Shade Rock Garden – Growing A Rock Garden In Shade

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

One of the more appealing contrasting elements in the garden are rocks and plants. They form a perfect foil for each other and shade loving rock garden plants thrive in the spare nutrient conditions of the sandy, silty soil used to hold a rockery together.

Building a rock garden in shade is a little more difficult, as the usual rockery plants like sunlight. However, it can be done with the right soil and selection of plants.

Shade Rock Garden Tips

Any rock garden usually features low growing plants that produce flowers or interesting foliage. When developing a rock garden for shade, you can’t rely on these traditional alpine plants, but there are plenty of specimens that will thrive in the shadows.

Keep a low profile when selecting shade plants for a rock garden, so you can show off both the beauty of the flora and the rocks.

Rock gardens are great for spaces that need a little dimension, slopes, and areas that must be built up and stabilized. The plants that exist in such a structure are usually drought tolerant once established, making a rockery a water-wise feature. Creating a rock garden in shade is just a bit more challenging but only in plant choice.

The soil can be similar for a shade rock garden if you choose plants that thrive in drier conditions. If you want plants that need to be kept moist though, use soil with some compost to help hold in moisture and provide nutrients.

Consider how much shade you get in the area. Plant options will depend upon whether the area is full or partial sun.

Choosing Shade Plants for a Rock Garden

Shade loving rock garden plants should still provide color and interesting foliage, along with a lower profile so rocks can show off. A mixture of plants that bloom at different times of the year and those with foliage that have interest such as striping, stippling, or uniquely patterned leaves should be used. The whole affair should blend seamlessly, covering some rocks, but allowing some to be exposed.

Some good plant choices are:

  • Miniature Hostas
  • Cyclamen
  • Saxifraga
  • Lungwort
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Japanese Painted Fern
  • Coral bells
  • Ajuga
  • Liriope
  • Epimedium
  • Spurge
  • Big Root Geranium
  • Deadnettle

Caring for Shady Rock Gardens

When developing a rock garden for shade, make sure the site drains well. Rocky crevasses that hold boggy water are not suitable for most plants. If necessary, install perforated pipe through the center to move excess moisture away from plant roots.

All shade plants will need supplemental, regular water as they establish. Once roots are firmly entrenched, most can withstand brief periods of dryness, but best growth will occur with a regular watering regimen.

Even drought tolerant plants can benefit with a light application of a balanced fertilizer in spring.

Most shade loving rockery plants do not need pruning but remove dead blooms and stems for best appearance. With very little maintenance you can enjoy a shady rockery that fills a gap in the landscape.

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Read more about Shade Gardens

Easy to Grow Shade Plants

So, you want to grow a garden, but your yard lacks sunshine. If you think you can’t grow beautiful plants and flowers in a yard full of shade, think again. There are many different varieties of easy to grow shade plants that add attraction and color to the yard.

When you think of a colorful garden, you probably envision a bright, sunny location filled with colorful blossoms and striking foliage. However, many plant varieties do not like the sun and thrive best in partial to full shade. Planting these types of flowers and plants brings life to forgotten areas of the yard.


  • Easy-Growing Shade Plants
    • What Types of Plants are Good for Shaded Areas?
    • Can I Plant Shade Plants in the Sun?
    • Can I Grow Shade Plants Under a Tree?
    • How Do I Plant a Shaded Garden?
    • Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)
    • Geranium (Pelargonium) – Easy to Grow Shade Plant with Colorful Blooms
    • Astilbe (Astilbe Chinensis)
    • Coral Bells (Heuchera) – Easy Growing Shade Plant with Colorful Foliage
    • Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)
    • Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta) – Exotic Flowering Shade Plant
    • Hosta (Hosta)
    • Deadnettle (Lamium) – Long Blooming Shade Plant
    • Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra)
    • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) – Highly Fragrant, Shade Plants
    • Begonia (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)
    • Wood Fern (Dryopteris) – Textured Shade Loving Plant
    • Trillium (Trillium)
    • Ground Orchid (Spathoglottis plicata) – Exotic Flowering Shade Plant that is Easy to Grow

4. Blue Moon Woodland Phlox or Wild Sweet William

Fragrant Blue Moon Woodland Phlox or Wild Sweet William is a native groundcover with rich violet blue blooms that appear over the foliage from April to May. A true rock star in your rock garden, Blue Moon Phlox grows between 8 to 12 inches tall in zones 3 to 8 in normal or wet moist soil. A perennial Blue Moon Phlox is deer resistant, attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds, and likes garden areas that are full shade to half Sun and half shade.

25 Shade-Loving Plants For Containers And Hanging Baskets

It’s great to spend some spots in your garden for shade-loving plants. They will add a charming view to your garden. Some can even support the growth of other plants in your garden. If you get interested, you may try growing them in borders, edges, and garden fence. But the point here is many of these shade-loving plants look cool and thrive in containers and hanging baskets. Why not give this gardening idea a go?

We’ve rounded up 25 shade-loving plants for containers and hanging baskets. If you’re finding some plants that do well and look pretty in these, just give this collection a look. You can keep your plants indoors or out. They will liven up your space. But be sure to choose the right containers or hanging basket for your plants and give them proper care, of course.

1. Succulent

Not all succulents appreciate the sun. There are several varieties that do better in light shade, especially during the summer months. They can tolerate some morning sun, but the scorching afternoon sun may fry them to a crisp. Here are some of the most popular species: fairy crassula, sedum, aloe vera, jade, devil’s backbone, many different kinds of Sansevieria (snake plant) and kalanchoe.

2. Fuchsia

Fuchsia loves living at temps between 55° to 80° Fahrenheit, if the thermometer consistently stays higher than that they’ll probably stop flowering. You can find it in a variety of colors with unique flowers, most all of which spill beautifully over the sides of hanging baskets and tall containers. Fuchsias will easily thrive in regions with naturally cool summers. In warmer climates, they perform best in fall.

3. Begonia

Begonia comes in a variety. The topline way to divide them up is by root type. Tuberous begonias are a herbaceous perennial that is usually grown outdoors. Begonias with fine-fibrous root systems are best as houseplants. Both kinds thrive in low light and well-drained soil.

4. Hydrangea

Some hydrangea varieties look pretty cool in pot dwellers. All you need to do is provide it with sufficient water. They’ll need more water than those grown directly in the garden soil. Keep your hydrangea pots in the spot where they best receive morning sun and afternoon shade in all climates.

5. Hosta

Hosta is also commonly grown in pots. All hostas prefer rich, well-drained soil, and do best in part shade, although some varieties can tolerate a little direct sunshine. Make sure that you provide ample water and spread mulch around them to help retain moisture. Its spikey white to lavender blooms attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. Unfortunately, their leafy green foliage is a tasty treat for deer and rabbits.

6. Astilbe

Who can’t resist these beautiful perennial shade flowers? Astilbes are prized for their feathery, plume-like blooms that will stand above ferny foliage making them the perfect thriller in a mixed container garden. Once blooming, these will attract butterflies and look great in fresh floral arrangements. Astilbes can range in size from 6″ to 24″, so make sure that you choose the right variety that will fit your containers.

7. Heucheras

Heucheras also come by the name coral bells or alumroot. This hardy perennial is striking in borders with other shade-loving perennials, but they also look fabulous planted solo in containers. It prefers partial shade but can take more sun in cold climates.

8. Carex ‘Toffee Twist’

Carex ‘Toffee Twist’ will bring a new breath to your garden. It’s slender, bronze-green foliage that forms a loose mound to 18″ tall and 12″ wide. A cool-season grass, ‘Toffee Twist’ grows actively in spring and fall — whenever temperatures stay below about 75° F. It thrives in moist, well-drained soil or potting soil in part shade to full sun. Cut back by two-thirds in early spring for its healthy growth.

9. Clematis

There are about 300 species of clematis and an even bigger number of hybrids. To grow them at your house, you should check with your local extension or garden center to see what does well in your area. I really love vining clematis as it looks wonderful in a container climbing up an arbor, pergola or trellis. This plant thrives in moist, well-drained soil.

10. Hakone Grass, Siberian Bugloss + Heuchera

Looking for a cascading basket full of dramatic texture and earthy color for your garden? A mix of hakone grass (aka – Japanese forest grass), two varieties of heuchera (aka – coral bells) and Siberian bugloss come as the rescue. Hakone grass is one of the best ornamental grasses for shade containers as it grows slowly and spills nicely.

With foliage this exquisite, fancy-leaved caladium doesn’t even need flowers to steal the show. Translucent as stained glass, caladium’s large arrow-shaped leaves on long stalks are banded or blotched with various combinations of red, rose, pink, white, silver, bronze, or green. They’re best suited to pots in shady summer verandas, preferring tropical weather (70° and humid).

Keep Them Happy: These gorgeous plants are best adapted to Zones 23 and 24, but in protected summer gardens they’ll fare well in Zones 12, 13, 16, 17, and 22 (or in greenhouses). Outside the tropics, grow these tender perennials in rich, well-drained soil in big pots to add wow to your summer patio, then pull tubers and store in a cool, dry place during the winter.

Watch the video: 5 Awesome Plants for Shade! . Garden Answer

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