North Facing Garden

North Facing Garden

A north-facing border

North-facing gardens, patios and balconies lie in the shadows for most of the day.

Shade is created when sunlight is blocked by an object, perhaps a building or a tree, and a shadow is created from it. As a result the garden and plants within it receive little, if any, sunlight.

While most people tend to favour a warm and sunny garden, shade can actually be a huge asset and there is actually still so much you can do with it. It simply means that borders and containers will require plants that thrive in the shade rather than the sun.

You certainly shouldn’t feel like this limits you. There is still plenty for you to choose from and we have a wide range of plants for north facing gardens.

North-facing garden design

When designing your north facing garden, you need to need to avoid plants that require the sunlight, which might mean a little more research and careful planning before planting.

You may also find that your garden has varying levels of shade, which means you will have to carefully plan which plants go where and how you care for them. To help here is how you can define the level of shade and the best way to work with it.  

Types of shade and working with it:

Full sun: during midsummer there are more than six hours of direct sun per dayshade loving plants would need to be well-watered in the sun. 

Light shade:
an open space that is protected from direct sunlight by trees or a wall – it is important to mulch after planting to improve water retention and look for plants that don’t require full sun.

Partial or semi-shade:
during midsummer, these areas receive three to six hours of direct sunlight. Sun loving plants will survive in partial shade, but shade-loving plants will thrive.

Dappled shade:
this is where light is able to filter through, perhaps between branches. Shade loving plants will do well with some watering while compost or manure will help.

Moderate shade: during midsummer such spaces will receive two to three hours of sunlight – shade tolerant plants will do well here but if your space is very dry or waterlogged put plants in pots instead and keep them well-watered.

Deep or heavy shade:
this occurs under dense tree cover or overhanging buildings and therefore receives less than two hours of direct light per day. Only a limited selection of shade tolerant plants will survive here.

Watering:  Plants in shaded areas require less watering because they suffer less evaporation. When filling pots, you must make sure that surplus water can drain off easily. If the soil stays damp for too long the roots may rot and the plant will suffer.

Plants, flowers and shrubs for a north facing garden

Bergenia ‘Eroica’: these evergreen perennials with clusters of bell-shaped pink or white flowers will do well in sheltered, partial shade.  

Hellebore: these perennials, also known as the Christmas or Lenten rose, have elegant flowers that are ideal for adding some colour to north facing, shaded gardens.

these beautiful bright blue flowers are ideal for shady areas, they are low maintenance but do require regular watering and would actually do well in areas that are too wet to support other plants, such as around a shaded pond.

this shrub loves dry shade and is perfect to grow up against a shadow covered fence. Look for one with variegated leaves and you can add interest and brighten up a shaded spot with splashes of yellow.

Chaenomeles x superba: these are ideal for north facing gardens and will grow in a wide range of soils. Delicate spring blossoms are followed by fragrant fruit and will add interest to any wall.

Virginia creeper: the crimson colour of this fast-growing climber will add some colour to shaded corners. Is there a spot in your garden that receives some sun? Grow it here and you will notice that the colours become far more vibrant.

Akebia quinata: this climber has intense colour, aromatic bloom and is perfect for the shade. It can grow quickly, so may require regular pruning.

Clematis 'Piilu':
this shrub produces beautiful flowers and foliage, requires little pruning and is suitable for the shadiest of north facing walls.

There are plenty of north-facing plant, flower and shrub choices that can’t stand the sun and require a shaded area to both survive and thrive. Therefore they will benefit from the shadow cast across your garden, while creating a beautiful and colourful space that will be bright no matter how little sun it gets.