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Plants to grow in a north facing garden


It is likely for sun-lovers, your shaded border will be the part of your garden you will see the most.  You will have placed one of our Lutyens Benches to face into the sun, so you look out on your most shaded border each time you take a moment to enjoy your garden.  To make the most of this space, you will need to identify the best plants that grow in a north facing garden.

When choosing what to plant, you need to be sure of the conditions in your garden.  You have a garden that is in the shade for most of the day and will likely have relatively dry soil.  Therefore, the obvious tip to offer first is to look to the label and seek only plants that love the shade and avoid plants that need well-drained or clay-like soil.  Remember, it is possible to improve your soil by digging in some organic matter like leaf mould.

However, if you would like more certainty, here are some of the best plants that grow in a north facing garden.


Unfairly known better as the Dog’s Tooth Violent, due to its hooked shape, this is a beautiful addition to a border.  You will have to be careful when planting to bring these to the front of the border, as they do not grow that high.  However, if you are looking for a layered look, this is a perfect addition.  Make sure you plant your Dog’s Tooth Violet in autumn for the best results.


Snowdrops are one of our favourite flowers because they emerge amidst the harshness of winter and promise regrowth.  Even though it may be the middle of January or February, you can almost feel the promise of the warmth of a spring sun around the corner.  If you grow snowdrops in sunny areas, the flowers will only last a short time.  Snowdrops grown in your shadiest north border will offer the best display before going dormant until the following year.

Snakes’ head fritillaries

Despite the exotic name, these wonderfully patterned flowers are a native to our shores.  It will love the shade and grow with little trouble to the gardener, just plant and watch.  This is also an important flower to attract your bees and your butterflies, hence It is a common inhabitant of wildflower meadows.  If you want persuading anymore, this flower received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.


You need to know if your soil is acidic or not before planting your rhododendrons and expecting superior results.  They prefer a lot more acid in the ground to thrive. If you have sandy soil, it is best to leave these to a different area.  You also need to check the label, as not all will grow in the shade.  However, if you can plant these lovelies, then you will be rewarded with some spring-time scent and bloom.  It is worth the effort to shop around for your perfect rhododendrons.

Lily of the Valley

It is likely that Lily of the Valley will remind you of your mum or your gran.  Its rich scent is a favourite for creams and bath salts alike.  However, the small and delicate bell-like flowers are a beautiful addition to your shaded border.  It is complemented by its rich-green foliage, which will add some density to your planting.


Although your north-facing border is more than likely filled with dry soil, it is possible that you live in an area that has predominantly boggy ground.  If you do, then try Astilbes who thrive in moisture-rich soils.  There are varieties with pink or with white flowers, to complement other planting.


Hostas are not the most obvious choice for a north-facing border, as they do need some sun to bring on the colour in their leaves.  However, it is likely your border will benefit from some early morning sun that will be just enough to support this bushy beauty.

Hydrangea Vine

Perfect for a summer flowering, this climber will offer a fantastic backdrop to your north-facing border.  This flower will spread along the wall and fences, offering a startling display of colour.  This will die back and shed its leaves in the autumn.  Don’t worry; it will re-emerge like a phoenix next year.  Its power of recovery will continuously amaze you.


We end with the humble fern.  There is such a variety of fern, all of which thrive in the shade.  You might not get the colourful flower display of other plants, but a fern offers essential texture to a border.

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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