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

Keep Reading

Next Up

Planting a Shrub

Use these step-by-step instructions to easily plant an evergreen shrub.

How to Choose, Plant and Grow Flowering Shrubs

Flowering shrubs provide multi-season interest. Learn how to add them to your garden with these tips.

Add Dimension With Climbing Plants and Wall Shrubs

Learn how to select and care for your climbing plants with this helpful guide.

How to Plant Shrubs

Shrubs add structure and fill out your garden, providing density and dimensionality where it's most needed. They're simpler to install than you may know. Here, we walk you through it.

How to Plant Shrubs

Learn how to plant shrubs in your garden with these five easy steps. 

Family Planting: Herb Border

A herb garden is a feature the whole family can enjoy.

Choosing Plants for Flowerbeds & Borders

Use tall wispy grasses and structural foliage plants to add focal points to borders and flowerbeds.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Home Afloat

7:30am | 6:30c
8am | 7c

Fixer Upper

12pm | 11c

Saving Spaces

1pm | 12c

House Hunters

1:30pm | 12:30c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

House Hunters

3:30pm | 2:30c

House Hunters

4:30pm | 3:30c

House Hunters

5:30pm | 4:30c

House Hunters

6:30pm | 5:30c

House Hunters

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Flip or Flop

8pm | 7c

Flip or Flop

8:30pm | 7:30c

Flip or Flop

9:30pm | 8:30c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

Vintage Flip

11pm | 10c

Vintage Flip

11:30pm | 10:30c

Flip or Flop

12am | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

Vintage Flip

2:30am | 1:30c

Flip or Flop

3:30am | 2:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.