Planning a Shade Garden

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The side yard of the north side of my house didn't have much visual interest, so I added a shade garden. Using my garden spade, I removed a strip of sod along the side of the house and then added red gravel. In the new space, I planted three boxwoods, and some lilyturf varegata, an evergreen perrenial. I think the small garden turned out pretty well, but I am trying to figure out if I should add something to it. What do you think? Any comments would be appreciated! Perhaps I should love some shade loving flowering annuals or perrenials? Or perhaps I should remove more sod and widen the garden?
planning a shade garden, flowers, gardening, My home s side yard before the addition of the shade garden
My home's side yard before the addition of the shade garden
planning a shade garden, flowers, gardening, The garden area after the sod was removed
The garden area after the sod was removed
planning a shade garden, flowers, gardening, lilyturf varegata before being planted
lilyturf varegata, before being planted
planning a shade garden, flowers, gardening, The boxwood pre planting
The boxwood, pre planting
planning a shade garden, flowers, gardening, My finished side garden click on the photo to see the entire garden
My "finished" side garden (click on the photo to see the entire garden)
  18 answers
  • Kimberly Barney Kimberly Barney on May 01, 2013
    Everything you have planted is green giving it a base with the bushes but now you need to add some color. There are a variety of hosta (stay away from the plain green to add color). I also like to have coral bells in my shade gardens. There leaves come in a variety of colors. They have flowers for part of the year but their foilage stays year round. You may also add color with garden art.
    • Janet Carroll-Boudreau Janet Carroll-Boudreau on Jan 17, 2014
      @Kimberly Barney From my experience, the only way you are going to get the lighter varigated color on hostas is have them in full sun. The more sun, the lighter they get. I have the same variety at my house and the colors differ in the sun and sahde.
  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide Lauren of Mom Home Guide on May 01, 2013
    Thanks, Kimberly. I would love to try the coral bells -- they are so beautiful!
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on May 02, 2013
    Good start, Lauren. I can't tell how wide a border you have made, but it should probably be wider for the boxwood, which will easily get to be 4 feet high and wide. You have them quite close to the house right now, and you don't really want them brushing up against the house as they grow. When you widen the border you may want to make a curve rather than a straight line. It could sweep out for the boxwood then in for the other things you plant. You can lay out the line using a garden hose warmed in the sun. As you add plants, try to create groupings of them rather than having just here, one there. You have a huge number of possibilities for adding color: foxglove, astrantia, Japanese anemone, astilbe, hellebores, chelone...
    • Janet Carroll-Boudreau Janet Carroll-Boudreau on Jan 17, 2014
      @Douglas Hunt I find that boxwood in the shade never get near in size to the ones in the sun. We have the same variety in sun and shade and the ones in shade are half the size. Still pretty though!
  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide Lauren of Mom Home Guide on May 02, 2013
    Thanks, Douglas! That's a good idea to widen the bed and add some curve. I'd love to add more plants and widen the bed -- it will get rid of some of the grass! I will check out the plants you suggested.
  • Chris aka monkey Chris aka monkey on Sep 07, 2013
    douglas ideas are great all it need now is some color xx
  • Bonnie Bassett Bonnie Bassett on Oct 25, 2013
    Doug is so right, when I first started planting (7 years ago) I made the error of planting things to close to the house and I have had to transplant quite a few shrubs I also planted a tiny spruce which was really just a twig I bought for $1.00 (a little special for earth day ) it is now about 5' tall and about 3 or 4' wide at the bottom and I should have transplanted it at least 3 years ago but I didn't now it seems so healthy and big I am afraid to disturb it but eventually it may be to close to my house !
  • Bonnie Bassett Bonnie Bassett on Oct 25, 2013
    see the little spruce and how close it is :)this is the back of my house which is facing north west.
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Oct 26, 2013
      @Bonnie Bassett The clock is ticking on moving that spruce. It is only a matter of time before it is brushing up against your house.
  • Bonnie Bassett Bonnie Bassett on Oct 26, 2013
    So Doug You think it's not to late to move it ? Will it have a very large root ball? How will it handle transplanting
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Oct 27, 2013
      @Bonnie Bassett It will be a chore to do because, yes, it will have a large rootball, but this is a good time of year to do it. Make sure to keep it watered until the ground freezes. It's only going to get harder to do, and harder on the tree, if you wait.
  • Bonnie Bassett Bonnie Bassett on Oct 27, 2013
    good advice and I will let you know if I really do it (big job for me ...lol)
  • Lorie Lorie on Mar 21, 2015
    Another shade loving perennial flower is the toad lily. The flowers look very similar to orchids but are smaller. They grown on long stems and flower in the fall. Also, ferns love shade and add lots of texture to the garden.
  • Mary Mary on Mar 21, 2015
    What perennials will thrive in a shade garden that has a walnut tree nearby?
  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide Lauren of Mom Home Guide on Mar 21, 2015
    I am not sure! I bet @Douglas Hunt would know!
  • Suzette Trimmer Suzette Trimmer on Jun 03, 2015
    Goodness, this plagues all us gardeners at one point or another. I have tried and failed so many varieties of plants that soon I shall be my own self-proclaimed expert at shade gardens. This is however what I have found works.... hostas, Astiblies, coral bells begonias, ferns, impatience flowers, hydrangeas and azalees also. Elephant ears and caladiums.
  • Kathy Rick-Altschuler Kathy Rick-Altschuler on Jun 30, 2015
    try 4 o clocks they love the north side of the house.
  • Zeebo Zeebo on Jul 14, 2015
    Congratulations on taking something very plain and turning it into a shade garden. I agree with the others who have suggested ferns and will throw in coleus as well. Anything is better than nothing, right?
  • Gerry Gerry on Mar 25, 2016
    Beware ferns spread like weeds. I picked up 5 small ones at the Midland Antiques festival 6 years ago and planed them on the north side which is the front of my house and now I have over 30. I plan on digging up half of them this spring and moving them to the edge of the woods where they can spread to their hearts content.
  • L L on Mar 25, 2016
    I love hellebores and heurchera, both do well. But be aware that hellebores are poisonous.
  • Rosemary N Rosemary N on May 23, 2018
    You might think about some costa, depending on the size of the garden area; they can grow sort of large. They are lovely, and thrive in the shade. Google "shade plants" for more ideas.
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