Gardening pros share the best plants for a shady garden

Carol Klein demonstrates how to sow Foxglove seeds

With sunny days returning, many people will be out in the garden planting flowers and shrubs. If you have several areas in the garden which are sheltered, it can be hard to find suitable plants, but there are a huge variety to choose from.


Native to the UK, this woodland plant will thrive in shaded areas of the garden, perfect for a statement space.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) explained: “They also like free-draining soil with plenty of added organic matter, similar to the loamy soil found in woodlands, enriched with years of decomposed leaves.

“Some perennial species, such as the rusty foxglove, can grow in sunnier sits, but they need rich, moisture-retentive soil.”

Most varieties will grow well in large containers, making sure to position them away from the sun and watering regularly.


The RHS said: “Snowdrops are very prone to drying out, so if sourcing bulbs from a nursery or garden centre is the only option, buy them as soon as they are available and plant immediately.

“Plant snowdrops in a partly-shaded position in a moist, but well-drained soil with leafmould or garden compost incorporated. It is important that the soil does not dry out in summer.”

Stinking iris

Stinking iris, known for their sword-shaped leaves, has an unpleasant aroma when cut or bruised, but that shouldn’t put people off.

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This plant will thrive in full shade, particularly beneath trees, which is ideal if you have an empty area in your garden you want to fill.


Most primroses and primulas will do best in partial shade along with some moisture-retentive soil.

Some are more suited to be grown in bog gardens, while others will tolerate slightly drier conditions so be sure to check before purchasing.

The RHS said: “In containers, use multi-purpose peat-free compost with added grit or perlite. Although some plants are capable of surviving after their first year, flowers in subsequent years are likely to be smaller and fewer in number, so plants are best replaced each year.”

The experts recommended the fairy primrose, primula malacoides, which has sprays of fragrant flowers on long stems.


Hostas thrive in shaded areas and produce pale lilac bell-like flowers throughout the summer months.

The RHS noted: “All hostas will thrive in moist soil in partial shade, whether in the ground or a container.

“In general, though, yellow-leaved cultivars prefer some sun, along with a few hosta that are tolerant of sunny conditions.”


Bluebells also thrive in shady areas, due to their natural habitats being woodland areas, and will do well under trees, similar to stinking iris’.

They can be planted in the ground or in containers along with some well-draining soil, ensuring there are adequate draining holes.


While green-leaved acers tolerate full sun, they do best with light shade at the hottest part of the day, but make sure to check your specific acer.

If you do have a green or yellow acer, the leaves may scorch if they are left in full sunlight, especially between July and August.

Gardeners should water their maples regularly during dry weather for the firs two seasons, around once to twice a week.

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