It can be tricky finding plants that thrive in the shady areas of a garden, particularly on the north side of the house. Although it's true that the north side is generally shady, other factors, such as moisture levels and soil composition, contribute to the success of shade-loving plants. Before choosing plants, it is important to determine if the soil along a north-facing wall is rich or poor, moisture retentive or well-draining.
Also called Lenten rose, hellebore is among the most popular shade-loving plants for its distinctive bell-shaped flowers that range in colour from chartreuse to deep reddish-purple. Hellebore has prolific single and semi-double flowers that can last up to two months, as well as striking umbrella-shaped foliage that remains year-round. Hellebore can be grown successfully along the north-facing side of a house if the soil is well-drained and rich in humus. Although hellebore prefers slightly moist soil, soggy soil will kill the plant so provide well-drained soil.
Coral bells are supremely adapted to growing along the north-facing sides of houses, particularly if abundate late afternoon light is reflected off the walls. Coral bells, also called heuchera, are perennial plants that prefer well-drained and slightly alkaline soil with plenty of shade during the hottest part of the day. Growing to 18 inches high and 12 inches wide, coral bells are grown for their interesting foliage and tall sprays of delicate flowers, which come in a variety of red and purple shades.
Perhaps the most popular shade plant available, hostas are grown for their foliage, which comes in over 2,000 varieties. The big, sturdy leaves of the hosta come in an amazing array of colours, textures and shapes, including variegated and unusual colours like gold, bluish-green and white. Hostas enjoy indirect light but must have full shade during most of the day. Rich soil must be provided, as well as approximately 1 inch of water per week.
The dramatic, globe-shaped flower heads of the hydrangea make them a shade plant that many gardeners covet. Commonly thought of as a difficult plant to grow, given the proper conditions hydrangeas will thrive. Luckily, the protection that north-facing walls provide create an ideal growing habitat for hydrangeas, who need shaded roots and moist soil, as well as protection from the heat. Hydrangeas will bloom only in very rich and well-drained soil, so it is of vita importance to amend the existing soil. Hydrangeas love water but can't grow in overly soggy soil. Water deeply only when the top inch of soil has dried out.
Lady's mantle is a classic garden perennial loved for its low-maintenance nature and ease of growth. Although these plants prefer shady areas, they welcome indirect light, so planting them against the north side of a house is ideal as they will benefit from late afternoon light reflected from the wall. The velvety foliage and dainty chartreuse flowers of lady's mantle are both handsome and understated, making them an attractive shade plant. They enjoy fertile soil and even moisture, but take care not to over water.
Bleeding hearts are a traditional cottage-garden type of flower, grown for their exquisite heart-shaped flowers that seem to drip from their recumbent stems. Bleeding hearts prefer cool, humid shade and humus-rich soil that drains readily. If growing along the northern edge of a house, take care to grow with taller plants that will hold moisture in the air since bleeding hearts tend to wilt if humidity gets too low.