Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Plants for North-Facing Gardens

By Sharon Sweeny ; Updated September 21, 2017
Hostas' interesting leaves brighten up north-facing gardens.
Hosta image by Michele Maakestad from Fotolia.com

A north-facing garden bed can be a gardener's biggest challenge due to its lower light levels and lack of direct sunlight. Choose plants that are known to grow well in shade, and the plants in your north-facing garden will thrive.


Deciduous rhododendrons, azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are best planted next to a building on either its east- or north-facing side. This protects the blossoms from the hot midday sun, which causes them to fade prematurely. It also prevents them from blooming too early in the season, only to be killed by a late-spring frost. They prefer moist, fertile, well-drained soil with a low pH. Fertilize them with a fertilizer for acid-loving plants, and mulch them well to prevent weeds from growing. Azaleas are shallow-rooted, and even the shallowest cultivation can tear their tender roots.


Members of several genera, ferns are well-known as a plant suitable for garden beds with northern exposure. Native to forest floors and the edges of woodlands, they thrive in the lower light of north-facing gardens. Whether your north-facing garden is in a moist or dry location, there is a variety of fern that will grow and thrive there.


A large genera consisting of many species and cultivars, hostas (Hosta spp.), also called “plantain lily,” are the quintessential shade plant. They are grown for their large, often variegated leaves that grow in a rosette form from soil level. Hostas come in small varieties, with leaves just a few inches long, up to quite large specimens, with leaves a foot or more long. While all varieties of hostas prefer partial shade in which to grow and thrive, some varieties handle partial sun quite well. In late summer, hostas send up a flower stalk, on which blooms small white or violet star-shaped flowers, although they are grown primarily for their foliage.


About the Author


Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.