List of Plants For Dry Shade

It can be difficult to find plants that will thrive, never mind just survive, in dry shade. Successful establishment depends on several factors.

These include good ground preparation and correct choice of plants. It is relatively easy to cultivate soil in a new planting area, but more difficult if there are well established trees with an extensive root system that limits cultivation.

Types of dry shade

Free draining sandy soil in the shade can present problems and offer opportunities. Sandy soils are always free draining and nutrient poor. Initial soil improvement with a deep layer of moisture retaining materials such as homemade compost is to be recommended.  This may be an open but shaded site, or it may have added complications such as the presence of trees.

Sandy soils can also be warmer than clay soils and less of a problem in cold winters as there is less moisture in the soil. This in turn offers the opportunity to grow less hardy plants, particularly for those living in the south of the country.

Trees can dry out soils can cause shade on almost any type of soil and this needs to be taken into account when choosing plants.

Wind tunnels alongside buildings, walls and fences can also make it difficult for some plants to thrive, particularly those with larger leaves, plants like Acer palmatum can suffer leaf burn in shady windswept areas.

Once planted, it is essential subjects are kept adequately watered at least for the first growing season and possibly longer in areas of competition from other factors such as large, well established trees. Applying a damp mulch is also beneficial.

List of plants for dry shade

Dry shade loving Trees

Ilex aquifolium (Holly)

Taxus baccata (Yew)

Dry shade loving shrubs

Aucuba japonica

Buxus sempervirens (box)

Danae racemosa (poets laurel)

Daphne laureolaElaeagnus x ebbingei

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ AGM

Hydrangea aspera macrophylla

Kerria japonica

Lonicera pileata
Mahonia aquifolium especially M a. 'Apollo' AGM

Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ (a new woodland bearberry)

Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo)

Osmanthus decorus

Pachysandra terminalis

Rubus cockbunianus ‘Golden Vale’

Rubus tricolour

Ruscus aculeatus (butcher broom)

Sarococca confusa (Chinese box)

Vinca minor

Vinca minor 'Argenteovariegata' AGM

Vinca minor f.alba 'Gertrude Jekyll' AGM

Ferns for dry shade

Asplenium scolopendrium (harts tongue fern)

Ceterach officinarum (rusty black fern)

Dryopteris filix-mas AGM

Polystichum polyblepharum (Japanese tassel fern)

Polystichum setiferum (soft shield fern)

Polystichum tsussimense (Korean rock fern)

Polypodium vulgare (common polypody)

Perennials for dry shade

Acanthus mollis (bear’s breeches)

Acanthus spinosus (spiny bear’s breeches)

Actea pachypoda (white baneberry)

Actea rubra (red baneberry)

Ajuga reptans (bugleweed)

Asarum arifolium (arrowhead ginger)

Asarum europaeum (european ginger)

Alchemilla mollis

Anemone xhybrida (A. hupehensis var japonica) (Japanese or woodland anemone)

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Munstead White' AGM

Aster divaricatus (white wood aster)

Bergenia cordifolia especially B. c. ‘Overture’ AGM, B. ‘c. Eric Smithii has blood red winter foliage

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' AGM and other cultivars (Siberian Bugloss)

Carex 'Ice Dance' (a creeping sedge for dry shade)

Dicentra formosa, D. ‘Langtrees’, D. spectabilis AGM, D. ‘Stuart Boothman’ AGM (Bleeding Heart)

Digitalis (foxglove)

Epimedium x perralchicum AGM (barrenwort or bishops mitre)

Epimedium pinnatum subs. Colchicum

Epimedium x rubrum AGM

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'

Epimedium x youngianum 'Niveum'

Euphorbia amygdaloides var robbiae AGM (Wood Spurge)

Geranium himalayense

Geranium macrorrhizum 'White-Ness' AGM

Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevans‘ AGM

Geranium macrorrhizum 'Mount Olympus White' AGM

Geranium macrorrhizum 'Pindus'

Geranium nodosum

Geranium phaeum 'Album' (Good insect pollinator plant)

Geranium sylvaticum 'Amy Doncaster'

Gillenia trifoliata AGM (bowman’s root)

Hosta species (green leaved are most successful followed by blue leaves cultivars)

Helleborus foetidus

Heuchera especially H.'Regina' AGM

Iris foetidissima AGM (Gladwin’s Iris or stinking iris)

Lamium macculatum ‘Beacon Silver’, L. m. ‘White Nancy’

Liriope muscari 'Big Blue'

Kirengeshoma palmate

Omphalodes cappadocica 'Cherry Ingram' AGM

Ophiopogon species

Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox)

Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)

Polygonatun odoratum (solomon's seal)

Primula vulgaris subsp. Sibthorpii

Pulmonaria saccharata (bethlehem sage)

Pulmonaria 'Cotton Cool'

Saxifraga stolonifera

Symphytum grandiflorum

Tellima grandiflora 'Forest Frost'

Tiarella 'Pink Skyrocket', T. 'Sugar and Spice' (foam flower)

Uvularia grandiflora (bellwort)

Viola species inc. V. labradorica

Waldstinia ternata

Bulbs for dry shade

Anemone blanda (wood anemone)

Anemone nemorosa 'Robinsoniana' (wood anemone)

Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley)

Cyclamen coum (Ashwood nurseries specialize in many good forms of C. coum

Cyclamen hederifolium (ivy leaved cyclamen)

Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop)

Ranunculus ficaria (celandine)

Grasses for dry shade

Anemanthele seems to thrive in all forms of dry shade.

Anemanthele lessoniana (was Stipa arundinacea) excellent in driest of shade

Carex several including; muskingumensis, pendula

Chasmanthium latifolium


Holcus mollis ‘Albovariegatus’

Luzula sylvatica 'Hohe Tatra' (high tatra woodrush)

Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ (wood millet)

Ophiopogon planiscapus

Climbers for shade

Cissus striata

Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’ (bullock’s heart ivy)

Parthenocissus tricuspidata AGM


The information given in this Fact Sheet is provided in good faith. It is however of necessity general information and advice on the topic. Howard Drury will not be under any liability in respect of the provision of such advice and information, and you are strongly advised to seek independent advice on any particular gardening problems or queries you may have, preferably from experts who can (when appropriate) inspect the problem before providing advice.

© 2022. This material has been produced by Howard Drury and must not be reproduced in part or full without the written consent of Howard Drury, Kings Heath, Birmingham B13 0SJ.



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