7 Ways to Make Your Shade Garden Shine


If your yard is shadier than you’d like, you may feel a bit jealous of gardeners with lots of sun. But shade offers some unique design opportunities. Here are a few tips to help you turn those shady areas into places that are as beautiful and exciting as any sunny garden.


Focus on foliage.

Design your garden around leaves rather than flowers. The color palette for foliage can include dozens of shades of green as well as grey, blue, gold and burgundy. Include variegated foliage, too. In shady gardens, all the leaves in sight, from trees to ground covers, play a role in creating the complete picture.


Use bursts of color as accessories.

Design your garden as a tapestry of foliage and then weave in bits of color here and there to draw the eye. Include plants that will be in flower at different times during the season. Colorful shade-loving candidates include spring-blooming bulbs, midsummer perennials such as foxgloves, dicentra and astilbe, and late summer bulbs such as caladiums.


Make the most of texture.

Seek out plants with leaves that are shiny, velvety or crinkled. Combine thick, coarse leaves (like hostas) with lacy leaves (like ferns). Contrasting textures are easier to see in the shade than in the sun, so play up these differences.


Create interesting shapes.

Include a combination of upright, pyramidal, rounded, weeping and spreading forms. Group like plants together to create flowing, irregular shapes. Repeat these shapes through your garden to create rhythm.


Let the paths be more informal.

Rather than having straight paths with hard edges, use stepping stones, ground covers and shredded leaves or bark. Encourage a slower pace and invite meandering and exploration.


Add a water feature.

The flashes of light and soothing sounds of a fountain or stream make shady gardens come alive. If moving water isn’t an option, simply fill a ceramic pot or bowl with water. Like a mirror, it will reflect sunlight from above and attract everything from dragonflies to songbirds.


Add a bench.

Emphasize the restful feeling of your shady garden by including a place to relax and take a break. A garden bench creates a focal point that can be the inspiration for a special destination within the overall garden design.

Most gardens aren’t designed or created in one season. They evolve over time and that’s part of the fun. This spring, as you get back into your yard and garden, look for ways to incorporate a few of these design ideas. You may find yourself falling in love with the tranquil beauty of your shady garden.

You’ll find our complete selection of shade-loving plants HERE. To learn more about gardening in the shade, you may want to read: Design Tips for Shady GardensEasy Summer Bulbs for Shady Containers, Landscaping with Caladiums, Summer Bulbs for Shady Gardens, 10 Easy Perennials for Shady Gardens, and Spring-Blooming Bulbs for Shady Gardens.