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How to Create Shade Gardens in the Pacific Northwest

By Maryellen Cicione ; Updated September 21, 2017

Shade gardens in the Pacific Northwest fit perfectly with the region’s diverse weather conditions. Growing a flower garden in a shady area is also an ideal alternative for those who prefer not to garden under direct sunlight. A wide variety of flowers thrive in the shade and provide an artistic masterpiece of color. Creating perennial shade gardens with beautiful blooming flowers can be successfully mastered with the proper location, design and plant selection.

Select a location. Before creating a shade garden in the Pacific Northwest, determine whether the location gets a little, some or full shade. Knowing the extent of shade helps in selecting flowers. Choosing a location under a tree is fine, but proper flower selection is important since the tree will be competing with your flower garden for nutrients.

Check the soil. The type of soil in your yard is a major factor in creating a shade garden in the Pacific Northwest, especially since the region gets a large amount of precipitation throughout the year. Conduct a quick soil test by digging a small hole in your chosen location. Fill the hole with water. Wait three hours and check the hole. If water remains in it, you have moist soil conditions. This means water does not adequately drain away from the area and your shade garden needs flowers that thrive in wet soil.

Make your flower selection. The information you gathered about shade intensity and soil will help in determining which flowers to grow in your shade garden. The best flowers to plant in the Pacific Northwest that like shade are common primroses, hostas, daylilies, coral bells and irises. Among the shade flowers that thrive in wet soil are bleeding heart, hardy begonia, columbine and foam flower. Try to select flowers that variously bloom early and late in the season so you will enjoy extended color in your shade garden.

Prepare the garden site. Depending on the location for your garden, you may need to cut sod, remove lawn grass, weed the area or loosen the soil before planting your flower seeds, seedlings or bulbs. Follow the planting instructions for the flowers you selected for determining whether you need to fertilize the soil.

Determine where to place the bulbs. Before planting your shade garden, plot out where each flower type should go. Use height, bloom time and color as your guide. Once you have designed your floral display, dig individual holes for planting your seeds, seedlings or bulbs.


Things You Will Need

  • Spade
  • Hoe
  • Rake
  • Hand trowel
  • Gardening gloves


  • Spring and early fall are ideal times to plant a shade garden in the Pacific Northwest.


  • Be careful when planting a shade garden under trees that shed needles. Some tree needles make the soil too acidic for some shade plants.

About the Author


Maryellen Cicione is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years' writing and editing experience. She boasts strong research skills and specializes in interviewing. Cicione's work has been published on numerous websites and in various magazines and newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.