North-facing gardens: pick the best plants
Our recommendations for what plants to grow if your garden faces north
From the top, left to right: Cornus kousa, Crinodendron hookerianum, Clematis Nelly Moser', Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris, rose New Dawn', Geranium macrorrhizum, Lily of the valley, Viola labradorica, Asplenium scolopendrium
Sunlight may be in short supply in a north-facing garden, but there are lots of beautiful plants to illuminate the shadows.
Smart solutions: In long gardens, site your patio at the bottom, planting up borders outside your back door with shade-loving plants. You'll soon have a lovely meandering walk to reach the sunshine on your terrace.
Plants to pick for a north-facing garden
An excellent specimen tree for shade, Cornus kousa var. chinensis produces eye-catching bracts that open white, fading to red-pink. Crimson fruits follow flowers, with an autumn finale when the green leaves turn purple. It's best planted in fertile, well-drained, neutral to acid soil. If you've no space for a tree, a shade-loving specimen shrub might be the answer. The evergreen leaves of Crinodendron hookerianum are studded with red lanterns of bloom in early summer. Plant it in moist, acidic soil in a sheltered, shady position.
A north-facing wall is perfect for the flowers of Clematis Nelly Moser', as a weak sun will keep its pale pink flowers bright.
If you have a large area of sunless wall to cover, Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris is a self-clinging climber perfect for large areas, and for those who adore the romance of roses, there are several that will bloom in the gloom. Try Albéric Barbier', Ena Harkness', Danse du Feu', Félicité Perpétue', Golden Showers', May Queen', Mme Grégoire Staechelin', Mme Legras de St. Germain', Mme Plantier', Mme Alfred Carrière', New Dawn', Mermaid' and Veilchenblau'. Or mix a few climbers together to create a tapestry of flower and foliage that will last all year.
Perennial shade lovers are largely divided into two groups - those that do well in moist shade, and those that will put up with areas of dry shade. Inspect your soil to see which type yours is. A whole host of geraniums will thrive in dry shade. Geranium macrorrhizum, G. nodosum, G. phaeum and G. sylvaticum all form flowering ground cover. Lily of the valley spreads in dry soil to form a mass of white blooms, and Viola labradorica is a self-seeder, forming pretty ground cover.
Ferns are indispensable in shade, providing textural frothy foliage, but not all will put up with sunless dry positions. Blechnum spicant, Dryopteris filix-mas and Polypodium vulgare will prosper, while Asplenium scolopendrium, Matteuccia struthiopteris and Osmunda regalis prefer moist, shady ground.
You might also like...
As all of your outside space might not face the same way...
...plants for south-facing gardens
...plants for west-facing gardens
...plants for east-facing gardens
Pick the right plant for every place
See our gardening calendar for what to do each month