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Design Ideas for a Shaded Backyard

Have a shaded yard? Don’t worry! You can still enjoy plenty of color and interest. Get ideas from this lovely backyard. By Justin Hancock

Create Garden Rooms

This South Carolina backyard is long and narrow, which can present a design challenge. But one way to tackle that is to visually carve the space into a series of garden rooms. In larger backyards, it’s easy to get an informal look with a wandering path that that connects the spaces. Here, though, a straight flagstone path does the job nicely. It connects the back patio to the far end of the yard, and is accentuated by a fountain crafted from an urn and a white wooden Lutyens-style bench.

A pair of containers planted with caladiums and 'Angelina' sedum up front adds to the formal, structured feel of the backyard. 

Choose Easy-Care Plants

Pots of no-fuss Big begonias add nonstop color from spring to fall, no matter how hot, humid, wet, or dry the weather gets.  Their bold red blooms bring an arresting element, even without getting sun. Flanking the patio, Endless Summer Twist-N-Shout and variegated Light-O-Day hydrangeas and ‘Guacamole’ hostas add seasonal color.

Another element that adds interest and help the small space feel larger is the way the homeowners mixed materials for the patio. The combination of flagstone and gravel is elegant and easy to maintain. Light-colored gravel helps to brighten the heavily shaded area, as well. 

Incorporate Texture

Colorful begonias (or other shade-loving flowers, including New Guinea impatiens and wishbone flower) look even more spectacular when paired with highly textural plants, such as grasses or ferns. Here, a pair of potted asparagus ferns does the job. Their whimsical appeal compensates for their lack of bold, bright blooms. Variegated sedum brings in another texture that plays off the begonias and asparagus ferns.
See more delightful annuals for shade.

Repeat a Theme

Repetition is one of the most powerful tools in a garden designer’s toolbox. Here, a shaded window box planted with red Dragon Wing begonias visually connect the house to the patio. It creates a consistent, coherent look throughout the outdoor spaces. In this window box, silvery licorice plant accents the begonias.
Get more creative container gardening ideas.

Going Begonias

There is a wide array of shade-loving flowers from which you can choose in your shaded yard, but few are easier to care for than begonias. The Big series is repeatedly a top performer in our Miami Trial Garden, and adds more bulk than smaller, old-fashioned fibrous (or wax) begonias. Both varieties pair well, giving you more flexibility to decorate your outdoor spaces with colorful blooms.

Integrate Surprises

Because this backyard has so many trees and shrubs, it’s easy to visually separate the rooms, making walking through the yard an exercise in discovery. The next garden room in this landscape features a charming garden shed. Flanked by lush planting beds filled with shade-tolerant shrubs and perennials (such as boxwood, daylily, and hosta) the shed is both a delight to look at and a functional element. A small flagstone patio in front and pots of begonias helps visually connect the shed to the other garden rooms.

Pick the Right Plants

This part of the backyard shows how selecting the right plants makes a big difference. White crape myrtles help to draw the eye up, creating a sense of layers in the shaded landscape. A trio of ‘Gold Standard’ hostas draws the eye along the edge of the path toward the shed. The hostas are shorter in stature than clusters of peach-colored daylilies, helping to add more visual layers in the garden. A wisteria planted on a small pergola in front of the shed helps tuck the shed into the landscape. 

Enjoy Seating Areas

Incorporate a variety of seating areas in your garden rooms to make your landscape feel comfortable. Here at the far end, a white bench flanked by pots of agapanthus is the perfect punctuation point for the yard. A circular lawn accents the design of the bench, and creates a playful contrast to the flagstone path that runs down the center of the yard. 

Take Advantage of Small Spaces

The crafty owners of this shaded yard tucked in another tiny garden room. A small raised bed adds vertical interest, and, topped by flagstones, creates another seating opportunity where you can rest and enjoy your yard. Endless Summer hydrangeas offer their big, opulent blooms in summer and autumn. They also play well with the ball-shaped clusters of agapanthus flowers. Ferns, including a potted tropical Kimberly Queen fern, add more texture to this small space.

Use a Focal Point

Water features usually make excellent focal points as we’re drawn to both the visual appeal and the sound of water. A large urn crafted into a fountain makes an ideal focal point for this shaded garden room, as well as the yard as a whole. An arching arbor frames the fountain, making the view even better. Low-fuss, easy-care Knock Out shrub roses add a pop of color that ties back to the begonias used throughout the yard.