Home Gardening 20 Plants for Dry Shade: A Guide to Thriving in Tricky Conditions

20 Plants for Dry Shade: A Guide to Thriving in Tricky Conditions

by Gregory
4 minutes read

20 Plants for Dry Shade That Will Thrive in Tricky Conditions


Even the sunniest gardens have shady spots, often at the base of walls, under eaves, or beneath trees. These areas can be challenging to garden in, as many plants struggle to survive in dry shade. However, there are a number of plants that are well-adapted to these conditions and will thrive with a little extra care.

Best Plants for Dry Shade

Here are 20 of the best plants for dry shade:

  • Japanese anemones are brilliant plants for late summer and autumn color. Their white and pink flowers, with a ring of yellow anthers, are held on tall, swaying stems.
  • Astrantias have delicate, pincushion-like flowers from June to August. These clump-forming perennials come in a range of colors, from white and dusky pinks to deep red.
  • Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae is a tough, fast-growing wood spurge that is perfect for dry spots under trees. It reveals vivid lime flowers in late spring.
  • Fatsia japonica is one of the most dramatic shrubs for shade. This exotic-leaved evergreen is completely hardy outdoors and will eventually make a magnificent plant.
  • Hellebore has sumptuous flowers that open from late winter. The colors of this invaluable perennial range from white to pink, plum, and near-black.
  • Hydrangea macrophylla is a valuable plant with large, colorful blooms. They do well in shade, even under trees, and put on a show from summer to autumn.
  • Ivy is an evergreen climber that is synonymous with shade. Our native Hedera helix has glossy green leaves and is ideal for ground cover or clothing a wall.
  • Ivy-leafed cyclamen is perfectly adapted to growing under trees. It sends up a volley of tiny shuttlecock flowers in early autumn.
  • Lily of the valley has one of the loveliest fragrances in the garden, produced by small, waxy bells that appear in early summer. It forms dense ground cover, even in sites with very limited light.
  • Lily turf is a tough perennial that copes even in the darkest and driest of conditions. Its purple blooms are a valuable asset in autumn, rising above its evergreen, strap-like leaves.
  • Pheasant grass is a versatile grass with bronze-green foliage. It flowers from June to September, turning shades of copper and gold in the autumn.
  • Pyracantha ‘Soleil d’Or’ is an evergreen shrub with zesty berries that almost glow during autumn in a shady spot. It can also be trained against a north-facing wall.
  • Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana has vivid berries that ride out winter intact, perking up a gloomy spot.
  • Snowdrops have no issues with a shady spot and do particularly well under the canopy of a deciduous tree.
  • Thalictrum are gorgeous, airy perennials that produce clusters of starry blooms. Some species can grow to over a meter tall, while others will stay around 20cm in height.
  • Viburnum tinus has shiny, evergreen foliage that sets off the white flowers, which appear from April to December.
  • Wood anemone creates carpets of spring flowers beneath trees. The blooms are often flushed with pink.
  • Geranium macrorrhizum is a beautiful geranium that bears delicate, pale flowers for months on end.
  • Dryopteris is a genus of ferns that includes many species that can be grown in areas of dry shade.
  • Epimediums are great low-maintenance perennials that thrive in dry soil and associate well with plants like hellebores and spring bulbs.

Planting and Care

To give plants in dry shade the best chance, it’s a good idea to spend a bit of time improving the soil before planting. Incorporate plenty of organic matter such as leaf-mold or garden compost to make the soil more moisture-retentive.

Water your plants regularly, especially during hot, dry weather. Mulch around your plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

With a little extra care, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden in even the shadiest spots.

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