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North facing garden ideas

Updated July 18, 2017

North facing gardens lie in heavy shade most of the day during winter months and may have as little as two hours of sunlight during summer months. Study the garden site to determine the amount of shade it receives, the soil type, the temperature, and the water needs of plants that can be grown. An attractive north facing garden can be planted when a gardener identifies the basic needs of the plants and how to meet those needs. These gardens also benefit from statuary, water features, fireplaces or heat lamps, and colourful seating arrangements.

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Fern-Leaf Maple

Plant a small tree to bring colour into the north facing garden. A fern-leaf maple, also known as a Japanese maple, will accent the space. Its foliage is dark green and the leaves are deeply cut. In the spring the blossoms are white and maroon. It grows in shade to 8 to 12 feet tall.

Wood Ferns

There are more than 100 wood fern species from all over the world. They like well-drained soil, consistent water, and shelter from wind. A north-facing space against a wall is a good place for ferns. The dryopteris erythrosora is one of few ferns with seasonal colour with fronds in spring are a blend of copper, pink and yellow. Most ferns grow from 2 to 5 feet tall.


To cover north-facing walls choose dark-green ivy. The ivy will gradually grow up the wall, adding a green background to the garden. Ivy is easy to grow; it will tolerate neglect in soil conditions, water, and fertiliser. It grows best in partial or deep shade.


Impatiens can be tucked into many spaces on a north facing garden. These bright blooms will grow well in borders, under trees, or under ferns. This annual plant prefers light to dense shade and moderate water through the season. The succulent stems grow 6 to 18 inches tall and the flowers show in shades of pink, dark pink, mauve, salmon, orange, and white.


These beauties boast big, bold leaves with long-lasting flowers that bloom in white, pink, red, and blue. The plant can be an anchor in a north-facing garden. It thrives best in climates with mild winters. The plant should be pruned after bloom. It grows 4 to 8 feet high.

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About the Author

Nellene Teubner Plouffe

Nellene Teubner Plouffe is a writer who started her journalism career as a reporter and columnist for the "Orange County Register" newspaper in 1992. In 1995, Teubner Plouffe received a first-place award in column writing from the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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