Many gardeners find shady spots a challenge, mistakenly assuming that there's not a lot you can do to design it, except for adding a lot of green stuff, evergreens,vining groundcover and potted plants. There are lots of beautiful plants, small shrubs and trees to choose from. And the addition of potted plants and weaving in groundcovers is fairly easy.

I have a sunny garden, and would love to design a shade garden. My only options are as understory plantings. I consider a shady area a big bonus in garden design. By using the proper plants and care, shady spots can be welcoming retreats, and shady corners a colorful surprise. You can camouflage a lot of ugly problem areas, if you need to. The spot can "feel" like a rainforest or patch of prehistoric, and it takes well to the addition of small water features. A beautiful rock garden is possible, as well.

Foliage Gardens and Ferneries are a beautiful option. Many plants adapt from full shade to partial shade well. I grow varieties of Hosta that don't mind a little of each. It would be an easy thing to combine both full shade and partial shade plants and design it in a way that allows for rotating bloom times and bright, green color and variegation that sets them off. Big, smooth variegated leaves, the feathery fronds of ferns,the graceful look of ornamental fountain grasses, clumping bamboo, ivy, bog plants for damp areas... there are hundreds of varieties of foliage and flowering plants to choose from.

Fruits That Grow in Partial Shade

Sour  cherries grow well in shady gardens, because they donít need the sun to sweeten them. And they look very pretty when trained on a wall.

Currants and gooseberries

Cane fruits, such as blackberries and raspberries can also cope with some shade.

Rhubarb is another great crop for a shady spot.

Fruit trees - pears and plums are best. Pears do need a few hours of sun, preferable in the afternoon. Plums are a great choice for a landscape that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Remember that many varieties of pear and plum trees need a cross-pollinator to bear fruit.

Alpine strawberries are much tougher than normal strawberries. 


I have compiled a shady garden design plan collection below that may be downloaded free in .pdf format.
Lots of Garden Design Plans are available for free downloading in other parts of this site.
Just click the pics and there you have it. Plans to design a beautiful shade garden.

Adapt the plans to the plants and garden themes you wish. The plans are a proven design that works, but you can choose the theme you want to design for your garden. For instance, you can plan a Moonlight Garden, Fragrance Garden, Rain Garden, Fernery, or Zen Garden using the plant suggestions and colors mentioned in my garden design articles, and adapting the design plan to reflect that theme using shade-loving plantings.

The design plans contain a color illustration (like the one at the top of this page), a detailed list of plants, and the planting plans. Feel free to substitute any other similar-need shade plants for the ones suggested. Use your imagination. Be sure to check your USDA Hardiness Map planting zone for perennials and grasses that will grow in your area.

The plans are not all about shade. There are plans that adapt well in shade gardens, using shade-loving plants. For instance, add various-sized containers and tall, weeping ornamental grasss for height, color and interest.

Feel free to change the plot sizes, bigger or smaller, to fit your garden size and needs. Multiples of these design sizes would look great across a larger garden area.

Free Garden Design Plan

click the plan for a free download

Fill with hydrangeas, ferns, grasses and other shade-lovers

adaptable to shade gardening

Garden plans supplied by BHG and Country Living


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