As residential land shrinks in size, there are many reasons that a garden might lack sun, even if it is north facing. Sun can be blocked by a tree or neighbouring building. Your own house might also cast shadows on your garden throughout the day depending on its height and surroundings.

If it’s shady at your place and you love flowers, don’t despair. There are many plants to grow that embrace the shade. Here’s our pick of the best from the ground up.


Clockwise from main: A close-up of Australian native violet; Australian native violet used as groundcover; blue pratia.


Best flowering groundcover for shade

Australian native violet (Viola hederacea) loves the shade. It has small heart-shaped green leaves and mauve violet-like flowers. One plant can cover around 30-90cm but grows just 10cm high. Keep moist for best growth. Honorable mentions go to guinea flower (Hibbertia scandens), a native groundcover with yellow flowers, and pratia (Pratia pedunculata), which is covered with white or blue star-shaped blooms from late spring right through until autumn.


Clockwise from main: Pink potted hydrangeas; multi-coloured hydrangeas mass planted in a garden bed; Camellia japonica 'Betty Ridley'.


Best flowering shrub for shade

Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) flowers beautifully in shade. It is an ideal choice for the eastern or southern side of a property or to grow in the shade of a building or fence. Prune in winter when plants are dormant. Keep plants well watered in summer when they are in bloom with blue, pink or white flowers. An honorable mention goes to camellia (Camellia japonica), an evergreen shrub with showy winter flowers.


Clockwise from main: Lilly Pilly Syzygium 'Cascade'; gardenia; murraya.


Best flowering hedge plant for shade

Lilly pilly (Acmena smithii and Syzygium cultvars) is usually grown for its evergreen leaves but in spring to early summer it is massed in white flowers that form colourful berries. Keep well watered for best flowering and growth. Prune after flowering (or delay pruning until later if berries are desired). Size varies from under a metre high to 3m+ depending on variety. Honorable mentions go to Murraya and gardenia which both have fragrant white flowers in spring and summer.


Clockwise from main: Cercis 'Forest Pansy'; crepe myrtles; deciduous magnolia.


Best flowering tree for shade

Cercis (Cercis siliquastrum and canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’) have tiny mauve flowers in later winter to early spring on the bare branches before the leaves appear. The tree also puts on a show in autumn when its leaves colour. As the tree is leafless in winter it allows the winter sun to shine through. Trees grow to around 5-6m high. Honorable mentions go to magnolia – both evergreen and deciduous – and crepe myrtle.


Clockwise from main: Pansy; Viola; Primula.


Best flowering annual/perennial for shade

Pansies and violas flower well in shade especially through winter. They can be grown in the garden or in containers. Plant in autumn for months of annual colour. Keep plants in flower by regularly deadheading and liquid feeding every two weeks. An honorable mention goes to primula, which has stems of pretty pink, white or purple flowers in winter. For summer flowers in shade select Thousand Wonders begonias or vinca.


Clockwise from main: Cane begonia; impatiens; daphne.


Best flowering shade plant for growing in pots

Begonias are hard to beat for flowers in shade and grow well in containers. Begonias also have boldly patterned leaves. An honorable mention goes to impatiens for summer blooms. Also ideal as a flowering pot plant is daphne (Daphne odora), which has fragrant pink flowers in winter.