Gardeners who have areas in the landscape situated in partial shade conditions have many choices if they want low-maintenance plants. Varieties include everything from ornamental grasses to flowering perennials, shrubs and trees. Many of the same plants suitable for use in a partial shade garden also tolerate full shade to full sun. Selecting low-maintenance varieties gives more time to enjoy the garden rather than working in it.
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is an evergreen, perennial shrub well suited for growing in a partial shade environment. It also tolerates growing in full sun. Plants grow well throughout USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9 with a variety of cultivars. The holly has a round, dense habit with small, dark green leaves of a medium texture filling the shrub. Springtime brings insignificant small, greenish white flowers followed by a black-colored, berry-like drupe.
This holly works well as a hedging or border plant that grows quite slowly and requires little maintenance. Plants prefer growing in a moist, well-draining soil that is acidic. Japanese holly is quite drought tolerant when established but will grow best with regular water applications. Shrubs grow 4-to-10 feet in height with a spread of 3-to-5 feet.
Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is an ornamental grass that is a perennial evergreen growing well throughout Zones 8 through 10. It grows well in partial shade as well as full sun. Plants produce white flowers on long plumes throughout summer. Pampas grass has a variety of cultivars, including dwarf varieties for smaller gardening spaces. Considered flammable, the grass should be planted about 30 feet from any houses or other structures. The grass blades are sharp, so use caution planting it around walkways.
This hardy, ornamental grass requires little maintenance and tolerates a wide variety of living conditions, from dry to moist soils. Pampas grass will grow in both alkaline and acidic soils. Plants have a high salt and drought tolerance, making them suitable for use in areas along the coasts. It grows up to 12 feet in height with a spreading habit of up to 8 feet.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia andersoniana) belongs in the family Commelinaceae and is a herbaceous, flowering perennial. It grows best in USDA Zones 5 through 9. Plants grow best in partial shade but also tolerate full sun with adequate water. Various cultivars with three-petaled flowers bloom spring throughout summer and again in fall. Flowers colors include white, pink, lilac, purple, red and blues ranging from dark to light. The blooms open in the morning and close by the middle of the day. It has a clumping habit with fleshy stems and grassy leaves.
Spiderwort prefers growing in moist and fertile soils, but is drought tolerant once established in the landscape. Plants perform best with regular applications of water. They require little maintenance, and deadheading the flowers in not required for the plant to produce more blooms. They grow up to 2 feet in height with the same clumping spread.