You have shady areas in your lawn and garden, right? Just about every yard has some shade, but I found out that doesn’t mean that those gardens need to have bare spots. I discovered that there are many different drought-tolerant shade plants that can grow in almost any soil conditions, and many of these also display gorgeous colors, even without a lot of sunlight. There’s no reason why your whole yard can’t be overflowing with vibrant hues and beautiful textures. Fill those shadowy areas with a few of these plant varieties, and you’ll bring color and life to even the darkest garden nooks.
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One ideal flower for a shaded garden space is the columbine. Its beautiful blossoms have a distinctive appearance, and the flowers bloom in many different hues so you can pick the shades you like the most. Best of all, columbine is very easy to grow. It thrives in multiple soil types, and flowers even in full shade. This species is also highly drought tolerant. What columbine doesn’t like is full sunlight, so choose a garden area that receives at least partial shade before you plant it.
Columbine is a biennial, so you won’t see any blooms the first year: they’ll bloom the following year, and then every second year afterwards. These plants also grow well in containers. Plant them at least 12 inches apart, and use a little mulch around the stems to keep the soil moist in order to help them establish their root system.
Their blossoms grow with multiple petal layers, often with complementary hues. The one drawback to columbines is that they can attract bees, so it’s best to avoid planting these flowers near doorways or outdoor sitting areas. In other parts of your landscaping, however, columbines provide both color and texture in amongst low greenery. Since these flowers grow quite tall, they’re perfect for complement with ground covers. This can add multiple aesthetic levels to your shade garden.
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Hellebores are beautiful flowering plants and perfect for shade gardens. This species grows over 12 inches high and creates beautiful, cup-shaped flowers that look a little bit like roses. It can bloom as early as April, and in some climates it will bloom in late winter as well, making it an ideal plant to add to any garden. These plants are even considered evergreen in some growing zones, so they’re perfect for decorative winter gardens in balmier places. Hellebores thrive in shade, and they’re highly drought-tolerant once they’re well-established.
Maintain your hellebores with a light pruning in early spring, and they will continue to look beautiful all year long. This species does prefer rich soil, so be certain to fertilize it regularly so it will thrive. In late spring, this plant has a tendency to draw slugs and snails, so watch for signs of these pests if you don’t want them to decimate your plants. To fend them off, you can spread some coffee grounds around the plants’ bases, and that should help to keep the slugs and snails away. Copper is an effective repellent as well, and you can buy copper garden strips at your local gardening or home renovation center for this exact purpose.
If you do use coffee grounds, remember to reapply them after every heavy rainfall.
3. Miniature Mat Daisies
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What about all those little empty spaces between your plants? Consider using miniature mat daisies, or Bellium minutum, as a ground cover to fill in those gaps. This species is fairly drought-tolerant, but thrives best when it receives regular watering. It grows very well in shade, and can thrive in many different soil types, provided that the earth is well-drained. Its foliage is dense, and each plant can spread its blooms out to about 18 inches in width to give you plenty of cover. The small daisy flowers bloom from late spring all through the summer, and is a great lower-storey plant for a layered garden.
Mat daisy is a tough little plant that can withstand foot traffic well, which also makes it ideal for gardens in which children or pets like to play.
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Bluebells grow well beneath trees and shrubs, and these shade-loving plants will withstand drought once established. They can also grow in containers as long as they’re placed away from direct sunlight. Their flowers have a unique, bell-like appearance with leaves that curl at the ends. Bluebells actually bloom in more beautiful hues when they have plenty of shade, which makes them an excellent choice for the darker parts of your landscaping, especially beneath trees and overhangs.
Plant bluebell bulbs 3 inches deep, at least 4 inches apart. They don’t need a lot of care, so after you plant them you can pretty much leave them alone. Add a little bit of fertilizer to the soil, and make sure to water them regularly. Other than this very basic care, they basically thrive on neglect. As an added bonus, bluebells self-propagate well, so they’ll fill up thinner garden spaces quickly.
5. Spider Flowers
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Spider flower (Cleome) is a highly adaptable plant that will grow pretty much anywhere, from full sunlight to shade. The purple, pink, or white flowers appear in colorful clusters, with long, spider-like stamen wisps that extend out past the blossoms. They have a very unique appearance, which makes them stand out in any garden. Use them to add beautiful pops of color to any shady spots.
One thing to note: don’t expect your spider flower plants to start blooming right away. Even though spider flower grows easily in all climats, it won’t bloom until the plant is well-established. Once they do, however, they’ll start attracting butterflies to your shade garden, which is a nice additional touch. If you’re starting it from seed, plant them about 18 inches apart. They’re self-seeding, drought tolerant, and shade resistant, so they’re a low-maintenance gardening dream.
6. Oregon Grape
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Oregon grape makes any shade garden a little more interesting. This beautiful plant grows rich green, spiky leaves, and bears purple-blue fruit in summertime. This species maintains its foliage all year long, and its leaves turn red during the colder months, which makes it a perfect winter garden option. Oregon grape thrives in shade, and does not do well in direct sunlight. It prefers acidic, well-drained, moist soil, whether it’s loamy, clay-rich, or sandy. It will not grow in alkaline soil.
These shrubs can grow up to 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide, so you can get plenty of coverage from just one plant. In most climates, it will bloom in April and May, displaying bright yellow flowers. If desired, you can prune your grape plants once every spring, when suckers first form.
7. Butcher’s Broom
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Butcher’s broom is a tough plant that will grow even in the deepest shade, so you can place it in the darkest spots and watch it thrive. An evergreen shrub, butcher’s broom looks great year-round and grows in a spherical shape even without pruning. The flowers bloom in springtime before giving way to its signature red berries. This species grows naturally in European woodlands, and is extremely low-maintenance.
Broom grows well in a variety of soil types, including clay, chalk, sandy, and loamy. Keep the soil moist when you can, but since it’s so tough and drought-tolerant, will do well even without a lot of water. This low-maintenance plant thrives almost anywhere with little care, making it a wonderful, fuss-free garden addition.
8. Hardy Fuchsia
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Hardy fuchsia blooms all through the summer with stunning, vivid, multi-layered petals. This gorgeous, drought-tolerant plant is available in a variety of different colors, from deep reds to bright pinks and purples. There are even some marbled and two-tone hardy fuchsia flowers as well, which gives you the opportunity to add a lot of varied hues and textures to any shadowy spot. You can even grow them in containers, so if your patio is shaded most of the time, you can arrange a few different color varieties on stands or in hanging baskets around that area.
Plant hardy fuchsias 2 inches below the soil somewhere they aren’t fully exposed. They prefer well-drained, fertile, moist soils, preferably with a bit of loamy compost mixed in. Fuchsias can’t stand cold winds, so place them near trees or shrubs to provide them with a bit of much-needed shelter.
You Can Garden Anywhere and Everywhere
These stunning species prove that you don’t have to stick to the sunniest spot of your lawn to grow amazing plants. Choose your varieties wisely, and you can have flowers, shrubs, and ground covers in any (or every) part of your garden. Placing these drought-tolerant shade plants under trees and in shaded gaps allows you to bring beauty to any corner of your property, regardless of how much—or how little— sunlight it may get.