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The Top 5 Plants For The Best Blooms In Shaded Gardens

Published on May 4th 2022

by AlanGardenMaster. All rights reserved

A close up of a Rhododendron flower
This May, Candide Festival of Flowers brings you an abundance of blooms!
You might be wondering, how can I fill my outside spaces with loud, blousy blooms if my garden is in the shade? Keep reading to discover my 5 favourite plants for the best blooms that will light up even the shadiest spot.
Find the best plants for the shady spot in your garden in the collection:
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Flowering Plants for Shady Spots

1. Rhododendron

A pink Rhododendron in a pot
Rhododendrons are perfect for pots in shade
  • Yakushimanum Rhododendrons are one of the more popular choices among garden rhododendrons because they are totally reliable! They've become so well known that they even have a nickname- Yaks.
  • Rhododendrons need lime-free soil (a pH below pH 6.5). If you're unsure about soil pH, it pays to test your soil before planting and to read up on the importance of knowing your soil pH here.
  • Yaks naturally have a compact growth habit that doesn't need shaping and, more importantly, produces flower buds like clockwork. They slowly grow to about waist high over 15-20 years.
  • If you don't have acidic soil, then don't worry since they are simply perfect for pots. Of course, you will need to pot your plants up using Ericaceous lime-free compost, but that's readily available.
  • There are masses of varieties to choose from, and this gives a wide colour range. But you won't be disappointed if you start out with 'Percy Wiseman'.
  • I'm sure that you'll be planting other coloured yaks with big blousy blooms too, once you have seen Percy bloom!
Shop Rhododendron:

2. Viburnum 'Anne Russell'

Viburnum flower buds and flowers
Viburnum Anne Russell buds and flowers
  • The Viburnum genus is full of delightful hardy shrubs, and many are happy to grow in part shade.
  • My other favourites are Viburnum carlesii, x juddii or even carlcephalum; all have lovely blooms and a very strong scent.
  • Ann Russell grows into a well-shaped bush of around 2m high, but bear in mind that many plants will grow bigger in the shade as they are reaching for the light.
  • The flat-topped balls of flowers are seriously strongly scented, and you'll often smell them long before you see them in a garden!
  • This Viburnum tolerates heavy soil and will cope with some imperfect drainage. With light sandy soils, your plant will be happier if well fed and liberally mulched in late winter.
  • Be aware that some of these shrubs are still grafted onto a different rootstock, so you should remove suckers growing from below the point of grafting promptly.
  • The sumptuously scented blousy blooms of Viburnum will light up a dark corner under trees or in the shade of buildings.
Where to buy Viburnum:

3. Tree Peony

A close up of a peony flower
Paeonia suffruticosa
  • The Tree Peony is an early performer! It flowers before the vast majority of its better known herbaceous perennial cousins. However, it lacks none of the pomp that you'd expect from a Peony!
  • Some of the seed raised species of Tree Peony are disappointing in flower, and it is the grafted Far Eastern types that have the blousiest blooms!
  • Since they flower early and the soft new leaves and flowers can get frosted, this plant benefits from the frost protection of shade trees and shrubs.
  • Although slow-growing (they never get too big), Tree Peonies are very long-lived.
  • Their sumptuous blooms are large and full of many layers of petals.
Shop for Peony Trees here:

4. Foxgloves

Pink foxgloves
Digitalis Suttons Apricot
  • A true woodland or woodland edge plant, Foxgloves are at their boldest in May!
  • Most are biennial, and so they often die after flowering. Some are perennial, but it's hard to beat the native Digitalis purpurea.
  • Nevertheless, they are prolific seeders, and so you'll have them coming back year after year. You may even need to thin them out and transplant plants from crowded patches to other parts of the garden.
  • Tall spikes of Foxgloves add height to the garden in May but will carry on flowering well into early summer too.
  • Bees, especially bumblebees, adore Foxgloves! By planting them in your shady areas you will be providing them with nectar and pollen during the summer months.
  • Shaded areas with well-drained soil can be especially challenging for some plants. But in my experience, this is something that Foxgloves can cope with.

Add Foxgloves to your garden!

A close up of a flower garden
Foxgloves in @AlanGardenMaster's previous garden

5. Bluebells

Bluebells in a forest
Native English bluebells
  • Voted the Nation's favourite flower, and the Bluebell is at its best in May!
  • Bluebell bulbs flourish in the shade of deciduous trees and grow best where the soil is cooler. This is a plant that relishes cool shade on a north-facing slope!
  • Spanish Bluebells are more tolerant of less shady areas and perhaps grow more vigorously too. However, I would discourage you from planting these since they are hybridizing with our native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta).
  • Our native English Bluebells spread by seeding and will steadily colonise a shady area.
  • Honey bees are especially fond of Bluebell flowers.
  • If that rich blue colour were not a good enough reason to grow Bluebells in your shaded patch, then they have a trump card to play. They give off an amazing scent when grown in the masses!

With these five flowers in the shaded parts of the garden, you're sure to have big blousy blooms in May!

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