Plants that grow in shade

photo by Spring Greenworks

photo by Spring Greenworks

Listed below are some of the more common plants that grow in shade:

All variety of fern grow well in shade, including:

  •   Athyrium Fern – This is a common plant grown in shade. It’s called “Lady Fern”.  These delicate ferns grow so well in the Pacific Northwest they almost seem like a weed.  They are typically lime green or a golden color but can also be found in various shades of grey.

  • Dryopteris Fern – Also somewhat delicate, but not as much as the Athyrium.  It is usually a darker green and grows easily in shade gardens.


Many grasses are commonly grown in shade gardens:

  • Carex Everillo - An ornamental grass such as this, and others, are available in a variety of colors (green, golden yellow, rust, blue, and striped.)  Grasses require very little maintenance and are quite hardy.  They are the perfect plant to grow in a shade garden.

  • Mondo Grasses – Grows in clumps, but if positioned close together it can look stunning along a walkway or even be used as a grown cover.  This tool is seen in a variety of colors, the most unique being black Mondo grass.

  • Japanese Forest Grass / Hachoencloa - Bright yellow with green stripes.  Perfect for shade gardens, along walkways, or planted in containers.  One of the few shade-garden plants that changes to a pink color in the fall.

Some of the most common plants that grow in shade garden designs may be ferns and grasses, but there are many other plants as well.

  • Hostas – We love they thick, wide leaves of a hosta plant and so do the deer and slugs.  If you have a location that is protected from pests, then you will cherish the vast varieties of hosta.  Pick a color.  They also grow nicely in pots and most produce beautiful long-stemmed flowers.

  • Cornus Canadensis – Also known as “Bunchberry” is a leafy groundcover with little white flowers.  This plant grows in shade and blooms in early summer.  Interestingly, the red berries and dark green leaves are both edible.

  • Ajuga – This is a vibrant ground cover in shades of deep blue-green or reddish-purple with blue flowers.

  • Cornus Sericea – A bush with a red branches and white delicate flowers

  • Ilex Japanese Holly forms – Of all these, Sky Pencil is a favorite to add a vertical contrast, and it’s also an evergreen.

  • Vaccinium Corumbosum – Also known as Highbush Blueberry.  You could say it’s a plant that is recommended for the garden and one’s health.


Plant that grows in shade.jpg

shade garden plants

Other plants that provide color and grow in shade

There are several colorful plants that grow in shade.  If you are looking to add more diverse color, incorporate bright lime green and variegated foliage of Hosta, grasses, and shrubs such as Cornus Ellegentissima.  Also consider adding annuals such as all types fuchsia (Hardy Fuchsia), Coleus (known for its red and green foliage), Scotch Moss. and Hellebores of all varieties. 

Using plants and hardscapes to brighten up a shade garden

A mix of pebbles, stone, pavers and edging are available which, when used in conjunction with plants, give a variety of contrast in a shade garden.  For example, a red brick walkway winding through a garden provides a distinct contrast to the lush green.

This is where working with a design professional can really make a difference.  Contact us at Spring Greenworks and tap into our knowledge of plants that grow in shade.   Let us help you design a shade garden when you can wonder, relax, and reflect during the warm summer days.

Growing and maintaining a shade garden

Shade gardens come with their own challenges, but the benefits outweigh the effort.

The gardens are naturally darker and often need outdoor lighting along a walkway or to light up specific plants.  There is a wide selection of LED and solar light options available and many unique lamp options.

Pest issues may include treating slugs that prey on hostas and light foliage by using pet safe slug treatment or copper tape surrounding plants.  Lava rock around plants is also used as a deterrent to slugs.

Proper drainage is important in a shade garden to eliminate mold and disease.  It is also important to be careful not to over-water in shady areas.  As in most areas of the garden, it is best to let the ground dry out before repeat watering.  Then water enough so to penetrate to at least three inches deep.

Utilizing mulch is important to protect the plants in the various stresses of changing temperatures and it creates a barrier from damage and disease.

Contact us at Spring Greenworks for more information about growing and maintaining a shade garden in the Seattle area.

It’s never too early to begin thinking about how to create a perfect shade garden or improve a currently shady area of your landscape with plants that grow in shade and hardscapes to compliment them.