They say all you need to grow a garden is some sunshine, water, and a little bit of love, but what if the sunshine isn’t in high supply? Luckily, there’s an exception to the rule— you can still have a fabulous garden full of lush, healthy plants, even if your yard is heavily shaded from the sun. It’s simply a matter of choosing the right shade-tolerant plants that thrive in dimmer areas. Whether your property is surrounded by a canopy of trees, or if you’ve got a smaller patio shaded by an awning, you can still garden like a pro with these shade-loving plants.
Shade Tolerant Perennials
Plants that don’t require loads of sun, and they come back year after year? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. These popular perennials are sure to brighten up a shady landscape:
Hostas: These large and leafy foliage plants, also known as plantain lilies, make a fabulous groundcover and are great for filling in gaps in the shady corners of your garden. Their variegated green leaves with cream coloured streaks are quite eye-catching, and when conditions are right, they may often surprise you with a blossom or two emerging from a long upright stem.
Hydrangeas: Something about the big colourful clusters of hydrangea blossoms remains to be timeless yet trendy. These shade-loving shrubs produce showy flowers in all different shades of pink, purple, blue, white, and green. A fun fact you may not know about hydrangeas is their colour can actually be changed from pink to blue! By adjusting your soil’s pH and raising the acidity with the addition of some limestone, your hydrangea’s bubblegum pink petals will gradually change to a cool robin’s egg blue tone.
Christmas Fern: Textured, voluminous fern leaves are a striking addition to any garden, adding a little interest and drama without competing with some of your showier blooms. While not necessarily an invasive plant, they do tend to spread and expand, so every once in a while, you may need to trim it back or divide it at the root.
Bleeding Hearts: This colourful flowering shrub has quite an exotic, tropical feel, but is still able to withstand our cold Canadian winters. Its elongated, curved stems sport rows of dangling heart-shaped blossoms in vibrant shades of pink and red.
Shade Loving Annuals
If you’re a fan of container gardening and want to add some pops of colour throughout your space, these annual flowers are spectacular options. While they need to be re-planted each year, they’re vigorous growers during the summer months, so they’re sure to turn heads and grab people’s attention when put on display.
Begonias: With their large, dramatic blossoms available in so many fabulous colours, begonias continue to be a staple in shade gardens. For a totally on-trend flower that’s bright and exciting, opt for a vivid coral variety! Pantone’s 2019 Colour of the Year is “Living Coral,” a bold pinkish-orange shade that pairs beautifully with shades or green, gold, pink, and turquoise.
Impatiens: These low-maintenance blooms don’t just tolerate the shade, they prefer it! New Guinea impatiens are a highly sought-after variety, as they’re much more resistant to mildew than traditional impatiens.
Lobelia: Partial, dappled shade with tiny pockets of sunlight is the ideal location for this pastel petaled groundcover plant, so if you’ve got some overhanging tree branches in your yard that tend to sway in the wind, you’ve got a perfect spot for some lobelia.
Sweet Alyssum: This plant has so much to offer a shady garden! Its fragrance is simply intoxicating, it continually blooms well into the fall, and its crisp white blossoms add a lovely, ethereal glow to your landscape.
Bulbs to Plant in Shade
Flowering bulbs are particularly popular in Ontario gardens, as they’re often the first flowers to pop up and greet us with vibrant blossoms in the early spring after a long cold winter. These spring-blooming bulbs are sure to impress in sun or in shade:
Crocus: The bright blooms of this quintessential Canadian flower are often some of the first to appear in spring, sometimes peeking up from the soil while there’s still a bit of snow on the ground. The indigo-purple shade is definitely the most common variety, but you can also find crocuses in yellow or white.
Tulips: Tall, sturdy stems and long, sleek leaves add elegance and sophistication to any garden. You can find tulips in a whole spectrum of beautiful different colours, but the bi-coloured hybrid varieties can really make a statement.
Daffodils: These sunny yellow blossoms resembling teacups and saucers really bring on the traditional English garden vibes. For a lush and lovely garden fit for a queen, you can opt for this classic spring bulb— just take caution in planting these feisty flowers next to other plants, as they tend to be aggressive growers and may kill surrounding plants.
A shady yard won’t stop you from having a swoon-worthy garden that never fails to impress. Plant some of these shady ladies in your garden beds or containers, and you’ll still get to enjoy colourful blossoms all season long, even if Mr. Sun isn’t shining down.