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A low maintenance shade garden is perfect for that shady spot in your yard!
Fall is a great time to build new flower beds – you can plant perennials and let them get settled in. Closer to winter they will die back, only to reappear in the spring. They will grow and bloom in the spring, summer or fall, depending on the kind of perennial you choose.
You can build a flower bed for the sun or one for the shade. Here’s how we created a beautiful flower bed for the shade! And shade gardens are usually low maintenance, which is a bonus. If you’ve got a shady area, these plants will be perfect.
Low Maintenance Shade Garden
I wanted to plant flowers by our entry stairs. This is the view visitors get when they are coming down our driveway to our house. So I made a flower garden for the shade, using the prettiest plants I could find!
Since this area gets almost no sun, I had to plant very shade tolerant plants here that could withstand Zone 3 weather. I wanted it to be all perennial plants, so that I wouldn’t have to do a lot to maintain the bed once it got settled in and growing.
Perennials will return year after year, popping up through the moist soil! Here are the perennials I chose. They are all very hardy and will grow in full shade.
A Flower Bed for the Shade
Now, a couple of years later, I am doing zero maintenance and this bed always looks quite nice. I planted quite a few plants in this space and although not every one of them took, enough did that now the space is full.
When Perennial Plants are Perfect for a Low Maintenance Shade Garden
This bed gets a lot of snow on top of it in the winter time, as the snow slides off the roof and lands right here. We can easily have four feet of snow on top of this bed.
So, shrubs were not an option for me – every time the snow fell off the roof, I could lose branches or even the whole shrub could get hit.
I needed plants that would fully die back in late Fall and then reappear in the early Spring with their new growth. And I needed shade flowers – plants that will still bloom, even planted in deep shade. This bed only gets a tiny bit of early morning sun and that’s it.
These plants would be perfect for a woodland garden that is out of direct sunlight too!
So if you’ve got a shady spot out of full sun, consider these pretty perennials.
A Closer Look at the Flowers for my Low Maintenance Shade Garden
There are a lot of different varieties of Hostas and some people have whole gardens filled only with Hostas. A sea of Hostas in a curving bed around the edge of a shady yard looks incredibly beautiful.
There a also lots of different colours of Hostas, from two tone greens, to dark greens to light greens.
I’m partial to the deeper green ones, and this two tone Hosta is probably as light as I will go.
Hostas do come in more of a yellow colour. The flowers on a Hosta don’t really amount too much, but they are pretty and I am growing this for the foliage, not the flowers. Hostas are all about the leaf colors.
I love the way the rain sits in the leaves after a spring shower. The leaves are cup shaped and it looks beautiful when they hold rain drops. Lady’s Mantle blooms in early summer.
This perennial is easy to grow and takes no maintenance at all, except if you wanted to divide it. You could do this after 3 or 4 years and get two large plants instead of one.
Getting more plants is such a bonus with using perennials. Use them for starting new flower beds!
I have a couple of these plants and eventually hope to divide them and get more. This plant is slower growing than either of the above, but again needs no maintenance.
Very pretty bell shaped flowers sit way above the leaves. In the picture above, you can’t even really see the foliage, just the dainty flowers rising up.
The Latin name for Coral Bells is Heuchera, and there are several different kinds. Here is a better photo of this pretty shade plant.
I started out with 3 of these plants and now only have 1. I planted perennials that could stand a Zone 3 climate, with temperatures down to -35C in the dead of winter. That doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to survive!
More Flowers for a Low Maintenance Shade Garden
I used to grow this on the West Coast. I was surprised that it would survive up here in the Cariboo. The Latin name is Pulmonaria and this plant has pretty little flowers with colors ranging from pink to red to blue on each stem. Love this!
Lungwort is another plant that needs virtually no maintenance. It will spread over time so give it a bit of room.
I am very happy with my flower bed for the shade and I love the color scheme at work here. I would eventually like to add some height to this corner with a metal sculpture.
Creeping Jenny adds a ground cover to this flower bed. This plant can be invasive in warmer climates, so be careful adding this groundcover.
I’ve also added a Bleeding Heart plant, which has settled in nicely. There is also some Lily of the Valley pips planted.
This shady portion of our yard is where you will find us around on Summer afternoons. One day, I hope to have an actual seating area here.
More possibilities for shade garden design include these plants:
The Latin name is Digitalis, and foxgloves have the added benefit of being able to tolerate sun. They will grow in areas with no sun at all to growing in full sun.
This plant grows well in a semi shady spot and likes most soil. The Latin name for this pretty plant is Polygonatum. In our climate, Solomon’s Seal blooms in late spring.
Here in Zone 3, we have a native plant called False Solomon’s Seal which blooms here on our property and in the woods around us.
The pretty Primrose plant add so much color in very early Spring. In warmer climates than ours, they even bloom in late winter.
I remember Primulas for sale and already blooming in February when we lived on Vancouver Island. They are perfect for planting in pots on your patio or entryway, and add beautiful colour.
The Latin name for these pretty bloomers is Primula. They do really well in partial shade, with regular watering as they like the moisture.
Ferns will grow almost anywhere in cooler climates, and grow in areas with deep shade, filtered shade or afternoon shade. Perfect for a woodland garden or pathway through your shady yard.
More Low Maintenance Shade Garden Plants:
Want even more choices? Look into these shade loving plants:
- Leopard Plant
- Dead Nettle
- Toad Lilies
- Lamium (can also be invasive)
If you have an area of your yard that doesn’t get any sun, why not make a flower bed for the shade there? You could make shade-loving perennial flowers the focus, then add some pretty annuals like impatiens.
Add some patio pavers or even just some comfortable chairs. You will have a cool (and pretty) place to rest awhile in the summer heat.
You can find more ideas for pretty shade flower beds at Better Homes and Gardens.
Is this the year you will be planting fruit trees? Here’s how we planted fruit trees – now we enjoy picking apples every Fall.
Got weed problems? Here’s a Homemade Poison Ivy and Weed Killer Recipe – it really works.
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
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originally published 2017; updated June 2022