Plants for a Shady Garden

The problem of a shady garden space where plants get very little sun is easy to solve. Gardeners can choose from a wide variety of plants that like shady conditions. Choose tropical looking ferns that do not produce flowers, but do add a light, airy element. Choose trees, shrubs and perennials that do produce flowers and do very well under the shade of taller trees.

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) is a native of Eastern Asia. The plant is a deciduous fern that grows from 1 to 1 1/2 feet high and 1 1/2 to 2 feet in width. Gray-green fronds have dark-maroon ribs and grow up to 20 inches long in a weeping pattern. Plant Japanese painted fern in partial or full shade and a soil that is rich, moist, organic and well-drained. The plant is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 to 8.

Ashe Magnolia

Ashe magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei) is also known as Ashe's magnolia and big leaf magnolia. The plant is a shrub or small tree that grows up to 20 feet tall with an equal or greater spread. Leaves grow from 12 to 24 inches long and 6 to 12 inches wide. Saucer-shaped, fragrant, cream-colored flowers measure 10 to 12 inches across and are followed by pink-purple, cone-shaped fruits. Ash magnolia is found growing in the shade of taller trees in the wild and will do fine in the same garden environment. The tree is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9 and likes a rich, moist, organic, well-drained soil.


Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis) is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. Plant in partial to full shade and a soil that is rich, organic and well-drained. The plant grows from 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall and about the same in width. White, pink or rose-purple, cup-shaped flowers measure 3 to 4 inches in diameter and bloom in April. Glossy, dark-green leaves measure 8 to 16 inches wide and are made up of seven to nine leaflets.


Corydalis (Corydalis lutea) is also known as yellow corydalis and yellow fumitory and grows from 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall with a similar spread. Yellow flowers grow to 3/4 inch long in long clusters and bloom from May to September. Fern-like, medium-green leaves are made up of two to three leaflets. Plant corydalis in partial to full shade, in a well-drained soil. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 7.

Keywords: shade plants, partial shade plants, full shade plants

About this Author

Regina Sass has been a writer for 10 years, penning articles for publications in the real estate and retail industries. Her online experience includes writing, advertising and editing for an educational website. Sass is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.