Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Horticulture and Crop Science

2021 Coffey Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43210-1086

Herbaceous Ornamentals for Shade


Hope Weber

Nearly every garden or landscape has a shady spot. Shadows may be cast from overhead branches, nearby buildings, plants, fences or walls and may change with the time of day or year. These areas need not be barren or simply mulch covered but may support a variety of plants.

Shade varies considerably but is generally classified as deep shade (D), medium shade (M) or intermittent shade (I). Deep shade never receives any direct sunlight and is found at the base of the north side of buildings or other structures, under the boughs of needled evergreens or low-branching broadleaf evergreen trees and shrubs. Foliage plants may grow here but few plants flower, if at all. Areas of medium shade are those under densely branched, deciduous trees in leaf, areas receiving reflected light or on the north side of buildings with unobstructed sky. Most plants will grow in medium shade but not necessarily thrive, and sufficient light is received for flower production on some, like impatiens. Partial or intermittent shade is the dappled sunlight shining through sparsely branched, deciduous trees in leaf, the filtered light of arbors or trellises and areas that are sunlit for part of the day (less than six hours) or only seasonally.

When selecting plants for shady locations, also remember to consider all requirements for good plant growth: soil type and pH, hardiness zone, moisture needs, and possible pests and diseases. Although modification of a site to meet a plant's needs is possible, greater success is achieved when selected plants and sites are well matched. Below is a listing of suggested plants for the shade garden. Unless otherwise indicated, plants listed here prefer average, well-drained soils with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5 and are hardy in zone 5. For individual plant characteristics (height, flower color, uses,etc), check the gardening section at the library.



All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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