Plants are funny things.  Give them the right conditions and they’ll usually thrive, but if they’re too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold they’ll wither and die.

Probably the two most important factors involved in growing plants of any type – whether it be flowers, vegetables or a lawn, are drainage and light.

If a sun-loving plant is put in the shade, it will quickly become etiolated – pale, leggy and weak and eventually, it will die.

If a shade loving plant is put in the sun, it too will fail.

Some plants are pretty good at adapting themselves to sun or shade.  But before spending money, it’s as well to be forearmed and has a list to hand of plants that will be happy in the spot you’ve got planned for them.

Take wildflowers for example.

Meadow flowers are normally best suited to sunny spots, but some will live in the lea of trees or hedgerows and some of the smaller plants are well used to living in the shade of taller plants and grasses.

Some plants, such as these bluebells, thrive in shady conditions

A Useful List Of Wildflowers That Will Grow In Part Shade

Common nameBinomial nameAppears in Meadowmat?RHS Plants for Pollinators?
AngelicaAngelica sylvestris  
BetonyBetonica OfficinalisYes: Traditional Meadowmat  
Birdsfoot TrefoilLotus corniculatusYes: Traditional Meadowmat  Yes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees yes
BluebellHyacinth non scripa yes
BugleAjunga reptans yes
Common AgrimonyAgrimonia eupotareYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Beesyes
Common VetchVicia sativaYes: Traditional Meadowmat yes
CowslipPrimula verisYes: Traditional Meadowmat yes
Dark MulleinVerbascum Nigrum yes
FoxgloveDigitalis purpurea yes
Garlic MustardAlliaria petiolata Yes
Hairy St. John’s WortHypericum hirsutum  
Hedge BedstrawGalium mollungo Yes
Hedge WoundwortStachys sylvatica  
Herb BennetGeum urbanum yes
Herb RobertGeranium robertianum Yes
Hemp AgrimonyEupatorium cannabmum Yes
Meadow ButtercupRanunculus acrisYes: Traditional MeadowmatYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees Yes
MeadowsweetFilipendula ulmariaYes: Traditional MeadowmatYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees Yes
Nettle-leaved bellflowerCampanula trachelium yes
Oxeye DaisyLeucanthemum vulgareYes: Traditional Meadowmat yes
PrimrosePrimula vulgaris yes
Ragged RobinLychnis Flos cuculiYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and BeesYes
RamsomsAllium ursinum Yes
Red CampionSilene dioicaYes: Traditional MeadowmatYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees yes
Ribwort PlantainPlantage lanceolataYes: Traditional Meadowmat  
Scarlet PimpernelAnagallis arvensis  
SelfhealPrunella vulgarisYes: Traditional Meadowmat yes
Common SorrelRumex acetosa  
Sweet cicilyMyrrhis odorata  
White campionSilene albaYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Beesyes
Wood avensGeum urbanum Yes
Wood sageTeucrium scorodonia Yes
YarrowAchillea millifoliumYes: Traditional MeadowmatYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Beesyes
Yellow RattleRhinanthus minorYes: Traditional Meadowmat  

Wild Grasses That Will Grow In Part Shade

Common BentAgrostis capillaris  
Crested DogstailCynosurus cristatusYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees 
Red FescueFestuca rubra ssp rubraYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees 
Sheeps FescueFestuca ovinaYes: Traditional MeadowmatYes:  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees  
Slender Creeping Red FescueFestuca rubra ssp litoralisYes: Traditional Meadowmat  
Smooth Stalked Meadow GrassPoa pratensis  
Sweet Vernal GrassAnthoxanthum odoratum  
Tufted Hair GrassDeschampsia cepitosa  
Wood Meadow GrassPoa nemoralis  

Using Wildflowers

A small area of wildflowers in the shade of a shed create a wildlife-friendly zone

Shade tolerant plants tend to grow naturally in woodland where they flower in spring before the leaf canopy gets too dense to let sunlight through.  Often, these plants have beautiful foliage can be just as interesting in the garden as colourful flowers.

As you can see from the table above, many shade-loving wildflowers are also good sources of pollen and nectar for pollinating insects.

What the table doesn’t show is that some are also larval food plants for butterflies and moths. and so by establishing at least some shade-loving wildflowers in your garden you will be supporting those all-important pollinating insects.

Establishing Wildflower Turf In Shade

There are three main ways of establishing wildflowers.  Seed, pot grown plants and wildflower matting (aka wildflower turf). These are described more fully in my blog about planting wildflowers 

Wildflower turf is by far the quickest and easiest way of establishing native plant species but it is important to be sure that you are using the right wildflower turf in the right place.

Meadowmat wildflower turf contains some plants and grasses that will adapt themselves to part shade. 

Woodland shade Meadowmat is a mixture of wildflowers and grasses that are naturally adapted to living in the dappled shade of a woodland canopy.

Wherever Wildflower turf is established, the species will adapt themselves to the local conditions.  Soil type, sun, shade, management, and weather will all affect which species thrive, survive or give up altogether.

Best Wildflower Mix For Shade

If you have a shady spot in your garden where you would like to plant some wildflowers, provided it isn’t deep shade, I would recommend laying our Woodland Shade Meadowmat wildflower turf OR sowing a speciality wildflower seed mix. You could also underplant it with spring-flowering bulbs such as bluebells or aconites.

To compare different methods of establishing a wildflower meadow, visit our blog post entitled when to plant a wildflower meadow.

To compare different types of meadowmat, click here