Plants for a Purpose: spring plants for shade

Pot of shade-loving spring flowers

A shady corner, border or garden can be brought to life in spring with the right planting. Silver or variegated leaves work really well to brighten a dark spot, as do white or pale flowers, which almost seem to glow in shade. There is a plant for every shady spring garden and here we share some of our favourites. Included are plants for both dry and moist soils, evergreen perennials to provide interest all year round, as well as deciduous plants that seem to appear from nowhere in spring to brighten the garden with their delicate beauty. Our choices include recommendations from the Gardeners’ World team and familiar faces from across the gardening industry.

Find more ideas for shade planting:

Uvularia perfoliata

Uvularia perfoliata
An unusual woodland plant, its pretty nodding flowers appear from late spring to early summer

Chosen by Arit Anderson, Gardeners’ World presenter

This year I’ve planted Uvularia perfoliata in my shady border where it will look great with ferns. It will only grow to about 30cm tall and its pale lemon bell-like flowers are beautifully delicate.

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Silene fimbriata

Silene fimbriata
This stunning plant is a member of the campion family and will do well in sun or shade

Chosen by Sue Kent, Gardeners’ World presenter

In my garden there is a very narrow shady border and to light up the area in spring I have planted the perennial Silene fimbriata. From a base of green leaves shoot long narrow stems which branch out to hold several bell-shaped calyxes each of which is edged with delicate white fringed petals. I did not believe anything so delightful could grow in such shade.

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Brunnera’s attractive heart-shaped leaves range from silver to variegated and spotted

Chosen by Flo Headlam, Garden Rescue presenter

I’ve been using brunnera as a reliable ground cover that gives a burst of colour in shaded areas for years. When it’s happy it will bulk up and spread out, lighting up the dullest of corners with its silver-veined leaves and tiny sky-blue flowers.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Ashwood Garden Hybrids’

Hellebores from this group come in an array of stunning colours and forms

Chosen by Cel Robertson, founder of Forever Green flower company

One of my favourite spring perennials, hellebores are easy to grow given a little shade and cultivars from the ‘Ashwood Garden Hybrids’ group make lovely, robust plants. I like to plant white or soft pastel-pink shades that will brighten the darker corners of the garden, underplanted with snowdrops and interspersed with ferns for interest in early spring. Once the seed heads start to form they make long-lasting cut flowers too.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Bleeding Heart
Bleeding heart appears from nowhere in the spring, and will remain compact over many years

Chosen by Catherine Mansley, digital editor

It’s new name may be a mouthful, but the bleeding heart plant (previously known as Dicentra) is worth the effort. The delicate arching stems of this perennial are dripping with the prettiest, heart-shaped blooms. There are white-flowered varieties, but the original pink form has stolen my heart. It grows best in dappled shade or partial shade in damp soil.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ with its silvered, heart-shaped leaves and striking green veins

Chosen by Kevin Smith, editor

The sky blue flowers of B. macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ look a bit like forget-me-not blooms, though they’re somehow deeper and richer. The flowers last for a long time, and sit above striking silver foliage that remains for the whole season until temperatures begin to dip. This brunnera grows well in my shady spots, some of which are also dry, and happily it self-seeds freely.


Hellebores are fuss-free plants but it’s worth noting that they don’t like to have their roots disturbed

Chosen by Jo Cloke, art editor

I have hellebores in my back garden near the French doors, and I love it when they come into flower as it’s one of the first signs that spring is here. I enjoy having a cup of tea and watching the bumblebees collecting their first pollen from the downward-facing flowers which protect the pollen and give the bees some shelter.



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