Shade loving plants: Which plants are best planted in shade? From ivy to foxglove

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With sunny days returning and a glimpse of warmer weather, many of us will be craving days in the garden. If you’ve neglected your garden over the winter months, now is the perfect time to get started on preparing it for the summer months.

Whether you’re redesigning, have recently moved home or just want to update your garden, there are plenty of things you can do in the garden as spring arrives.

Cutting the lawn is a key first step, getting rid of weeds and giving your grass the best possible first step.

Sweeping around the garden for any fallen leaves and cutting back dead plants is also a good start.

While a sunny space is ideal, sometimes those shaded areas in our gardens can seem neglected.

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However, there are a host of plants you can plant in shady areas to brighten up your space.

Before you start you will need to know the type of shade you have.

This can be

  • Dappled shade – Which is botchy and happens when sun shines through foliage above
  • Partial shade – Where part of the day the plants will be in sun and part in shade

You should also take note of the type of soil your shaded area could have, dry or damp.

Plants for shade

Bellflower, Campanula

Most varieties of bellflower are well-suited to shaded areas, with a variety of colours and shapes.

These plants also have a long season, from late spring to late summer and possibly early autumn.

You should make sure your soil is medium moisture and drains well.

Sow your bellflower seeds March through to April for plants to flower in July or August.

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Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea

For dappled or partial shade, foxgloves are ideal – however, some types do prefer a sunny space.

Digitalis purpurea is ideal for those shaded areas, and each flower is tubular and pendent.

Foxgloves prefer acidic soil, and you can increase a soil’s acidity by adding sphagnum peat.

Bleeding heart, Lamprocapnos spectabilis

These pink, heart-shaped flowers are a beautiful pop of colour in any garden and can grow well in light, damp shade.

Adding these between shrubs can give some height and colour to your space.

Bare root bleeding hearts should be planted in the spring while fleeing heart tubers can be planted in the autumn or spring.

Cranesbill geraniums

Several varieties of cranesbill geraniums can grow well in the shade.

One particular variant which thrives in shaded areas is the Geranium phaem.

This is a dense plant, which has small purple flowers with yellow middles.

Cranesbill geraniums grow well in moist, fertile, well-drained soil and are best planted in the spring.


Hellebores are easy to grow, with most preferring light shade with full sun for at least part of the day.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) says soil should ideally be rich in organic matter, not too dry or waterlogged.

Specifically, the RHS recommends Helleborus foetidus which is best for deeper shade.

Helleborus lividus, Helleborus niger and Helleborus thibetanus prefer a position that is sheltered, cool, in light shade and has well-drained soil or the drainage of a raised bed. You can also plant these in containers.

Helleborus argutifolius and Helleborus sternii are best for sun. They should also be sheltered from strong, cold winds.

Ivy, Hedera helix

If you’re wanting a climbing plant that thrives in shaded conditions, opt for English ivy or Hedera helix.

Ivy is ideal for covering pergola poles, or climbing lattice or fences.

Plant ivy in a moist, shaded area in either early spring or in autumn.

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