Most plants need some degree of light to thrive. Because many plants need at least six hours of sunlight daily to thrive, it can be a challenge to landscape in shady areas. Adding to the difficulty is the presence of trees that provide shade. Plants grown in shade must be cultivated shallowly to avoid harming tree roots that fan out across shady areas. The key is to select shallow-rooted plants that thrive in shade.
Select subcanopy plants--such as impatiens, hostas and ferns--that thrive in forests beneath trees.
Determine the plant's exact shade tolerance. Most plants prefer partial shade to full shade. A plant's shade tolerance is typically written on a tag that is sold with the plant.
Dig individual planting holes in the soil so as to avoid the roots of plants. If you uncover a root, shift your planting hole to avoid it. Place the root ball of the plant into the hole and cover with soil.
Prune low-hanging branches of trees in shady areas to improve air circulation. This will help reduce the ability of fungal diseases to attack shade gardens.
Add a top-dressing of compost and peat moss to the soil to add nutrients into shady areas. Plants placed in shady areas must compete with tree roots for nutrients and water. Do not dig compost and peat moss into the roots. Do not mulch around the plants. A thick layer of mulch can smother the roots of trees.
Water plants during periods of drought. During these times, larger trees may take much of the water from the soil. Watering plants will ensure that they do not die during drought periods.