The best shade loving garden plants

North-facing garden? These shade loving plants will thrive in a spot that's starved of sunlight

Bergenia 'Abendglut'
(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

Looking for shade loving garden plants? North-facing gardens or simply a shady flowerbed can be a challenge when it comes to choosing plants; most flowering plant species require a sunny position, and so do many evergreen plants. Fortunately, though, there are quite a few plants that have adapted to shady conditions, some of them producing beautiful flowers. If you are after shade loving plants for your garden, these are definitely all options to consider. 

For more in-depth advice, find out how to choose plants for your garden in our guide and check out our sourcebook of top garden retailers for all your gardening needs. 

1. Best hardy shade loving plant: Brunnera 'Alexander's Great'

Brunnera 'Alexander's Great' shade loving plant for garden

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

Brunnera 'Alexander's Great', or Siberian Bugloss, is a hardy, resilient plant that thrives in shady conditions. Its cool-green leaves are pretty, and shoots of sky-blue flowers appear every spring.

Maintenance:

Water Brunnera plants regularly throughout summer until fully established. 

Soil type: 

Well drained, moist, fertile soil. Use manure or compost on drier soils.

Where to plant:

Shade is best, but will do well in a sunny spot, too.

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2. Best shade loving plant for ground cover: Vinca major 'Maculata'

Vinca major 'Maculata' garden plant for shade

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

Vinca, or periwinkle, is an excellent low-maintenance plant for shady spots in the garden. Its low-growing habit makes it perfect as ground cover, and the pretty violet-blue flowers add plenty of interest. 

Maintenance:

Water well until established.

Soil type: 

Any.

Where to plant:

Any position from full sun to shade.

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3. Best shade loving shrub: Pieris 'Forest Flame'

Pieris 'Forest Flame' garden plant for shade

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

This stunning plant is surprisingly easy to grow and is very happy in the shade. Its bright-red foliage is perfect for adding colour to shady borders.  

Maintenance:

Protect plants from frost while young. Harmful if eaten.

Soil type: 

Moderately fertile, rich, well drained and acidic soil. If growing in a container, pick ericaceous compost.  

Where to plant:

Sun or partial shade.

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4. Best shade loving plant for spring colour: Bergenia 'Abendglut'

Bergenia 'Abendglut' garden plant for shade

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

Bergenias are low-maintenance plants that do very well in the shade, producing lovely bright flowers in the spring. For the rest of the year, these evergreen plants are known for their large, 'elephant-ear' leaves. 

Maintenance:

After flowering remove faded flowerheads. Cut off damaged foliage in spring. Lift and divide large clumps in early spring. 

Soil type: 

Any soil type, including clay and dry soils.

Where to plant:

Sun or shade.

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5. Best shade loving plant for moist soil: Athyrium niponicum var. pictum

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum garden plant for shade

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

Ferns are perhaps the most popular plants for shade in the garden, but we think there is none prettier than the Japanese Painted Fern. Its delicate leaves make the perfect companions for all other shade-loving plants on our list.  

Maintenance:

Mix lots of leaf mould, pine needles, or compost into the planting hole; in the autumn and winter, mulch with straw. 

Soil type: 

Moist, fertile, neutral to acid soil. 

Where to plant:

Full or partial shade.

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