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Plants for dry shade


We feel one of the best places to situate your garden bench is in the shade, maybe under a tree, in the corner of your space.  You can sit coolly and calmly admiring the beauty of your garden without fear of sunburn or heat stroke.  You don’t have to sit in a wasteland. You can still make the most of this area with some gorgeous planting.  Therefore, to give you the best of both worlds: a cool seat with beautiful flowers, we offer you this guide to the best plants for dry shade.

If you are looking for a quick general rule before you pop to the garden centre: avoid the large-leaf hostas or rodgersia, especially if planting under a tree.  The tree takes much moisture out of the soil, and this lush foliage must have much moisture in the ground. Also, if you want a quick fix, you could always buy a wildflower mix that would love to be scattered in your shaded area and create a haven for bees and butterflies and other wildlife. If you have time for more detailed advice about your dry border, here are the plants we would choose.


Snowdrops are the heroes of winter.  Just when you think nothing lovely will ever grow again in your grey garden out pops, the white flower gathered in bunches.  You need a cruel heart not to smile when you see your first snowdrop.

Wood Anemones

Wood Anemones are perfect under trees in that offers dry, shaded soil.  They create a blanket of flowers across the earth and offer the most delicate pink blooms.  Snowdrops and wood anemones are perfect partners in your shaded area.  Just as your snowdrops are making their last gasp, out will pop the anemone.

Fatsia Japonica

After starting so simple and so English, we thought we would bring something of the exotic.  Fatsia Japonica is an evergreen plant, hardy as anything, but producing the most incredible explosion of white flowers that will add some height to your shaded area.

Japanese Anemones

We love the Japanese Anemones because they offer flowers into the late summer and early autumn.  It is essential to take any opportunity to extend the flowering season.  You will love the delicate white and purple with a splash of yellow here and there.  The flowers are held on tall stems, which will offer some subtle movement in the breeze.


We guess the clue is the name, as the Dryopteris loves the dry soil of the shaded areas.  This fern offers some drama to a border with extravagant, fan-like leaves.  This is a great way to add some height to a shaded area that might be dominated by flowering shrubs.


Astrantias are delicate flowers that bloom for the summer in clumps.  You can go for more pastel shades of pinks and whites, or something with a bit more oomph, with the deep red.  These might not be the best for under a tree where there may be little water; however, if you dig in some mulch, they may well tolerate the drier area.


Hellebore will be a pleasant surprise in February/ March.  You may expect only to see the hardy delicacy of the snowdrop.  However, this luxurious flower loves to bloom from late winter.  You could get yourself a lovely plum-colour or maybe go for the more dramatic near-black flower.


Ivy thrives in the shade and will spread over a wall or fence to create a blanket of greenery.  You could even use the ivy for ground cover.  The ivy is its own master and if left will quickly take over.  Be wary of allowing it to grow into structures, as it can loosen mortar.  However, you should choose ivy for the drama and the ease.

Lily of the Valley

If you want a delicate flower with a heady fragrance, then you can do no worse that lily of the valley.  It might look like it would lose in a fight, but this is a robust plant that will cover ground and create a dense growth of leaf and flower.


We end with epimediums for those who love nothing more than to plant and walk away.  These perennial flowers thrive even with the most laidback gardener.  They are low-maintenance and love dry soil.  Be aware they are best grown in acidic soil.

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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