List of plants that will grow in shady gardens

Why is it important to select plants tolerant to shade?

The answer is. Plants get energy from light through a process called photosynthesis. How much energy they get affects the growth of the plant. Without any light, plants would not be able to produce the energy they need to grow. 

Luckily for us gardeners with shady gardens. Not all plants need the same amount of light to thrive.

Plants that will grow in shady areas are not always very colourful. However, often have interesting and attractive foliage, the leaves are usually larger than normal sun loving plants. The large leaves enable the plant gather as much light as possible from the shady conditions they grow in.

I have listed a selection of plants that will tolerate shady conditions. They include flowers, shrubs, perennials, hedgerow plants, and bulbs that will tolerate some shade and can also be grown in containers positioned in partial shade.

Bulbs, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals and Woodland shady garden plants

 I have listed a selection of shade tolerant plants that will grow in a shady garden. To better understand the different degrees of shade and how to measure the amount of light that shines into your garden read my article here. Understanding shade in a garden


Best Bulbs for shade

Most Bulbous plants can thrive in the shade of deciduous trees providing they are given an annual mulch. 

  • Anemone blanda  blue/white-pink flowers. Height and spread 15cm (6in).
  • Convallaria majalis  (lily-of-the-valley) ? scented, white flowers. Height 23cm (9in) and spread 30cm (12in).
  • Cyclamen hederifolium  spread; pink flowers. Height 15cm (6in) and spread 10-13cm (4-5in).
  • Galanthus (snowdrops)  white flowers. Height: 10-22cm (4-9in) and spread 5-8cm (2-3in).
  • Hyacinthoides non-scripta (bluebell)  blue or white flowers. Height 20-40cm (8-16in)  and spread 8cm (3in).
  • Narcissus bulbocodium  yellow flowers. Height 10-15cm (4-6in) and spread 5-8cm (2-3in).


Shade-tolerant shrubs

These Shrubs will grow under high, broken or deciduous canopies.

  • Buxus sempervirens  Height and spread up to  15ft.
  • Daphne laureola   pale yellow-green flowers in late winter and early spring. Height 3ft and spread 5ft.
  • Gaultheria shallon pinky-white flowers in late spring and early summer; acid to neutral soils only. 4ft and spread 5ft.
  • Mahonia aquifolium  yellow flowers in spring. Height: 3ft) and spread 5ft.
  • Ruscus aculeatus  bright red berries from late summer to winter. Height 30in and spread 3ft. makes good ground cover

Perennial plants that tolerate shade and will grow in shade.

  • Alchemilla mollis yellow flowers from early summer-early autumn.Height  24in and spread 30in.
  • Anemone x hybrida  white or pink flowers from late summer to mid autumn. Height: 4-5ft.
  • Bergenia  pink or white flowers in spring. Height 8-18in and spread 12-24in.
  • Hostas grown mainly for foliage, but also have blue or white flowers in late summer. Height 4-24in and spread 1-3ft.  Slugs love them.
  • Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae  greenish-yellow flowers from mid spring to early summer.Height 24in.
  • Helleborus x hybridus  variable, coloured flowers from mid winter to late spring. Height and spread 18in.

Annuals  balsam, begonias, wax browallia, catharanthus (vinca), coleus, feverfew, fuchsias, impatiens, lobelia, mimulus, salvia, dwarf, torenia (wishbone flower)


Plants for planting in woodland (under trees) and hedgerow

  • Dryopteris filix-mas  fern grown for foliage. Height and spread 4ft.
  • Digitalis (foxglove)  pink, purple, white or yellow flowers in summer. Height: 12in-4ft
  • Epimedium  pink, white or yellow flowers in spring. Height 6-24in.
  • Hedera (ivy)  used as ground cover. Spread up to30ft.
  • Lamium (dead nettle)  pink, white or yellow flowers in summer. Height 2-8in and spread of 4in-3ft.
  • Luzula sylvatica (woodrush)  grass-like. Height 2ft when in flower with an indefinate spread.


More plants to grow in shade

These native shade tolerant wildflowers have evolved with our soils and climate and are therefore perfectly adapted to our growing conditions, they are easy to grow and rarely troubled by pests and diseases.
These shade resistant varieties are also great for mixed borders and stunning in naturalistic drifts in a shady garden.

British wildflowers from woodland glades and margins.

  • Foxglove, loved by wildlife, the elegant spires of flowers are now rare in the wild.
  • Primrose, bright and cheerful flowers that are a much loved herald of spring.
  • Wildflower Woodland Mixture, to flower year after year. Height to 120cm.

  And semi-shaded field edges and hedgerows mix.

  • Cowslip, full of character, with scented yellow flowers held high above the leaves.
  • Ox Eye Daisy, a classic feature of English mid-summer, roadside verges.
  • Wildflower Hedgerow & Verges Mixture, a blend of annuals and perennials to flower year after year.

Vegetables, salad and herbs that will grow in shade in the UK

Most plants grown for their leaves, stems, or buds can be grown in a shady part of your garden and will grow happily, but will not grow in full, dense shade.

The following vegetables with grow in shade providing they get three to six hours of sun, or fairly constant dappled shade, each day. 

If your garden gets 3 to 6 hours of sun each day, your choice will be restricted, but there are still quite a lot of useful salad, herbs and vegetable plants you can grow. 

Vegetables, Salad and herbs that will grow in shady areas;

  • Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, rocket, winter purslane, land cress, lambs lettuce and cress.
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beets, Brussels sprouts, radishes, Swiss Chard.  
  • Leafy greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale beans, chard, kale, spinach and sorrel.
  • Asian leaves, including Chinese cabbage, the mustards, pak choi and mizuna.
  • Herbs. These herbs are all well suited to less sun: parsley, mint, chives and garlic chives, lovage, coriander, chervil and wild garlic.