Shade Garden Ideas

The shady spots of your yard can be a welcoming retreat with the right planning, plants, and landscaping. We’ve got the perfect shade gardening ideas for the areas of your yard that don’t see full sun.

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Stone Bridge Shaded Garden

backyard landscaping slope

A waterway with a stone bridge adds visual interest while keeping moisture levels under control. A wide variety of foliage and textures keep the area visually interesting despite a lack of flowering plants. Large pots provide further visual interest and pops of color.

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Wooded Landscape Garden

Shade Garden

Just a few plants provide enough visual contrast for a heavily shaded space. The shape of a path can speed or slow people through a landscape. Here, gentle curves wind their way through a shady space, prompting visitors to stop and admire the plants. Placed at a curve in the path, a large boulder acts as both an element of visual interest and a respite area. The geometric layout of the path’s pavers stands in contrast to the soft lines of the flowerbeds. Relying on shades of yellow-green and white, the foliage of the plants, such as lady ferns, sweet woodruffBrunnera, and Lenten rose, provide primary visual interest.

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Stairs and Stream Shaded Garden

Shade Garden

A slim water feature and rhythmic plantings provide a peaceful, shaded setting. Stairs placed close to the water curve gently down the shaded slope, creating an interesting landscape shape. A stepped-down stream appears natural as it trickles over large stones and plants grow closely at its edges. Variegated hostas offer visual relief from the mostly deep green tones of the landscape. The expansive garden relies on large swaths of just a few densely spaced plants. Golden foliage is a perfect focal point for shade. Here a golden carex and series of ‘Gold Bullion’ hosta practically shine.

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Shaded Curved Garden

Shade Garden

A few varietals of a single plant provide the basis for this shade garden. A variegated ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood plays up the garden’s white-and-light-green color scheme and offers a vertical interest point. Proving that a single plant needn’t equal garden boredom, various hostas provide a pleasant mix of leaf size and color composition. A neat path of spaced-out flagstone pavers gently guides visitors through the garden. The chunky flagstones contrast the rounded hosta foliage. A tidy application of mulch retains water, inhibits weed growth, and helps the hostas pop. A patch of shade-tolerant grass undulates around the edges of the hostas, providing some visual relief.

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Shaded Path Garden

Shade Garden

Vigorous shade lovers fill in the nooks around full-size trees. Tree branches provide a casual edging between garden plants and path. Nearly hidden from view, a rustic wood bench offers a restful slice under the tree canopy. Bright pink and red impatiens—which love shady environs—pop against the mostly green and white plants. Intermittent plantings of caladium pick up on the bright visual blooms of the impatiens.

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Shaded Gazebo Garden

Shade Garden

A wood structure offers a restful spot at the center of a shade garden. Garden ornaments, such as a metal globe/sundial, are playful accents to the plants. An open-air gazebo at the top of a gentle slope hosts a table and seats. Draw birds and butterflies with extras, such as a ground-level birdbath. Placed at the entrance to the gazebo, a large urn supports an abundant growth of bright red begonias. Deep pink astilbes positioned along the path provide bright pops of color and draw the eye up to the gazebo.

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Simple Shaded Garden

Shade Garden

Skip a complex plant selection for a few plants that cope well with the lack of sun. The size and shape of stairs through a landscape directs the mood of the garden. Here, deep and wide stones gracefully rise up the shaded, woody slope. Fill a landscape border with plants. Here sweet woodruff clusters around the edges of the stairs. Look to nature to provide easy-care plant inspiration, such as these ferns, which love the dappled light and wet feet of the wooded landscape. Dainty plants often offer unexpected shade blooms, such as purple Japanese primroses. Hostas love the low light of a shade garden and will reward with vigorous growth.

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Shaded Garden Sitting Area

Shade Garden

Sited at the crest of a shaded hill, two chairs create a nook in which to enjoy the shade garden. Outdoor furniture is an intrinsic element in a garden landscape. Graceful metal garden chairs, perched at the rise of a gentle slope, present a relaxing spot to enjoy the garden. Springtime annuals, including yellow pansies, provide late-fall and then early-spring color. Midheight shrubs, such as rhododendrons, work wonders in a shaded landscape to supply structure year-round. Typically reserved for porches, hanging baskets such as the one above the two chairs can be used to create garden vignettes elsewhere. Without being too densely planted, the shade lovers in this garden dot the landscape with both color and foliage interest.

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Shaded Garden on a Bend

Shade Garden

A few hardscape elements dress up a heavily shaded walk that connects a front yard to a backyard. Large, irregularly spaced pavers repeat the gentle curve of the flowerbed and fence. A whimsical garden sculpture holds an overflowing basket of trailing plants. An archway marks the end of the path, providing a cue that there’s more to explore. Lamiastrum grown as a groundcover is a fun substitution for traditional mulch. Repeated plants — here, shade-loving ferns — offer visual consistency.

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Shaded Garden With a Focal Point

Shade Garden

A path undulates through the abundant forested undergrowth. A graceful walkway that grows wider and narrower lends the landscape a casual feel. Trimmed of lower branches, a tall spruce shields the sun but doesn’t block sauntering underneath. Skip the plastic edging for a more distinctive material. Here, irregularly stacked 2x2s offer both visual and vertical interest. At the back of a shaded area, large-scale plants, such as these interesting Dexter’s Purple and Taj Mahal rhododendrons, can provide a statement for the garden in both color and design. Instead of repeating the same plants, this garden groups larger single swaths of shady standbys, such as hostas, bleeding heartdianthus, white alyssum, and viola.

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Shaded Canopy Garden

Shade Garden

A surprising stretch of green grass combines with flagstones for an irresistible shade garden. Vary plant spacing so some are close together and others have more breathing room. It allows visual resting spots for the eye. Decorative metal spikes informally delineate twists and turns in a winding path. Suspended from a tree, a metal planter holds a burst of delicate blooms from Diamond Frost euphorbia. Two paths—one made of widely spaced pavers, the other a mowed grassy walkway—intersect but don’t intertwine. Under the cover of overhead trees, woodland shrubs such as spirea and shade-tolerant variegated hostas welcome dappled sun.