The 10 Best Shade-happy Plants for a North-facing Garden

August 27, 2021 Tom Luck

If you have a north-facing garden that spends long stretches of the day in the shade then you will know the struggle of getting plants to thrive. Don’t be left in the dark with these top 10 shade-happy planting picks!

A north-facing garden is, as the name suggests, a garden that faces north. Since we’re talking about vertical gardens, this can refer to balconies, courtyards and other outdoor spaces.

North-facing gardens will have partial or full shade for most of the day. This can make it more difficult to grow and care for plants. However, some plants will prefer the cool, shaded conditions rather than a day spent soaking up the sun. Here are the ten best shade-happy plants that will brighten up your vertical garden.

Asplenium (spleenworts)

Asplenium is a short, compact fern with leaves that resemble long green tongues. When planted as part of a mixed-display, the leaves splay out in vibrant starbursts. When planted vertically in groups, the leaves create interest with a unique textured effect.

Heuchera (Coral bells) 

Heucheras are near-enough evergreen and have large leaves that are perfect for adding that much-needed splash of colour to any north-facing display. The options are almost endless, from subtle blushes to big, bold blooms. They are great for butterflies, offering a vital out-of-season supply of pollen during the autumn.

Liriope muscari ‘big blue’ (big blue lilyturf)

‘Big blue’ will add a beautiful focal point to your north-facing living wall when flowering (Aug to Nov), especially when other flowers are starting to fade. The blade-like leaves stay green throughout the rest of the year. It is the perfect contrast to larger leaved plants and is super hardy—do your worst, shade!

Polystichum (Shield ferns) 

This is a truly hardy evergreen fern that provides interest and texture to your living wall all year round. Polystichum is ideal for those who love a low-maintenance plant. Once planted, it can thrive without much attention.

Cyrtomium falcatum (Japanese holly fern)

Another plant that offers year-long greenery is the Japanese holly fern. Equally suited indoors and outdoors, it will add a dash of the subtropical to your display. Fun fact: A native of eastern Asia, it grows from crevices in coastal cliffs, stream banks and rocky slopes, so it will feel right at home in even your topmost trough.

Hedra Helix (Common Ivy)

Hedra Helix offers multiple planting options: You can let it trail over the sides of the PlantBox, keep it well pruned, or allow it to climb if planted against a wall. This last option is superb if you want your display to really take over your garden!

Erysimum ‘bowles mauve’

With a beautiful bounty of colour, this woody-stemmed perennial will bloom bright mauve flowers atop its tall spires for months on end. This will make a welcome addition to any north-facing living wall display containing lots of evergreen plants.

Bergenia (Elephant’s ears ‘Purpurea’)

With a name like Elephant’s ears you know this plant will make a big impression: ‘Purpurea’ has round, leathery leaves and stand-out clusters of white or pink bell-shaped flowers. The stem (or, as we like to think, “trunk”) of the flowers can grow 50cm in height and are perennial. The evergreen leaves will continue to add colour long after summer has ended. Berginia loves the sun as much as it does the shade, and works equally well in south-facing gardens.

Dryopteris (Wood fern)

This is the fern for creating that full, lush green look and is a must-have for those who want to grow a real urban jungle. Wood ferns are suitable for especially dry shade and can cope easily once established.

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

This compact evergreen shrub boasts aromatic leaves and small fragrant flowers of yellow or white during the spring. The foliage will stay green throughout the year.

How PlantBox Helps

We understand that traditional planting isn’t always practical. That’s where PlantBox comes in: The stackable, eco-friendly vertical garden that packs large amounts of plants into even the smallest of spaces. PlantBox also makes caring for your vertical garden easy: Go weeks between watering and know exactly when and how much to top up. Made from 100% recycled materials, PlantBox is designed to best fit your home and is ideal for balconies, roof gardens, courtyards, conservatories and is even suitable indoors. £1 from every PlantBox goes to the PlantBox Trust, a charity which provides access to nature where it is needed. Join the growing revolution for a greener future! Find out more.

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