Soto Journal & Inspiration

5 plants for gardens in the shade

Not knowing which plants to use in the border under the tree in their garden was what sparked the idea of Soto for Laura and Jamie. In this journal entry, Will Williams, five time RHS medallist, Soto Co-founder and Creative Director suggests five plants which thrive in the shade.

Gardens or outside spaces that are in the shade are traditionally the most difficult to choose plants for. What will survive in low light? How to fill borders underneath trees? What are the best plants for a balcony in the shade? These are all questions which we are often asked at Soto.

Plants for shade.

The best plants for shade can thrive in low light but also need to provide yearlong interest and be low maintenance. Below are five plants which not only love being in the shade, but also bring texture, varying heights and can be planted in borders or pots depending on how much outside space you have. 

Hydrangea 'Strong Annabelle' (Hydrangea arborescens 'Strong Annabelle')

This hydrangea is beautiful and impactful! The blooms start as a gentle lime green, developing to a soft white flower. A Soto favourite, perfect for a larger pot or border. This hydrangea suits all aspects yet thrives in lower light conditions and brings colour to areas of shade.

Hydrangea Annabelle

Taxus Dome (Taxus baccata)

The Taxus Dome is brilliant for ensuring your garden looks smart all year round. It provides sturdy structure to your outside space and is great when planted in borders or in pots or windowsill boxes. The leaves are like dark green needles and provide a consistent strong backdrop to other plants in your scheme. As a bonus, animals love the small red berries. This dome is an evergreen, meaning it always has colour and structure. 

Taxus dome

Astrantia Shaggy (Astrantia major subsp. involucrata 'Shaggy')

The Astrantia Shaggy is the elegant showstopper for every shady spot. Fantastic in a planter or within a border, it produces numerous small jewel like white flowers that are reminiscent of pin cushions surrounded by a long greenish-white ruff. The Astrantia blooms for months giving lasting colour. Simply, trim back old flower heads for a new a crop to appear, ready to impress.

Astrantia Shaggy

Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana Winter Gem)

The Sweet Box is a star of the garden all year. I particularly enjoy this plant in the winter when it provides fragrant and visual interest. It has glossy green leaves with sweet smelling, small white flowers which are followed by black berries.

Sweet Box

White Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora)

This Foxglove is a graceful accompaniment to any shade planting scheme. Unspotted and white, this variety is loved by bees and butterflies and brings calming tones to your outdoor space. Ensure you cut back the flowering stem to just below the flower head to deliver a second seasonal flush.

White Foxglove

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Will's favourite plants for shade

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