Fairy Garden Shade Plants: Choosing Shade Plants For A Fairy Garden

By: Amy Grant

A fairy garden is a whimsical tiny garden created either indoors or out. In either case, you may be looking for shade plants for your fairy garden. How do you go about choosing miniature plants for shade tolerant fairy gardens? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Read on to learn about fairy gardening in the shade.

Fairy Gardening in the Shade

More and more people are living in condos, small bungalows, and even tiny houses. This means that their garden spaces are often equally tiny, perfect for a fairy garden, and some of these are in shade.

Good news, though. Many of the miniature plants available are aptly suited for shady conditions, which mean finding shade plants for a fairy garden is not only simple but lots of fun.

The same basic landscaping rules apply when fairy gardening in the shade. Include some plants with colorful foliage, some tall and some short plants, and a mix of textures.

Miniature Fairy Garden Shade Plants

As far as variety of color, you can’t go wrong with coleus and there are several miniature varieties available, such as ‘Sea Urchin Neon,’ ‘Bone Fish,’ ‘Sea Monkey Purple,’ and ‘Sea Monkey Rust.’

Incorporating an evergreen or two as shade plants for a fairy garden will give the garden year round interest. ‘Twinkle Toe’ Japanese cedar and ‘Moon Frost’ Canada hemlock are excellent choices.

Don’t forget the hostas when fairy gardening in the shade. There are so many varieties and hues available, such as ‘Cracker Crumbs’ and ‘Blue Elf.’

Grasses create movement in a garden. A couple of them make excellent shade plants for a fairy garden. A good choice is dwarf mondo grass.

Ferns also create motion and are excellent for use in shade tolerant fairy gardens. Some ferns get quite large, but not ‘Rabbit’s Foot’ or asparagus fern. Their diminutive size makes them perfect miniature shade plants for a fairy garden.

Scottish moss is a chartreuse version of its kin, Irish moss plant, which grows into a grassy knoll perfect for a fairy picnic.

As the “icing on the cake’ so to speak, you may want to add in some vines. Miniature shade vines, such as dwarf wintercreeper or angel vine, look lovely twining in amongst the other fairy garden shade plants.

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It takes research and planning for all sections of a yard, whether it’s a do-it-yourself project or one that’s handled by a professional. Consider these tips when designing a shade garden:

  • Choose a garden style: If you love tropical or cottage gardens, stick with your choice and be consistent throughout the yard. That way, everything flows without a distraction or interruption, as in, "What’s that doing here?"
  • Continuity and consistency: Yes, full-sun and light-shade plants differ. But aim to use the same or similar plants throughout the yard to tie it together, so it doesn’t seem like you accidentally wandered into someone else’s yard. Choose plants that grow in partial sun/shade to transition from one zone to another.
  • Containers: Plants potted in attractive containers can be easily moved throughout the garden, according to light needs and season.
  • Color: It’s no surprise that shade gardens tend to be a bit dark. Lighten the space with flowering shade lovers, a colorful container, or statuary.​
  • Hardscape: Break up a potentially gloomy spot with rocks, boulders, a path, arbor, or other hardscape elements.
  • Water: Consider building or installing a fountain or other water feature to reflect light, create movement, and add sound to an otherwise quiet dark space.
  • Lighting: Subtle lighting that will illuminate the shady area in the late afternoon will draw attention to the space, highlight plant forms, and make the area more usable​.

25 Best Shade Plants and Perennials That Thrive Out of the Sun

Time to brighten up those shady areas of your garden!

Everyone adores a sunny garden with bold and bright blooms. But shady gardens also deserve some love. These shade perennials boast beautiful leaf colors and delicate, exotic flowers—and some have irresistibly cool names too! Pick plants that work in your USDA Hardiness Zone, and talk to the nursery or read the plant label to make sure it can handle the conditions in your yard. Remember: Full shade means the area never gets direct sunlight. Part shade means it doesn’t get more than 3 or 4 hours of sun daily.

For novice gardeners wondering what the definition of "shade plant" even entails, note that the term simply refers to a plant's tolerance of lower light levels. Perhaps there's an area of your garden surrounded by some leafy trees (this is often the case in lush English gardens), or maybe you're looking for low-growing plants that will be able to flourish beneath the shade of larger plants or privacy trees. Maybe you're just in need of a few hardy perennials to withstand the winter months (we've got a full guide on annuals vs. perennials if you're confused). Either way, it's very easy to choose a shade plant that's right for your region and yard, research how to best take care of it, and get started with our shady backyard ideas as soon as possible. Let's get to planting!

Sometimes called "leopard plant," Ligularia is an excellent choice for any shade garden—and not just because deer don't enjoy eating it. "One of the other nice things about this plant is its striking, purplish-red leaves," adds Daryl Beyers, author of The New Gardener's Handbook. "There's another variety that features yellow, daisy-looking flowers, and yet another called 'The Rocket' that boasts spikier blooms." If you're looking for a plant with a large leaf structure, this might be your best bet.

Varieties to try: Desdemona, Britt-Marie Crawford, The Rocket

Hostas is a go-to plant for shady areas with moist soil. Primarily a foliage plant, the broad-leafed beauty can actually be very small or very large. "Sum and Substance is a variety that gets huge—about five feet across," says Beyers. "Meanwhile, Mouse Ears is really, really tiny."

Varieties to try: Halcyon, Sum and Substance, Mouse Ears

This gorgeous perennial can grow up to three feet tall. Talk about a beautiful addition to a shadier area of your lawn! "They also have strong stems, so you may not have to stake them," offers Beyers. "Of course, the main attraction is the flower itself. It's got this really nice, deep blue or purple hue. And deer don't like them!"

Varieties to try: Albus, Blue Scepter, Monkshood

Partial Shade - Astilbe hybrids

Feathery, plumelike flowers have an airy quality that can lighten any space they come in shades of pink, salmon, lavender, red, and white on elegant stems above fernlike foliage. A mainstay of shaded perennial borders, they’re also great beside garden pools, along shaded paths, and in pots for vivid color from May through July. They can swing with columbine and meadow rue in shade gardens, or with peonies and delphiniums in sunnier spots.

Keep Them Happy: Give them moist, rich soil with good humus. Astilbe hybrids grow best in Zones 2-7 and 14-17, but will grow outside this range with shorter bloom time.

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