Plants that Thrive in the Shade

Creating shaded areas around your home is crucial, especially if you live in a climate with very hot summers. Blinds are useful for cutting down heat penetration through windows and retractable awnings can provide small oases of shade around the perimeters of your home.

But not all plants do well on a covered patio or in a sunless garden, so it’s important to choose those that will thrive in areas with less sunlight. The following is a brief summary of some of the most popular shade-loving varieties. Keep in mind though that there are a number of different types or degrees of shade, including dappled, deep, damp and dry shade, so it’s important to consider this when choosing plants for shaded areas.

  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum spp) – with over 200 different species, this is Australia’s most widely grown fern. It can grow to about a metre in height and is very cold-hardy, doing best in dappled shade.
  • Oyster Plant (Acanthus mollis) – with large glossy green leaves and impressive white and purple flowers on tall, spikes during summer, this plant grows well in damp shade or dappled light.
  • Begonia (Begoniaceae) – this plant comes in many different varieties and sizes. It has colourful foliage, often beautifully marked or covered with fine hairs, and grows well in damp shade or dappled light.
  • Cyclamen (Primulaceae) – this tuberous perennial has heart-shaped leaves and beautiful pink and burgundy downward-facing flowers. It will grow equally well in dappled light or deep shade.
  • Camellia (Theaceae) – with more than 300 different species, camellias have glossy green toothed leaves and showy flowers in winter and they thrive in dappled light or deep shade.
  • Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon) – this is not actually a grass at all, but a lily. It makes excellent ground cover in darker areas, as it thrives in deep shade.
  • Clivea (Clivia miniata) – this plant has glossy dark green leaves and clusters of bright orange or salmon trumpet-shaped flowers. It will grow well in most shady areas and does not require a lot of water.
  • Lily Turf (Liriope muscari) – this evergreen perennial has green or variegated leaves and bell-shaped purple flowers. It grows well in damp or dry shade.
  • Hellebores (Ranunculaceae) – with beautiful nodding flowers in winter in a variety of different colours, these plants thrive in dappled light and must be kept moist. They will grow in deep shade, but leaf growth will be reduced.
  • Loropetalum (Hamamelidaceae) – an evergreen shrub with small oval-shaped green or burgundy leaves and bright spring flowers, this plant does best in dappled rather than deep shade.
  • Hosta (Hosta spp) – a frost-tolerant perennial with trumpet-shaped flowers, this plant has 40 different species and does well in dappled light or damp shade.

Your local plant nursery will also be able to help you identify varieties of plants that thrive in the shade. Most good nurseries have an extensive shade house where you’ll find the plants you need and hopefully this article has given you more of an idea of what varieties to look for.