Plants for north-facing gardens

sun rays through forest mist image by Jorge Moro from

North-facing gardens present a challenge because they receive less sun and light than west or south-facing gardens. Fewer plants exist from which to choose, and even fewer of those produce bright colour.

North-facing gardens range from those in deep shade created by walls, or those in light shade, dappled with sunlight filtering through trees or large plants. A gardener can study the site and gather information about the soil type, amount of shade or sun and water needs of plants that will thrive in a north-facing garden. A beautiful, shaded garden can form out of identifying the basic needs of shade plants and how to meet those needs.


Camélia image by Dominique LUZY from

Camellias bloom in the shade with large, colourful flowers in winter and spring. It is a broad-leafed evergreen shrub with dark green foliage. Camellias grow 1.8 to 3.6 m (6 to 12 feet) tall. The plant colours range from white through to shades of light pink to dark red.


coleus image by Keith Pinto from

These shade plants produce beautiful foliage. Coleus ranges in size from 15 to 90 cm (6 to 36 inches) and grows best in part shade. Plant colours include purple, yellow, pink, black and green. Coleus thrives in moist soil with high organic matter.


impatiens image by palms from

This plant is very versatile in shade, growing well in light or deep shade. Impatiens can be tucked under shrubs, along borders or in corners. It blooms in containers and hanging baskets as well. It is grown as an annual in the shade garden.


This plant has an assortment of colours including orange, yellow, pink, white and purple. The primrose grows from about 8 cm (a few inches) to 90 cm (3 feet) tall. Flowers appear in early spring.

Rhododendron and azalea

Rhododendron offers gardeners extensive choices; there are more than 900 species and 10,000 varieties. Azalea is a series within the Rhododendron genus. The colours of the blossoms include all shades of white, yellow, pink, red and bi-coloured flowers. Some are fragrant. These plants bloom from late winter to midsummer.


begonia image by Maria Brzostowska from

The begonia brings vibrant colour to the north-facing garden. This plant grows best in light shade. It blooms all summer long in single or double flowers. The colours include vivid red, fluorescent orange and bright yellow to pastel apricot, light pink and pure white.