Gardening with native plants in the shade

Listen in to my Gardening in the Shade episode of In the Dirt, on Hunters Bay Radio.


Types of Shade

Before we dive into plants for the shade garden, let’s first figure out what kind of light conditions you have.


Full Sun is six or more hours of direct sunlight per day. This doesn’t need to be continuous, for example, there could be four hours in the morning, shade midday, and three or four hours of sun in the afternoon. Plants for Full Sun

Part Sun is between four and six hours of sun a day. Plants for Part Sun

Part Shade is two to four hours of sun per day. Plants for Part Shade

Full Shade is than two hours of sunlight a day. Plants for Full Shade


BUT, there are also different types of shade. You may come across the terms light shade, dappled or filtered shade, and heavy shade. They may be characterized as follows:

  • Light shade or dappled shade sites receive partially filtered sun, such as that found under open canopied trees like a cherry or birch tree, where there is an ever-moving pattern of sun and shade.
  • Heavy or dense shade is a site with no direct sunlight, such as at the base of a north-facing wall or below dense evergreen trees.


Morning Sun vs. Afternoon Sun

Did you know that the afternoon sun is more intense? If your garden gets 2 hours of sun in the afternoon, compared to 2 hours of sun in the morning, the plants receiving the afternoon sun will absorb more light.




Shrubs for shade





Plant for Dry Shade


Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium


Late Bloomers

So often, a shade garden is done flowering by June. Here are a few plants that will add some colour to your garden well into the summer and fall.

  • Blue-stemmed Goldenrod, Solidago caesia
  • Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa
  • Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima
  • Witch-hazelHamamelis virginiana


Moist to Wet Shade


Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis



Can you have a wildlife or pollinator garden in the shade?

Short answer is yes!  You can still support pollinators with a shade garden, it will just support them differently by providing them with pollen and nectar sources earlier in the season.  There are also many larval host plants for shade gardens.

Plants for pollinators in the shade


Under the Trees, Native Plant Shade Garden KitUnder the Trees  Shade Kit

Add some colour to a forest garden or a shady part of your garden.

2 Foxglove Beardtongue
2 Wild Geranium
2 Zig-zag Goldenrod
2 Foamflower
2 Bottlebrush Grass
2 Cinnamon Fern

Best suited for full to part shade locations with medium soil.

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