How to Garden in Shade

It’s one of the most-asked questions: What can I plant in the shade? There is a world of beautiful plants that thrive in lower light, and that offer endlessly interesting colours, textures, and contrast. Explore some of our favourite plants for shade gardening, and transform your unused space into a shady oasis!

Hostas For Every Space

Is there any perennial garden plant more popular or prevalent than Hosta? With more than 70 species and over 3000 varieties, there are certainly many to choose from. With such an incredible range in size, shape, colour, texture, pattern, and form, it’s easy to create an interesting and colourful garden with just Hosta alone. In a shady garden space, try using 3 to 5 varieties of Hosta in contrasting and complementary colours.

hosta big daddy variety
The giant, waxy leaves of ‘Big Daddy’ create a textural showcase of blue-green.
Huge, chartreuse leaves make Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ a winning choice for shade gardens
Hosta Elegans 1gal
Hosta ‘Elegans’ is a popular, classic variety with tidy, heart-shaped leaves and bright blue impact in the garden.
Hosta Patriot 1gal
Bright, creamy white margins on Hosta ‘Patriot’ demand attention and create eye-catching contrast in shade.
Fun With Foliage

One of the main challenges surrounding shade gardening is that most flowering plants prefer to be in sun. When we think of adding colour to the garden, we often picture large swaths of bright flowers… but that’s not the only solution! There are many perennials that offer an array of colours with foliage, rather than flower.

The shade section of TERRA’s Perennial department showcases how impactful contrasting foliage colours and textures can be!

Better yet, when we add colour with leaves, that colour persists all season long! Heuchera, or Coral Bells, is a perfect example of this. With new, brighter varieties becoming available all the time, these plants deserve a place in the garden! Ranging from intense chartreuse, to vibrant coral or peach, and dark purple to glossy black, their rainbow is astounding, even in shade.

perennial heuchera black pearl
Heuchera (or Coral Bells) come in a surprising number of colours and shapes!

Foliage colour doesn’t stop with Heuchera. Consider shade tolerant grasses, like bright waterfalls of Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass) or graceful, blue Northern Sea Oats.

Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ is simply stunning at the front of borders or walkways with dappled light.
Delightful fronds of varieties of Japanese Painted Ferns create a glowing effect in shaded areas.

Other popular perennials like giant-leaved Ligularia, blooming Astilbe, or the fringed lime flowers of Lady’s Mantle also add variety and interest to shaded areas.

Shady Shrubs

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a walk in the woods to get some shady space inspiration. Our native Ontario landscape offers a beautiful breadth of woodland plants that thrive in the dappled light of the forest. Ensuring that your garden contains some woody shrubs and hardy evergreens is a way to keep it visually interesting and appealing throughout the winter months.

Smooth Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ blooms and spreads in either sun or light shade.

For flowers, try classic Annabelle Hydrangea, which adapts to an astounding range of light conditions and offers big, fluffy blooms. Several varieties of Viburnum also thrive in partial shade, as do Dogwood, Azaleas, and Summersweet.

Evergreen Rhododendrons prefer dappled light and a rich, well-drained, acidic soil.

Evergreens, are important focal points in the landscape, offering year-round structure and helpful habitat for birds. They can visually anchor a garden, and can occupy spaces in a way that’s tidy, low-maintenance, and constant.

Boxwood happily grows in sun or shade and is impressively versatile.
Shade-tolerant Yews are available in varying sizes and forms from upright to low and spreading.
Low Light Annuals

YES, some annual flowers prefer lower light, too! Add colour to planters and baskets, or brighten up shadier nooks and borders with pops of bloom for the summer with classic Begonias, Fuschia and Impatiens. The incredible neons of Coleus can also provide striking contrast and surprising height, too.

Shade Impatiens create a carpet of colour in shady spaces.
The amazing brightness of Coleus leaves brings colour with no flowers required.

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