12 Plants to Bring Movement and Light to Dry Shade

Gardening in dry shade

There's no getting away from it - it isn't easy to plant truly dry shade successfully.  To give your plants the best chance of survival, there are a number of things you can do to improve the situation.  

Many shady gardens are filled with tough evergreen shrubs, adept at survival under the canopy of trees.  The 12 plants I have selected will complement plants like these by bringing softness, light and dynamic movement into the space. 

Raise the soil level 

  • This is the single best thing you can do - apply a thick organic mulch, such as composted leaves, household compost or bark chippings. If you can, mulch regularly, spring and autumn.  Ask in your local area if there are any good sources of free mulch, such as council compost 
  • Construct raised beds, which can hold more moisture without so much intrusion from thirsty tree roots 

Reduce the density of the shade

  • Remove the lower branches of trees, to allow light to penetrate (employ a tree surgeon if there are large branches to remove)
  • Thin out the branches of deciduous trees to allow light to filter through (best undertaken by a professional, to ensure the shape of the tree is not ruined) 

Get moisture into the soil 

  • Water new plants deeply once a week for the first year to help them to establish
  • A soaker hose or drip irrigation system is not difficult to fit to the outside tap, a timer ensures regular moisture - and you will be able to grow a much larger range of plants, and less water is wasted than with a traditional hose 

Improving your soil and increasing the moisture available to your new plants are the best things you can do to make the most of your dry shady garden or border.  

What's your favourite plant for dry shade?  It's always so difficult to choose a favourite, but for all round elegance, I'd say mine is Cenolophium denudatum (Baltic Parsley).

See the social media links at the bottom of the page if you'd like to connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc., or to email me directly.

For the next post, we'll look at design ideas for tiny terraced courtyard.

Where to buy plants for dry shade online

Long Acre Plants are specialists in plants for shady gardens.

Beth Chatto nursery carries a lot of plants for shade and a fantastic selection of perennials and grasses for sun and shade.

Useful reading

Planting the Dry Shade Garden by Graham Rice