child working with in a garden designed with shady corner garden ideas

12 Garden Shade Ideas To Brighten Up Your Garden

Retiring to the garden on warm summer evenings is often the perfect end to an August day. Of course, our gardens come in useful for many other summer activities too, from BBQs to night-long parties. But many of us have a spot in our garden that we have deemed too dark or shady to be useful. However, you might want to rethink that judgement! You can put a shady garden to fantastic use, and you may be surprised at some of the things you can do to make even the darkest spots functional. Here are 12 garden shade ideas to make the best use of the darker spots of your garden. 

We will explore the following in this article:

1. Plant For The Shade

The beauty of having a shady garden is that it is the perfect place to plant shade-loving plants. Although you may have been fooled into thinking that all plants need sunlight, there are several that thrive in the shadows of a shady environment. Some classic favourites of gardeners are several varieties of ferns and plants that grow silvery foliage, such as Burnnera and Lamium, since they add colour to shady spots.

Some of other shade loving plants that you could consider for your garden shade ideas include:

  • Stinking iris
  • Winter aconites
  • Snowdrops
  • Bleeding heart
  • Foxglove
  • Hellebores

Find out more plants for shade here.

2. Grow Colourful Blooms

forget me nots used in garden shade ideas

The most down-heartening thing about shady gardens is that you don’t really feel like using them because they are so gloomy. So, light them up in the most natural way by growing some colourful flowers. As we discussed above, there are plenty of plants that will thrive growing in the shade, and many of these produce colourful flowers that will make you forget about the darker corners of your garden. 

Some of the best flowers that will add colour to your garden shade ideas include:

  • Bellflowers
  • Forget-me-not
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Primroses
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Violets

3. Work With What The Sun Gives You

The most important thing in shady spots is to work with what you’ve got. So, monitor your shady garden to find out when it gets the sun. Even if that’s just a couple of hours of indirect Vitamin D a day, you can make the most of it by designing your garden around the amount of sunlight it receives. Position your garden furniture in a spot where your garden gets the sun, add a garden parasol, make sure there are plenty of cushions and blankets around and invite everyone over just in time to get the most of the sun in your garden. 

You can also check out our recommend sunken garden ideas too.

4. Take Advantage of the Shade

a shady garden pathway

A shady garden may not be every homeowner’s dream, but you can certainly use it to your advantage if you know how. But you can put together the perfect tranquil spot for kicking back in the summer in a shaded garden – cool, relaxing and comfortable. And with minimalism overtaking the design world, you can make your shady garden the pinnacle of style. Add some reclining sun loungers and plenty of extra comforts for the ultimate tranquil den. 

5. Brighten Up The Space With Paint

Nothing brightens up a garden like a lick of paint. Adding a few coats of colourful paint to the boundaries of your garden will light up the space immediately, and it’s one of the easiest garden shade ideas. A garden fence or wall can make a big difference to the atmosphere in your garden – a dark boundary will only darken the space. So, paint your boundary wall with a lovely, light colour, such as yellow, green, white or similar neutral shades. These will reflect the light for a garden that appears larger and brighter. 

For more creative garden shade ideas, you could consider turning the boundary surrounding that spot into a mural or similar design to add plenty of personality to that shady spot. 

6. Try Vertical Gardening

outdoor vertical garden

A vertical garden is perfect for those looking to save space however, starting a vertical garden is also one of the best garden shade ideas. To grow beautiful plants that will thrive in a shady spot, you may have to use a bit of imagination, and this is where a vertical garden comes in. Vertical gardening brings your plants closer to the sun so they can receive as much light as possible. Fruit trees are a surprisingly perfect choice for growing vertically, and there are plenty of climbing plants that will easily light up your shady garden. 

7. Light It Up

Who says your garden shade ideas have to rely on the sun? You can add a touch of artificial lighting to illuminate any shady spots for constant use all year round. From candles and lamps to fairy lights and hanging lanterns, there are plenty of options for you to choose from that will light up your shady garden and bring a touch of character. For smaller gardens, you may want to go for built-in light furnishings adorning your boundary walls to save space and time. 

Find out what all the gossip is with the top gardening trends for 2023.

8. Put Shady Corners To Good Use

outdoor entertainment area with people

It’s easy to want to neglect shady corners in an already dark garden. But, you can make the most of them by putting them to practical use. You can easily transform a shady garden corner into a functional space by considering how you want to use your garden. Need a spot to keep your BBQ for summer cookouts? Looking for the perfect space to put up your shed? Want to create the perfect bespoke outdoor kitchen? Well, you can add all these to your garden shade ideas and turn the spot into a functional area. 

9. Let The Kids Run Wild

Another practical use for a shady parts of your garden is to transform it into a hangout spot for the kids. Spending too long in the sun can be harmful, but with a shady garden spot, you can give them a place to play all summer long without the risk of too much UV exposure. You can add all your children’s favourite outdoor toys in a handy storage solution in a corner to keep it tidy, and include plenty of special outdoor equipment, like a climbing wall or wendy house, to allow them their fun in the sun. 

10. Use The Right Materials

rattan furniture in a shady corner patio

Although plants and functionality are the top priorities in a garden, you shouldn’t neglect the materials you are using, particularly in a shady garden. Darker areas of your garden are often more prone to the effects of the elements, such as damp, mould and algae. So, you should consider choosing materials of higher quality to withstand the effects of a shady garden, such as rattan, and investing in furniture covers. 

11. Hang Up Mirrors

Adding a mirror or two is one of the most popular garden decor ideas, and it’s a classic choice. A mirror hanging in your garden is the perfect way to add light and space to your garden, as the mirror reflects light to brighten it up and make it appear larger. So, hang a mirror in the shadiest spots of your garden to bounce the sun rays into the darker corners and light them up. 

12. Embrace The Shade

Most of these suggestions have been about reducing or banishing shade. However, why don’t you just embrace it? You can transform the shady spots of your garden to create a calm and contemplative space by working with the darker colours – paint your boundary walls a darker shade to create the perfect backdrop to bright furniture and luscious green plants, or add a dark-coloured structure, like a pergola, and cover it in flourishing climbing plants. This will help you embrace the shade without succumbing to it. 

Put Our Garden Shade Ideas To Use

We’ve put together this list of garden shade ideas to help you make the most of your garden. From a functional space to thriving plants, a bright outdoor seating area to the perfect cooking spot, you can put every inch of your shady garden to good use. Try out some of our suggestions – you won’t be disappointed with the results!  

Do you have any garden shade ideas of your own? Share them with us in the comments!


What are some creative ways to add shade to my garden?

Some ideas include adding a pergola, installing a shade sail, planting a tree, or creating a living wall of plants.

Can I use umbrellas for shade in my garden?

Yes, patio umbrellas are a great way to provide shade in small areas. Choose an umbrella with a sturdy base that can withstand wind and rain.

What are some low-cost options for creating shade in my garden?

Consider using outdoor curtains, a canopy tent, or repurposing old bed sheets to create shade. You can also plant tall, leafy plants that can provide natural shade.

How can I create a shaded seating area in my garden?

Use a pergola, canopy tent, or shade sail to create a covered seating area. Add comfortable seating, such as an outdoor sofa or chairs, and accessorize with outdoor pillows and throws.

What are some shade-loving plants that can be used in my garden design?

Some shade-loving plants include ferns, hostas, hydrangeas, impatiens, and begonias. These plants can add color, texture, and interest to shady areas.

How can I make my garden feel more spacious even if it’s shaded?

Use light-colored furniture, accessories, and planters to create a bright and airy atmosphere. Create a sense of depth by using taller plants in the back and shorter plants in the front.

Can I grow vegetables in a shaded garden?

Some vegetables can grow in partial shade, such as lettuce, spinach, and broccoli. However, most vegetables require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.


BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine. (2021). The best shade-loving plants. [Accessed 4th May, 2023] Retrieved from:

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