Sometimes, growing conditions aren’t ideal for plants, even outdoors. Maybe you live under tree cover, surrounded by other homes, or just have a home that faces away from the sun more than it does toward it. Despite a lack of light, you can still have loads of greenery and landscaping outside. Many plants can withstand lower light conditions, but it may cause slower growth or lessen variegation in the leaves.
Even though these plants don’t require much light, that doesn’t mean they can survive in the deep shade. Not all plants are shade tolerant, and even those require a little sun every now and again. No matter where you’re living, with the right soil conditions and just a little bit of light, you too can have an Instagram-worthy outdoor garden.
English ivy, which is also often grown as an indoor houseplant, is a shade-loving climber. Not only does it spread super easily (it’s considered invasive in some areas), but it does well in moist, shady conditions. Just make sure it isn’t exposed to full sunlight in the afternoon—it can burn the thin leaves. If you don’t live in a humid area, you can mist the leaves to give them a little more moisture.
Pink Lady’s Slipper
Who says having means you can’t have any colorful plants? This pink lady’s slipper boasts white and pink flowers that are shaped like, well, slippers. These are actually a wildflower, and they are part of the orchid family. They normally live in the forest, meaning they are often in shaded areas under trees.
These flowers don’t actually produce seeds, so they would require transplanting from another area to get into your garden.
These colorful blossoms are impatiens, and they can grow both in the ground and in containers. Their flowers come in just about any color you can imagine, including deep blues and purples. While these flowers don’t need a ton of sun, they do like a lot of water. Be sure to keep the soil consistently moist (but not sopping wet) so they can grow and flower.
Sometimes all you need is a little flower to bring some life to shady spots in the yard. Forget-me-nots are known for their tiny blue blooms, and they’re rather easy to care for. They do well in cool, wet areas, and they can even grow in rather muddy soil. In Kensington Palace’s White Garden, forget-me-nots nearly cover the entire landscape. They serve as a tribute to Princess Diana, as they were one of her favorite flowers.
Perhaps one of the easiest plants to grow, in nearly any condition, are chives. They have bright green stalks that shoot out of the ground, and both the leaves and flowers are edible. Granted, chives aren’t the most beautiful plant in the world, but they add lots of texture to a garden or landscape. Be sure to either harvest the chives shortly after they flower, as the flowers spread seeds and the plant can easily overtake gardens.
While hydrangeas prefer at least partial sunlight, they can survive in shade. Blooms will be smaller and less frequent, but you’ll still be able to enjoy the colorful flowers once they bloom. When it comes to planting them, be sure to dig a rather deep hole to cover the plant’s root ball. Build a mound around the base of the plant to encourage water drainage, and be sure to plant in well-draining soil, as hydrangeas are prone to root rot.
There’s something about thick, luscious ferns that will always look inviting and cheerful. These are perhaps some of the easiest shade-loving plants to take care of, as they really require little care to thrive. They’re used to living on the forest floor where light is scarce, and they can survive with sparse watering. Ferns will even survive cold winters, so there’s no need to plant new every year.
The cheerful, poppy-like anemone flower is actually a wildflower, and it thrives in partial shade (just make sure it gets at least 4 hours of sun a day). It loves living in rich, moist soil, and it will spread quickly on its own. They often bloom in the spring and fall, gracing your garden with lovely pops of pink, blue, and white depending on the species you plant. In the fall, simply cut the stalks to the ground when the flowers die, and they should come back the next year.
You may have seen these purple petals growing around your yard on their own, without anyone planting them there. Crocus are some of the first plants to push through the soil after winter thaws each year, and their cheerful lavender blooms are sure to bring a smile to anyone who passes. They can tolerate moderate shade, but don’t do well under full shade. They are hardy plants that come back every year, making it a great perennial choice for those who don’t want to start anew each spring.
If you’re looking to add some color to a window flower box or flower bed, nasturtiums can grow as both a trailing plant and as a bushier, ground plant. They will grow flowers in partial shade, but blooms will be more plentiful the more light they receive.
Not only does this plant boast bright red and yellow flowers, but they’re also edible. Add the flowers and leaves to a salad for a peppery taste similar to arugula.
We love the fluffy flowers on astilbe plants. They are another low-maintenance plant that requires little light and somewhat regular watering. Not only are they easy to care for, but they’re also perennial, meaning they’ll come back year after year. For the best results, plant these in the spring or fall (not the heat of the summer) and water them regularly until you see new growth. Letting them dry out in the beginning can cause the plant to die.