Garden Plan for Partial Shade

This garden plan combines easy, adaptable plants to add color to spots that don't see full sun.

Though this garden is primarily shady, it flaunts the rules and plants sunloving perennials. Thankfully, most sun-loving plants will tolerate partial shade during part of the day, although they won't bloom as profusely as they would in the sun. Regardless, they add color under trees and along paths.

Featuring plants of various heights, the border is a showcase for perennials such as daylilies and phlox. It also includes an array of annuals, such as coleus, which boasts splashes of variegated, lacy foliage, and petunias, which furnish nonstop color all season long.

To minimize upkeep, incorporate garden workhorses—shrubs—in a border. They can bloom, provide berries, display interesting foliage and bark, and take up a large amount of space in a bed.

Our free Planting Guide for this garden includes an illustrated version of the plan, a detailed layout diagram, a list of plants for the garden as shown, and complete instructions for installing the garden. (Free, one-time registration allows unlimited access to Planting Guides for all garden plans.)

Plant List

  • 2 Petunia: Annual
  • 2 Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens): Annual
  • 1 Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie'): Zones 9–11; annual elsewhere
  • 4 Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides): Annual
  • 9 Hosta spp.: Zones 3–8
  • 1 Persicaria polymorpha: Zones 3–8
  • 5 Daylily: (Hemerocallis spp.): Zones 3–10
  • 3 Garden phlox: (Phlox paniculata): Zones 3–8
  • 1 Hydrangea arborescens: Zones 4–9
  • 2 Shrub verbena: (Lantana 'Samantha'): Zones 7–11
  • 2 Asparagus fern: (Asparagus densiflorus): Zones 9–11; annual elsewhere

Design Checklist

Scale. Make your garden fit its environment. A large home with a small garden appears to loom over the space, making the garden seem even smaller than it is. A small home surrounded by an extensive garden often gets lost in the landscape. The oversize garden also quickly looks overgrown, even if it's not.

Focal point. Create a focal point to capture attention and give substance to an area. A garden focal point can be as simple as a single large tree or as ornate as a fountain or sculpture. Scale counts here, too. The size and number of focal points in your garden should be proportionate to the space.

Color. To make a statement, plant groups of one color or one variety. For example, a mound of yellow coneflower (Rudbeckia) or a sea of bee balm (Monarda) injects drama into a landscape. There's strength in numbers.

Texture. Use textures to make your garden perform year-round; don't rely on color alone. Choose plants with varied leaf sizes; lacy, glossy, dull, and variegated foliage; shapely branches; and interesting bark.

Line. Define your garden's character (whether formal or casual) by conscious combinations of straight and curving lines. In general, straight lines mean a formal garden, and curving lines create a more relaxed feel.

Repetition. Repeat plants throughout your garden. Spread them out to achieve a balanced look and use their shapes and colors to unify the space.

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