Plant a Shady Border

Some of the most beautiful shrubs grow well only in low light conditions. Here's how to create a colorful planting bed with shrubs and underplanted perennials.

A border set in deep shade can be a real bonus in the garden if you choose your plants carefully, because some of the most beautiful shrubs will only grow well in low light conditions. These areas may lack the drama of a sunny spot, but they have a cool and understated sophistication of their own.

Whem to Start: Fall
At Its Best: Spring
Time to Complete: 2 hours for preparation; 3 hours for planting

Materials Needed:

  • shovel
  • well-composted organic matter
  • shrubs such as camellia, rhododendron and flowering currant
  • plants for underplanting, such as bergenia, bleeding heart, ferns, and hellebores

Before You Plant

Many plants that grow well in shady conditions grow naturally in woodlands and need a cool, moist soil, which has been enriched with organic matter, such as leafmold. In autumn, clear the planting area of all weeds, then mix plenty of finished compost or other organic matter into the soil.

Soil-Enriching Leafmold

Soil-Enriching Leafmold

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Dig Planting Holes

Buy your shrubs in fall or spring, and plan carefully where you are going to plant them, taking into account their final size. The shrubs go toward the back of the border, with the underplanting below them and in front. The planting holes should be twice as wide and slightly deeper than the pots.

Holes for Shrubs Need Room for Plant Growth

Holes for Shrubs Need Room for Plant Growth

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Check Planting Depths

Put some compost in the bottom of each hole and then place a plant on top of it. Use a stake across the hole to check that the plant will be at the same depth when planted as it was in its pot.

Check Depth Of Newly Planted Shrub Using a Stake

Check Depth Of Newly Planted Shrub Using a Stake

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Water in Well

Fill in around the plant with soil and compost, and water in well. Water regularly until the plant is established. Mulch with an organic material such as pine or hardwood bark, leaving the area around the stems clear.

Watering Shrubs

Watering Shrubs

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Feed the Shrubs

Shrubs need regular feeding to thrive. Early spring is the best time to sprinkle a fertilizer, such as blood, fish and bone meal, around the base of the plants. Repeat each year to keep growth vigorous and healthy.

Frankly Fertilizer

Frankly Fertilizer

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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