Updating that neglected shady bed, border, or corner is a fantastic weekend project that can make a big impact on your outdoor space. We'll help you get started by offering everything from design ideas, tips, plant lists, and even a free landscape plan for a shady corner.
Your task is simple: study our design tips, decide on your favorite plants, head to your local garden center, and get planting! Your shady garden is about to become your favorite place to unwind.
Shade Garden Design Ideas and Tips
Grassy Plantings for Shady Pathways
(Above) A combination of golden locust trees and massed Golden Japanese forest grass creates a glowing golden effect in this garden designed by Tish Treherne. Tish says, "The Japanese forest grass is my favorite. Since it turns copper in the winter, it offers a cascading visual effect year-round."
Tapestry of Texture for Shady Nooks
Container Combos for Shady Patios and Entryways
Top 5 Shade Garden Design Tips
- Observe the type of shade that you have and choose plants accordingly. Learn about the different types of shade here.
- Determine the soil moisture conditions and choose your plants accordingly. You may also need to set up a drip irrigation system. Find more tips and plant choices for dry shade here.
- Keep it simple. Choose 1-4 plants and plant them en masse for a big visual impact, soothing feel, and cohesive style. Find the simple plant recipe, plus the best plant choices below.
- Play with texture. Take your shade garden design a step further by combining different textures for a visually dynamic space. For instance, combine the fine foliage of sedge or ferns with the wide leaves of hosta or heuchera.
- Play with color. Look for foliage in brighter shades of green or unique tones of purple. No flowers are needed here, although they are always a bonus!
Project Landscape Plan: Update Your Shady Garden
(Above) This landscape plan by Lisa Nunamaker of Paper Garden Workshop illustrates how to combine masses of four different plants to create a vibrant shady corner garden. Get the full plant list and landscape plan for this easy weekend project, plus 9 more free project plans, in our Ultimate Project Planning Guide.
A shade garden makeover is the perfect weekend project; it's the perfect time to put your new design knowledge to work! Use the landscape plan, ideas, and design tips above to create your own beautiful shade garden. Make a plant list from the guidelines we've given you here and bring it to your local garden center, where they can point you in the right direction.
4 Plants for this Shade Garden Landscape Plan
Favorite Plants for Your Simple Shade Garden Recipe
This landscape plan offers the perfect shade garden recipe to start your shade garden project, whether or not it perfectly reflects the space or conditions you are dealing with. You can use this recipe for nearly any shady space you have, choosing the appropriate plants that thrive in your setting.
Make it simple by following this recipe: Choose one plant from one to all of each shade plant category below (fern, grass, shrub, colorful perennial), then plant them en masse.
You can add or subtract to this recipe, but if you're looking for a simple starting point as you head to the garden center, you can't go wrong with this combo. You can find shade-loving options for each part of this recipe below.
Favorite Ferns for Shade
Favorite Colorful Grasses for Shade
Favorite Visually Dynamic Shrubs for Shade
A showy rebloomer with a profusion of full mophead flower clusters that mature to a deep pink on very sturdy stems. Bloom color changes with soil pH, more blue-violet in acidic soils, deeper pink in alkaline soils. Partial shade to partial sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
Each leaf of this showy shrub possesses an exquisite melding of yellow, lime, and green, providing an illuminating effect in a dappled shade setting. Prized for its unique, highly textural foliage, it often blooms from fall to winter. Full shade to partial sun. Up to 8' tall and wide. Zones 7-10.
Favorite Perennials for Adding Color and Texture in Shade
This plant boasts bold burgundy-red rounded leaves with fluted edges, forming a tidy, dense mound. It has long-lasting foliage, increased sun tolerance, and is rust-resistant. Sprays of small greenish-yellow flowers provide a lovely accent. Full shade to partial sun. Up to 14" tall, 20" wide. Zones 4-9.
This impressive new hybrid has perked up the traditional drooping flowers of hellebores with blooms facing outwards, and even upwards, to greet the spring. A delightful cool-season bloomer, a wonderful addition to lightly to deeply shaded beds. Partial shade. Up to 2' tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
Learn More About Gardening in Shade
- Find your local garden center to ask if they carry these (or similar) plants.
- Sign up for the Grow Beautifully newsletter. Here you'll get digital guides, webinar invites, and helpful stories like these delivered straight to your inbox.
- Get 10 free landscape plans for your outdoor projects
- Using Layers to Wow in a Low-Water Shade Garden
- 5 Ways to Design with Hostas
- Perfect Plants for Dry Shade
- Brighten Your Early Fall Shade Garden with These Plants
- Favorite Ferns You Can Grow Indoors
- What to Plant Under a Mature Tree