Shade Gardening

by Suzanne DeJohn

More and more gardeners have shady areas in their yards that they want to landscape, and our collection of shade plants just keeps growing. Don't let anyone tell you there's no way to have a grand garden in the shade — including fantastic foliage and loads of color, season after season.

On a hot summer day, a shade garden is a welcoming oasis. Set a bench under a tree, surround yourself with beautiful, shade-loving foliage and flower plants, and you've created your own garden get-away.

If you've struggled to get lawn grass to grow in a shady spot, consider creating a shade garden there instead. It will not only look better, but it also won't require the weekly mowing and frequent watering and fertilizing that lawns demand.

The key to a successful shade garden is to match the plant to the site. Some plants, like Hostas, are quite adaptable to any shady spot. Many of our Woodland Wildflowers, on the other hand, have more exacting requirements. Some need acidic soil, soil that is rich in organic matter or soil that stays consistently moist. So read plant descriptions carefully.

Types of Shade
Some confusion surrounds the terms full sun, part shade (or part sun) and full shade, so here's a rundown:

Full sun. An area that receives four hours or more of direct, mid-day sunlight is considered full sun.

Part shade. Areas under trees with high or thin canopies are usually in part shade. They may receive several hours of direct sun in the morning or in late afternoon, and/or dappled sunlight throughout the day.

Full shade. The area alongside a north-facing wall or under trees with dense foliage is considered full shade. The area may get some sunshine in the early morning or evening, but is shaded during mid-day.

In northern regions, where the sun isn't as intense as it is further south, plants recommended for part shade may grow well in full sun. Conversely, plants recommended for full sun may appreciate some light afternoon shade in regions with hot, sunny summer weather.

  1. Blue Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica

    Virginia Bluebell’s gorgeous flowers start out as lovely, pastel pink buds and open up into vivid, true blue blooms. A perfect addition to part and full-shade woodland gardens, pla...

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    Virginia Bluebells Virginia Bluebells Mertensia virginica
    As low as $12.65 Sale $10.75
    Per Bag of 3
    Virginia Bluebell’s gorgeous flowers start out as lovely, pastel pink buds and open up into vivid, true blue blooms. A perfect addition to part and full-shade woodland gardens, plant Virginia Bluebells to see early spring blooms and frequent visits from pollinators. This native plant increases in size each year and will form a beautiful colony over time with almost no care from the gardener. (Mertensia virginica)
  2. Annabelle Snowball Hydrangea

    Annabelle' Hydrangea is famous for its huge, snow-white blooms and excellent cold hardiness. This shorter variety grows 3 - 5 ft tall and flowers reliably, even after severe winters ...

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    Annabelle Snowball Hydrangea Snowball Hydrangea Annabelle Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle
    $13.99 Sale $12.59
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    Annabelle' Hydrangea is famous for its huge, snow-white blooms and excellent cold hardiness. This shorter variety grows 3 - 5 ft tall and flowers reliably, even after severe winters and intentional pruning. Its enormous 10" blooms and ability to adapt to both cold and heat have made 'Annabelle' one of the most popular hydrangeas in the country. (Hydrangea arborescens)
  3. Vibrant Shade Pre-Planned Garden - Large

    The Vibrant Shade Pre-Planned Garden (large) is designed to bring excitement to gardens with part to full shade. From spring blooming flowers in spring to bold foliage in fall, this ...

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    Vibrant Shade Pre-Planned Garden - Large Vibrant Shade Pre-Planned Garden - Large
    $199.99 Sale $167.99
    Per Garden of 22 Plants
    The Vibrant Shade Pre-Planned Garden (large) is designed to bring excitement to gardens with part to full shade. From spring blooming flowers in spring to bold foliage in fall, this garden will delight with variety and color all season long. Care instructions and planting map included.
  4. White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, Wake-Robin

    White Trillium opens exquisite white blooms up to 4 inches across in mid-spring. Flowers fade to a pretty pale pink. This woodland wildflower requires patience but is well worth th...

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    White Trillium White Wake Robin, Wood Lily Trillium grandiflorum
    As low as $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Bag of 3
    White Trillium opens exquisite white blooms up to 4 inches across in mid-spring. Flowers fade to a pretty pale pink. This woodland wildflower requires patience but is well worth the wait. Seeds produced by the plants and underground roots and will spread slowly into drifts of trillium that look like a white blanket covering the ground. (Trillium grandiflorum)
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