Cool solutions for shady gardens: Why not plant a rainbow?

IMG_20180918_141720697.jpgWalls, fences, dense trees, high-rise neighbours, eaves, and patios… With the rise in urban living, we’re finding more and more shade encroaching on our gardens. And those gardens are becoming increasingly precious, as pockets of green in an urban landscape.

So what do you do with those dark corners of your block?

Do not despair, there are many native plants that can grow and thrive in shady areas. To prove this, we’ve compiled a rainbow of plants to brighten up the dark. All you need to add is a hammock, and your shady spot will be the ideal summer haven.

 Planting in shade – the basics

  • The deeper and darker your shady spot, the fewer flowers you’ll get. The plants we list in this article are happiest and most colourful in dappled shade, but will tolerate deeper shade.
  • Shaded plants often become ‘leggy’. Regular light pruning will help them to remain compact.
  • If your shade comes from a deciduous tree, the pileup of leaves in autumn can smother plants underneath, as well as provide too much nutrient to a native garden. Regularly rake up the leaves in autumn – you can make leafmould from them for your vegetables!


Our shady rainbow plants

Red- Holly Flame Pea Chorizema ilicifolium

This cheerful pea has yellow/orange and red flowers from July to October. It is low-growing, rarely reaching 0.5 m, and grows well in sand and over limestone.

Orange- Heart-leaf Flame Pea Chorizema cordatum

This striking plant can become covered in orange and bright-pink pea flowers from July to late spring, and although not long-lived it often produces seed. It comes from wetter areas of the south-west and benefits from supplementary watering, especially during its first summer. Free-draining soils. Height to 0.5 m.

Yellow- Hibbertia grossulariifolia

This makes an excellent ground cover, as anyone who’s been to the Backyard Botanicals garden around the Zamia Café could attest. Large golden flowers occur mainly from August to December. The plant grows naturally on sand and loam.

Green- Honeypot Dryandra Banksia nivea

The honeypot dryandra can flower throughout the year, with flower colours including cream, yellow, orange, pink/red and brown. It grows to 1 m x 1 m and wins its spot here because of its gorgeous ferny green foliage. It grows in a range of soils and is architectural in form.

Blue- Blue Leschenaultia Lechenaultia biloba

This iconic plant flowers from winter to late spring and grows to 0.3 m. There are many colour variants available. On the Swan Coastal Plain they can be short-lived and benefit from supplementary watering. They strike well from cuttings and may be best treated as a short lived element within your garden space.

Purple- Tremandra stelligera

Our top pick for shady gardens, this hardy plant has vibrant purple flowers through spring. Up to 1.0 m high, it grows on sandy or loamy soils.

Pink- Bunjong Pimelea spectabilis

This stunning plant is best purchased as a grafted specimen as this increases success in the Perth region – keep an eye on the Friends of Kings Park plant sales. Large pink/white flowers are produced in winter and spring. To 1 m.

White- Southern Cross Xanthosia rotundifolia

We know what you’re thinking, but without white clouds there can’t be rain, and therefore, no rainbow! The Southern Cross is a wonderful low shrub to 0.4 m, with variable flowering across the year, but mainly in spring. It suits all soil types.


In a climate like ours, a bit of shade is something to cherish. So brighten yours up with a rainbow of WA native plants, and enjoy the cool results!


This article was published in the Autumn 2017 issue of Kings Parks’ For People & Plants magazine. Written with my fellow Volunteer Master Gardener, Douglas Betts.


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