Designing a shady flowerbed

Designing a shady flowerbed may seem complex, but a judicious selection of shrubs and perennials can create a lush, serene garden even in the least sunny areas. Whether your garden is located under a large tree, next to a building, or in an area that simply doesn't get much sun, a well-designed shady bed can thrive with the right plants and a little care. Here's a guide to help you build a shady flowerbed using a selection of shrubs and perennials.

Shrubs for shade

Shrubs provide essential structure to your shaded flowerbed. They provide height, seasonal interest and, often, color. Some particularly interesting shrubs suited to shade are Taxus (yew), Cornus (dogwood), Microbiota and Sambucus (elderberry).

Taxus (top center in photo) Yews are evergreen shrubs that add a beautiful dark green color to your flowerbed. They are extremely adaptable and can grow in partial or full shade. Their shapes vary from pyramidal to spherical, adding structure to your garden. 

Cornus (The 'Ivory Halo' variety pictured top right) Dogwoods are spectacular shrubs, known for their colorful bark and autumn foliage. They thrive in shade and add a splash of color to your garden during the winter months when the colorful bark of the twigs is most visible. 

Microbiota decussata(Bottom of photo) This dwarf conifer is perfect for shady areas. With its spreading branches and limited growth height, it's ideal for covering the ground and adding a soft texture to your flowerbed.

Sambucus canadensis: (variety 'Aurea', center right in photo) This resilient shrub is distinguished by its white or pink summer flowers and bird-attractive autumn berries. Sambucus combines aesthetic appeal with ease of maintenance and height.

Perennials for shade

Once you've chosen your shrubs, it's time to complete your flowerbed with perennials that thrive in shade. These plants add color, movement and texture, and come back year after year.

Aralia Aralia: These are exotic plants with lobed leaves. They thrive in shade, adding structure and interest to your garden, while attracting pollinators with their small white flowers. The 'Sun King' variety in the photo is a striking soft green.

Brunnera Brunnera: With their large, heart-shaped leaves and delicate blue flowers, they're perfect for adding texture to your flowerbed. They are hardy and thrive in shade. There are several varieties, each as different as the next.

Astilbe Astilbe is a remarkable shade plant, with its feathery, colorful flowers and attractive foliage. It's ideal for adding color and movement to your garden.

Cimicifuga Cimicifuga are elegant perennials with purple leaves and white or pink flowers. They adapt well to partial or total shade, adding height and structure to your garden.

Heuchera Heuchera: Heuchera are known for their colorful foliage, which ranges from purple to gold. They add color to shade and their rounded shape is perfect for creating contrast with plants with finer foliage.

Campanula: These perennials are characterized by their bell-shaped flowers, which can be blue, violet, pink or white. They grow well in full sun or part shade, and prefer well-drained soil. Bellflowers bloom from early summer to late summer.


Dicentra spectabilisDicentras, or bleeding hearts, are perennials distinguished by their hanging, heart-shaped flowers. With their delicate foliage, they add a touch of charm and lightness to your garden, while offering a beautiful bloom in spring. The 'Goldheart' variety is a beautiful yellow that adds a touch of sparkle.

Hosta Hosta: These hardy, broad-leaved perennials come in a variety of greens, and can be variegated with white or yellow. They thrive in partial or full shade, providing a low, dense structure to your garden while producing delicate flower stalks in summer.