What to Plant in a Shady Area

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Often times when I visit people’s homes, they don’t really know how much sun or shade their yard gets. This is vital information to have for this reason: all plants are not created equal! Some plants love the sun and others prefer partial shade or even full shade. Planting a sun-loving plant in shade will produce stretched out growth with few flowers. Planting a shade-loving plant in the sun will produce burned leaves. Therefore if you are going to have plants added to your home or if you are going to DIY, you need to observe where the sun shines during the day. 


My suggestion is to make a sketch of your yard and watch the sun as it moves during the day. Check it at 9:00AM, 12:00 PM, 3:00PM and 5:00PM. Mark whether sun is shining in the areas around your house at those times. According to the South Florida Plant Guide, Full Sun would be 8 hours of direct sun, Part Sun would be 4 hours of direct sun either morning or afternoon and Full Shade would be no direct sunlight but has bright indirect light. For complete information on this, check out https://www.south-florida-plant-guide.com/plant-light-requirements.html


Since sun loving plants are much more common and well-known, I would like to go over some plant options for part shade or shady gardens. I just completed a landscape project and the entire front yard was in the shade of an Oak tree. This was a challenge. I wanted to have different textures and foliage colors and flowers???? So here are a few of the plants I used which were interesting.

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Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’ or Variegated Ginger is a spectacular plant with beautiful yellow and green foliage. It will reach 4-7’ tall and 5’ wide so give it some room. It likes partial shade.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’- Red Camellia is a winter blooming variety. It likes partial sun and acidic soil. The flower is red with a yellow center. It can reach 6-10’ tall depending on pruning.

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Cordyline ‘Red Sister’ or Ti Plant are quite common in Florida and often planted in areas where they do not thrive. They prefer medium shade but will grow in more sun. They do best when planted in tight groups. The foliage is a wonderful addition to the landscape.

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Schefflera arboricole ’Trinette’ or Variegated Arboricola is also a common plant in Florida and will grow in full sun to full shade!! It is a compact grower and can be kept 2’ tall but over time could reach 8’ without any pruning. The variegated yellow and green foliage really pops in a shady garden.


Dianella ensifolia or Flax lily is a very attractive grass-like plant with green leaves and white stripes. It prefers full to part shade and will grow to 2.5’ tall and wide.

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Zamia pumila or Coontie is a slow-growing evergreen with beautiful shiny foliage. It will grow to 2-4’ and prefers partial shade. It is a nice contrast to other variegated plants.

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Neomarica or Walking Iris- This plant is very versatile growing in both dense shade or partial shade. It will bloom off and on all year. It will grow 2’ tall and wide and has a variety of bloom colors-yellow, blue or lavender and white.


Check out these plants when you are at a local nursery and use them in your shady garden.