Landscape Ideas for Growing a Shady Garden

Landscape Ideas for Growing a Shady Garden

Mar 27th 2024

Having a garden can be beneficial for both physical and mental health for a homeowner. Spending time gardening allows you to cherish the beauty of nature. But what if you live in a shaded area that doesn't get much sunshine?

This, however, should not be an issue and should not stop you from enjoying your garden. There are various options when it comes to shaded gardening, too. With proper research and the right tools, you can bloom the most densely shaded spaces with the most colorful landscapes.

If you are struggling to design a garden with little sunlight, here are some shade garden ideas, tips, and suggestions to help you get started.

Evaluate The Shade and Light in Your Garden

Some plants can grow and thrive in complete shade, while others may need partial sunlight. Before investing in any landscaping material, try to observe the sunlight your garden receives. There are usually four categories of shade such as:

  • Partial sun: This means your land gets 4 to 6 hours of sunlight daily.
  • Partial shade: Partial shade is created when man-made structures such as buildings or walls block the sunlight during hours of the day. It consists of two to four hours of sunlight each day.
  • Full shade: Full shade means an area that receives little or no direct sunlight. It could be a north-facing backyard or an area under dense trees.
  • Dense shade: Refers to an area where sunlight doesn't reach the ground. It can be a dense forest, or an area surrounded by tall structures and overhangs.

6 Design Ideas for Creating a Beautiful Shade Garden

Does your garden or backyard fall into one of the categories mentioned above? Don't worry! We have some easy and practical ideas for creating an amazing outdoor space.

1. Check your soil Type

Many plants can grow in shady areas, but all of them have specific soil requirements. It's important to know if your garden's soil is acidic or alkaline and whether it can retain or drain moisture.

Remember: Many shade plants grow in low-PH, organically rich, and acidic soil. To improve the growing capabilities of your garden's soil, add plenty of organic matter, such as compost, leaf litter, or aged wooden bark.

Select plants and trees with compact roots so they don't compete for nutrients. Fertilizers and soil amendments can improve the soil composition and provide extra nutrients.

Use mulch to maintain the optimum moisture level and avoid over-dampness and fungal infections in plants.

2. Plant Less Grass and More Groundcovers

Growing grass could be a massive challenge if your garden is deep or densely shaded. Instead of struggling with dead yellow patches, keep a small section of turf and cover the rest of the area with colorful groundcovers. They are low-maintenance plants that can easily grow in less sunlight. Here are some deep or dense shade groundcovers that you can choose from:

  • Japanese Forest Grass: This beautiful perennial can add a splash of bright green and gold color to the most shaded areas. It grows best in damp and moist soil.
  • Heuchera: Also known as coral bells, these perennials come in various bright colors and perform well in partial shade.
  • Ajuga: Ajuga or bugleweed is a ground cover in deep green, bronze, and chocolate brown colors. It can form a rich carpet in a shaded area without any sunlight.

3. Add A Water Feature

Adding a water feature in your shade garden can make it an aesthetically pleasing and relaxing space. Different types of water bodies, such as pools, streams, fountains, and ponds, can act as a central or focal point of the garden around which you can design the planting schemes and other elements.

You can start with a simple DIY pond and add excellent environmental benefits to your garden. A pond helps to maintain a self-sustaining circle of hydration that keeps plants alive without regular watering. It also maintains the moisture in the soil during dry and hot weather.

Use good quality pond liners and maintenance products to avoid the formation of debris, algae, and wastage in the water body.

4. Experiment with Color and Texture

Who said a shade garden has to be boring? Be bold and dramatic as you want by experimenting with different foliage plants. As a beginner, try to create combinations by pairing up plants and shrubs of opposite characteristics. Here are some of the best shade plants to beautify your garden:

  • Hosta: A hosta can range from four inches to almost six feet and add beautiful texture and greenery to any garden.
  • Ligularia: Also known as the leopard plant, ligularia has large, showy leaves and bright yellow flowers. It is happy to grow in less shade and high moisture.
  • Spiderwort: A beautiful plant with bluish-purple flowers and a sweet smell. Spiderwort is one of those perennials that you can smell before seeing or touching.

These are just a few examples. There are plenty of other options, such as foxglove, primrose, Brunner, hellebore, and many others you can plant in shaded spaces.

5. Grow Fruits and Vegetables

While it may come as a surprise, you can grow a garden or a small orchard in partial sunlight. It is one of the most practical landscape ideas for shady areas. We have figured out some healthy options for your year-round supply of homegrown delicacies.


Cole crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, and kale can grow well with little sunlight. Root crops and leafy greens, such as radishes, carrots, lettuce, and bok choy, can be grown in shaded spaces.


Although your options may be limited, you can still grow different perennial fruits that survive well in the shade. Start with blackberries, sour cherries, currants, and hardy kiwi, and gradually move to loquat and fig trees.

6. Shade Tolerant Trees

Finding shade-tolerant plants and trees could be tricky at times. However, many tree species have an excellent shade tolerance range and grow well in less sunlight. We are highlighting a few examples here:

1.American hornbeam (30 feet max)

Famous for its wood strength and medicinal properties, the American hornbeam can grow well in full sun and shade. It is an ideal option for moist and acidic soil.

2.Big Leaf Maple (75 to 100 feet)

As shown by its name, each leaf of this tree can grow up to two feet. Maple thrives in dark and dense areas and is suitable for shallow and rocky soil.

3.Japanese Yew (up to 30 feet)

Japanese Yew is an evergreen, highly shade-tolerant tree suitable for sandy and well-drained soil conditions.


Growing a shade garden can be challenging but also an amazing opportunity to create stunning outdoor spaces. To plant successfully in shaded spaces, you need to plan according to your site and its climatic conditions. To build your green sanctuary, try experimenting with layers of different elements such as water features, groundcovers, trees, and shrubs.

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