Crataegus prunifolia (Hawthorn or May): Hardy & tough seaside trees – lovely flowers.
  • Gleditsia tricanthan: Graceful pinnate leaves.
  • Poplus (Poplar): Upright trees, ideal on chalk.
  • Quercus ilex (Evergreen or Holm Oak): Stately  evergreen ideal for coastal windbreaks.
  • Robinia [except R. frisia (False Acacia)]: Hardy with  pea-like flowers and attractive leaves.
  • Sorbus acupuaria (Mountain Ash): Summer flowers  and attractive autumn berries.


  • Hedera (Ivy): Will grow on any sunless walls, fences and pergolas – avoid tiles.
  • Jasminium nudiflorum (Winter Jasmine): Ideal for  north facing walls. Yellow flowers.
  • Pyracantha (Firethorn): Bright red, orange or yellow berries (the latter usually bird-proof)


Fashionable ferns deserve a place in shady corners. They enjoy either dry or moist spots and varying soils as indicated. Many look superb in containers.
  • Asplenium (Spleenwort): Ideal for vertical or sloping crevices, chalk soils.
  • Athryium (Lady Fern): Arching fronds, moist soil.
  • Blechnum (Hard Fern): Tough for moist or dry shade.
  • Dryopteris (Buckler Fern): Most like moist neutral to  acid soils. (DS)
  • Matteucia (Ostrich Fern): Shuttlecock form, ideal for  waterside planting. (DS)
  • Osmunda (Royal Fern): Large growing fern needing  moist soils. (DS)
  • Phyllitus (Hart’s Tongue): Moist chalky soils, strap-like leaves.
  • Polypodium (Adder’s Fern): Chalk crevices, ground cover.
  • Polystichum (Shield Fern): Hardy varieties like chalk and dry shade.


These will thrive in fairly moisture retentive soil and show that a wide range of perennial and annual plants are available for shade (many also tolerate a sunny spot):

  • ​Ajuga reptans (Bugle): Ground hugger.  (P)
  • Alchemelia mollis (Lady’s Mantle): Frothy flowers. (P)
  • Aquelegia (Columbine): Spurred flowers. (P)
  • Aruncus (Goat’s Beard): Creamy white flowers. (P)
  • Astilbe: Graceful flower spikes – good by ponds. (P)
  • Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian Bugloss): Forget-me-not flowers. (P)
  • Campanula (Canterbury Bell): Bell-shaped flower. (A)
  • Cimcifuga (Bugbane): Tall and graceful. (P)
  • Convallaria (Lily of the Valley): Perfumed. (P)  (DS)
  • Digitalis (Foxglove): Tall tubular flowers (A)
  • Eranthis (Winter Aconite): Buttercup flowers  (P)
  • Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet): (P)
  • Euphorbia (Spurge): Coloured bract. (P) (DS)
  • Galanthus (Snowdrop): Ideal for ‘drifts’. (P)
  • Helleborus (Christmas/Lenten Rose): For winter and early spring ‘rose’ flowers. (P) (DS)
  • Heuchera (Coral Flower): Grown for its leaves. (P)
  • Hosta (Plantain Lily): Ideal near water. (P) (DS)
  • Houttunyia: Green or multi-coloured leaves. (P)
  • Impatiens (Busy Lizzy): Bright bedding plants. (A)
  • Lilium (Lily): Especially L. regale. (P)
  • Lysamachia (Creeping Jenny): Low spreader. (P)
  • Mertensia: Tubular or bell-like flowers. (P)
  • Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal): Ideal cut flowers. (P)
  • Primula (Primrose, Polyanthus): (P)
  • Pulmonaria (Lungwort/Soldiers & Sailors) : (P)
  • Saxifraga (Saxifrage): Alpine cushions. (P) (DS)
  • Tellima: Grown mainly for autumn foliage. (P)
  • Tiarella: Low growing lily-like flowers. (P)
  • Tradescantia (Spiderwort): (P)
  • Trillium: Low growing ‘clumpers’ (P)
  • Trollius (Globe Flower): Buttercup flowers. (P)
  • Veratrum: Tiny star shaped flowers. (P)
  • Viola (Pansy, Violet): (A) & (P) (DS)
  • Waldsteina: Carpeter with yellow flowers. (P)
(P) – Perennial     (A) – Annual


  • Acer: especially A. palmatum and A. palmatum  ‘Atropurpureum’ : Low growing with finely cut leaves –  protect from cold winds.
  • Azalea: Bright flowering acid lovers for pots.
  • Aucuba (Laurel): For any heavy shade (DS)
  • Camellia: Late winter /early spring flowering  aristocrats that are completely frost hardy but dislike cold winds. Must have acid soils, or Ericaceous compost.
  • Clethra: Evergreens are tender, deciduous hardy.
  • Cornus (Dogwood): C. alba with their green or red  stems tolerate a damp shady position. (DS)
  • Eleagnus: E. ebingeii with grey green leaves and E. pungens with variegated leaves – good for seaside  hedging.
  • Fatshedera: Related to ivy with large plain green or variegated leaves. (DS)
  • Fatsia: As above but needs more shelter (DS)
  • Fothergilla: Acid-loving shrub grown mainly for its  brilliant red autumn foliage. 
  • Gaultheria: Low-growing creeper with red berries.  Needs acid soil.  (DS)
  • Hamamelis (Witch Hazel): Winter yellow or orange  strap- like flowers. Needs neutral soil.
  • Hedera (Ivy): Provides extensive ground cover (DS)
  • Hydrangea: Prefers moist root run especially H. sargentiana. H. villosa loves chalky soils.
  • Leycesteria formosa (Flowering Nutmeg): Pendulous dark claret bracts & purple berries.
  • Ligustrum (Privet): Semi-evergreen good hedging shrubs for most-of-the-year interest. (DS)
  • Osmanthus decora: Dome-shaped with stiff growing habit and white flowers.
  • Pachysandra: Low-growing, green or variegated.
  • Pernetya: Plant 1 male and 3 females for bird-proof red, pink or white berries. Acid soil lovers.
  • Pieris (Andromeda): Handsome dense, compact shrubs with variegated or plain leaves and red bracts in spring. Acid lover. Good in pots.
  • Prunus laurocerasus: Tough shiny leaved hedging shrubs ideal for under trees. Versatile.
  • Rhododendron: Superb for sheltered positions in partial shade. Acid lover but ideal potted up in ericaceous compost in portable containers. (DS)
  • Rubus cockburnianus (Bramble): Ornamental  blackberry ground coverer with ‘whitewashed’ stem.
  • Salix (Willow): All prosper in moist shade.
  • Sambucus (Elder): Deeply cut attractive foliage.
  • Sarcoccocca (Christmas Box): Evergreen dwarf with sweetly scented white flowers  (DS)
  • Skimmia: Low-growing leathery leaved shrubs. Plant male and female together for berries.
  • Spirea thunbergii / ‘Van Houttei’: Arching bracts with starry  white flowers.
  • Symphoricarpus (Snowberry): White/pink berries (DS)
  • Viburnum davidii / opulus / rhytidophyllum: Clusters of creamy white flowers – good for chalk.
  • Vinca (Periwinkle): Useful ground coverers.


  • Acer griseum / negundo / platanoides / pseudoplatanua: Wide-spreading domed trees.
  • Betula nigra / pendula: Familiar Birches
  • Crataegus (Hawthorn or May): All forms
  • Fraxinus (Ash): Large specimen wind-resistant trees  ideal for  maritime positions.
  • Populus (Poplar): Upright Trees. Ideal for chalk
  • Prunus padus forms (“Bird Cherry”)
  • Quercus ilex (Evergreen or Holm Oak): Stately  evergreens ideal for moist conditions.
  • Salix (Willow): All forms of Willow (trees and shrubs) are ideal for moist conditions.
  • Sorbus Aucuparia (Mountain Ash): Summer fruits and attractive autumn berries.


  • Clematis: Require cool root run with roots in the  shade and head in the sun. Survive in partial shade.
  • Garrya elliptica: Leathery leaves with long tassels all winter.
  • Hedera (Ivy): Will grow on any sunless walls, fences and pergolas – avoid tiles.
  • Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing Hydrangea): Vigorous hardy climber with creamy-white flowers.