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Ohio Shade Gardens | Best Perennials & Design Ideas

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Last Updated on May 8, 2023 by lindseymahoney

I am currently planning the shade garden in the side yard of my Ohio home and gathering all the inspiration I can find! I used to think a lush garden in a shaded area was out of reach, but I have discovered many beautiful native Ohio perennials that thrive in full or partial shade! With the right garden design and smart plant choices, you can create a stunning shade garden that thrives in low-light conditions and requires little maintenance.

Before we begin, it is important to understand the growing conditions in the area where you want to put your shade garden. You will want to know the type of soil (ex: well-drained soil, sandy soil, clay soil, etc) and the amount of shade (part sun, part shade, full shade, etc) in the garden. This will help determine the best plants for our garden.

7 beautiful shade garden ideas and inspiration | Building Bluebird

Table of Contents

Beautiful Shade Perennials for Ohio Gardens

  • Astilbe – Soft, feathering flowers blooming in summer
  • Black-eyed Susan – Yellow flowers with a black center
  • Coral bells – Foliage plants available in a variety of colors
  • Yellow bleeding hearts – Golden foliage and heart-shaped flowers
  • Columbine – Known as a perennial wildflower with a bright red flower
  • Lily of the Valley – These darling white flowers with a bell-like shape bloom in early spring
  • Lungwort – Loves dry shade and adds visual interest to garden borders
  • Hellebore – Blooms in early spring
  • Creeping Jenny – low-growing ground cover
  • Jack Frost – heart-shaped leaves and tiny blue flowers
  • Ferns – many varieties but they add great texture and height
  • Hosta – Many varieties with varying green leaves and incredibly resilient

My favorite plants to include in a garden, whether it is full sun or deep shade, are low-maintenance perennial plants that are native to Ohio, where I live.

Why use native plants for a shade garden?

Native plants are a fantastic option for shady gardens because they attract pollinators and insects beneficial to our gardens and ecosystem. I am currently planning a garden in a shady area in the side yard of our Ohio home and I am so excited by this list of plant options!

Check out these 7 shade garden ideas for inspiration and tips on how to make a shady garden oasis of your own.

7 Shade Garden Ideas to Try at Home

Whether you live in Ohio or Colorado, these lovely shade garden ideas are great inspiration for any location!

1 | Colorful Shade Garden

Colorful shade garden inspiration | Building Bluebird
Source | Better Homes & Gardens

Just because your garden is in the shade doesn’t mean it can’t include colorful flowers! There are plenty of perennial flowers and blooms that thrive in a variety of shade conditions.

Some popular choices include impatiens, begonias, astilbes, and bleeding hearts. Impatiens thrive in shady areas or partial shade and have a variety of flower colors. You could also consider adding some foliage color with native perennials like coleus or caladiums, to add even more interest to your garden.

When selecting plants, be sure to pay attention to their light requirements and choose varieties that are well-suited for shade. Some plants can tolerate light shade while others require deep shade.

2 | Martha’s Side Yard Shade Garden

7 beautiful shade garden ideas and inspiration | Building Bluebird
Source | Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart designed her shaded side yard to create a layered look. These low maintenance plants vary in size with cut-leaved Japanese maples adding height in the back and peppering full shade plants like ferns and hosta throughout.

The fern fronds add texture and height throughout the flower bed and large-leaved hosta fill in lower levels of the bed. Ferns and hosta plants thrive in Ohio and are two of my favorite low-maintenance perennials to use throughout my gardens.

These hardy plants can also be easily split and transferred to other areas of your garden. It is a great way to grow your garden without spending any money!

3 | Winding Shade Garden

7 beautiful shade garden ideas and inspiration | Building Bluebird
Source | HGTV Magazine

When shady areas of your yard won’t grow grass, plant a lush carpeting of attractive foliage! In my opinion, yards with patchy grass do not give a great first impression. Adding green foliage to a shady area of your garden is a good choice that will be easy to maintain.

Utilize beautiful low-maintenance plants that thrive in the shade instead of trying to force grass to grow.

4 | Bright Foliage Garden

7 beautiful shade garden ideas and inspiration | Building Bluebird
Source | Les Fleurs

When designing a shade garden, don’t underestimate the power of colorful foliage. While showy flowers may be the main attraction in a full sun garden, in a shady space, it’s the colorful leaves that take center stage.

Consider using hardy perennials with variegated leaves, such as hostas or heucheras, or those with unique leaf shapes, like ferns or Japanese maples.

By embracing the beauty of foliage and green leaves, you can create a stunning shade garden that is both low maintenance and visually striking.

5 | Natural Stone Pathway Garden

7 beautiful shade garden ideas and inspiration | Building Bluebird
Source | Garden Gate Magazine

Using natural materials to create pathways is a fantastic way to add whimsy and clear walkways for visitors.

For a quick pop of color, consider using containers for plants that require a little more sun.

This not only adds visual interest but also allows you to move plants around as needed for optimal growing conditions. Plus, it’s an excellent choice when you want to add flowers to a shaded patio or deck.

6 | Vertical Climbing Garden

7 beautiful shade garden ideas and inspiration | Building Bluebird
Source | Country Living

If your garden is shaded by a structure like a garden shed, use that vertical space to grow shade loving native plants. Consider shade-tolerant climbing plants like clematis, bleeding heart, and climbing hydrangea.

Outdoor seating is another great addition to shaded gardens to enjoy a cup of coffee or breakfast with a breeze.

7 | Wildwood Manor Garden

Wildwood Manor house shade garden | Building Bluebird
Ohio perennial shade garden at Wildwood Metropark

Adding a water feature to your shade garden can create a peaceful and calming atmosphere. Consider installing a small pond, fountain, or even a simple bird bath.

Not only will it add visual interest, but the sound of running water can also help drown out unwanted noise and create a relaxing environment. Just be sure to choose plants that can thrive in damp conditions if you opt for a water feature.

Wildwood Manor house shade garden | Building Bluebird

The Wildwood Manor house inside the Toledo Wildwood Metropark has the most beautiful formal garden that is free to visitors. The trimmed hedges give the garden a formal feel but are balanced out with brick pathways and layered plants that create a casual look.

When the weather starts to get warm, I love spending my time working on outdoor projects! Whether it is designing a whimsical garden or painting our pool, I am always busying myself with some outdoor home project.

I hope these shade garden ideas inspire you to your own little oasis in a shady area of your yard.

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