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What Are the Best Plants for a Shady Yard?

By Bridget Kelly ; Updated September 21, 2017

Shady spots in the garden don’t have to feature barren patches of soil. With the right plants and care, you can actually transform the shady part of your garden into its focal point. If you’ve been thinking about lightening up the shady area in your garden, there are lots of plants that will help you do just that.


Ferns are the perfect shade plant, as they will thrive with very little sunlight. They are easy to grow and will pretty much take care of themselves. They do require rich soil, very much like what you would find in the forest where they grow naturally. Make sure to amend the soil with lots of compost and mulch around the base to keep the roots cool. Ferns do like moisture so don’t let the soil dry out.


Pachysandra is a ground cover that will grow in the deepest shade. It does require an inch of water a week, so it will take some maintenance to keep it healthy. Fertilize the pachysandra once per season by sprinkling a handful of dry all-purpose fertilizer for every 4 feet of garden space. This plant will spread so you may need to trim it periodically to keep it out of driveways, patios and other places it isn’t welcome.


Camellias planted in the sun may suffer scald, so it’s best grown in the shade. Be aware, though, that if the shade is provided by a large tree the camellia will have to compete for water and nutrients and may not survive. Camellia plants thrive in a slightly acid soil, so if you have a soil pH testing kit, aim for a ph of 6.0 to 6.5. To increase the soil’s acidity, add 2 to 4 inches of peat moss to the base of the plant and work it into the soil. Other than that, soak the camellia once a week with water and it should provide you with beautiful flowers all season.


About the Author


Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.