Before we launch into which plants to choose for shade, let’s clear up what is considered shade.
Generally speaking, less than 6 hours of sunlight to an area of a garden is considered semi-shaded. In Perth however, shade plants do not fare well in afternoon or midday sun, even for a few hours, so this should also be a consideration. Shade plants in hot climates, like Perth, are best suited for positions in morning sun, under eaves and trees that create a microclimate of shade.
The type of the shade is impacted by what is creating the shade (such as other plants or structures). With the trend of indoor plants retailers have made some improvements on their labelling which can help with selection when it comes to what type of shade they prefer. There is part shade, dappled shade, full shade, wet shade, and dry shade.
an example is gardens under eaves on the shady side of a house where the shade is solid, below a dense mature tree or indoors. Plants here receive minimal or less than 6 hours sun all year and no rain. Ambient light levels can change very slightly with the seasons but remain fairly constant. Plants here will receive no winter rain however if watered, will be considered wet shade as less evaporation occurs. Where there is no reticulation, dry, full shade plants are suitable here. This can be a very tough area to work with
A space where it is not light enough to be considered part shade but is perfect for full shade loving plants. In most cases it is a space where other foliage filters the light and a small percentage comes through. There is an ambient light to the space. Winter rainfall will wet the soil here also.
This is space that receives direct sunlight for a part of the day, normally morning or late afternoon without the harsh midday or afternoon sun. This may be under deciduous trees that allow winter light below, an open arbour, or on the eastern side of a building. 3-6 hours of sun is generally required for plants that work in part shade.
If you are wanting a native shade garden in Perth, it can be difficult to find suitable plants, so we have added a few suggestions below for Australian native plants that can grow well in shade.
Cyrtomium Holly Fern
Cyrtomium Holly Fern (Part shade) – 0.6H x 1.0W – suitable to most soils this a hardy fern that is great for borders, underplanting and pots. Surprisingly tough, it can also tolerate moderate coastal winds and light frost. This plant is a great foliage texture addition.
Dampiera Diversifolia (Part to Full shade) – 0.3H x 1.0W – suitable for all soil types with bright purple flowers from spring to summer. When looking for Australian native plants for dry shade this groundcover from the south of Western Australia is great for rockeries, hanging baskets, pots, retaining and cottage gardens. The bright profusion of flowers attracts bees and other insects. With morning sun, it will reward you with extra flowers.
Correa ‘Dusky Bells’
Correa ‘Dusky Bells’ (Part to Full shade) – 0.7H x 2-4.0W – suitable for all soil types , this correa is a spreading and mounding shrub with gorgeous ‘fairy hat’ flowers in autumn to winter. It will tolerate coastal conditions, some drought and is excellent habitat for small birds and insects. Tip prune after flowering to maintain its bushiness.
Viola hederacea ‘Native Violet’ (Part to Full shade) – 0.2H x 1.0W –is a perfect gap filler plant that is super adaptable. This plant flowers all year round with delicate white and purple violet shaped flowers above the foliage. It is also used as a lawn substitute for low traffic areas, and will work itself neatly around steppers.
Prostanthera ‘Minty’ (Part shade) – 1.5H X 1.2W – suitable for all soil types, this plant has a nice natural mound shape with dense foliage that smells like mint when crushed in the fingers. It is good for hedging or screening, pots, cottage gardens and coastal gardens. Butterflies and insects love the mass of purple flowers that appear spring to summer.
Chorizema cordatum (Part shade or full sun) – 1.2m. With its bright orange, red and yellow flowers, this local native will brighten up a shady spot in spring summer and winter – try and give it at least 3 hours sun for best flowering.
Asplenium ‘Island Beauty’
Asplenium ‘Island Beauty’ (Part shade or full sun) – 1.5H X 1.5W – suitable to loam and sandy soils. This is a vigorous growing fern with delicate weeping fronds. A tough plant perfect for underplanting and pots, it prefers to be kept moist … perfect for a tropical garden.
Adiantum MaidenHair Fern
Adiantum MaidenHair Fern (Dappled shade) – 0.8H X 0.8H – an easy fern to grow it has black stems with delicate foliage. Perfect for courtyards, underplanting and hanging pots with moist soil. Protect from winds and frost. This plant can regrow when completely cut back.
Boronia ‘Heaven Scent’
Boronia ‘Heaven Scent’ (Dappled shade) – 0.8H X 0.5W – a heavily scented plant with rich brown petals and golden yellow inside. Suitable for neutral sandy soils including pots it is a dense upright shrub. Boronia needs shelter from the wind and kept moist for best growth. It is a short-lived plant but the show of fragrant flowers is worth it.
Juncus pallidus Pale Rush
Juncus pallidus Pale Rush (Part shade) – 2.0H X 1.0W – suitable for most soil types this rush grows in moist soils, making it perfect for boggy areas, ponds and dams to stabilise the soil and create habitat for wildlife. It can tolerate coastal conditions and is very low maintenance. It has a great upright structural form with grass like flowers in spring to summer.
Austromyrtus Midgen Berry
Austromyrtus Midgen Berry (Part shade) – 1.5H X 1W – This bush tucker plant will reward you with small white flowers in spring to summer which then turn into delicious, sweet edible berries. It is easy to grow in all soil types with a preference to neutral and acid soils. It likes to be kept moist but can tolerate the occasional dry spell, though this will affect fruit production. Giving it a prune after fruiting will keep it growing nice and dense.
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