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North border with no sun


Very new to gardening here so please bear with me.  :o

I'm so fed up with the north-facing fence in my garden. So far the only thing growing there is a hosta - which is going pretty well for all intents and purposes - and grass.

I have looked up time and time again which plants do well in shade, but almost everything I find needs sun for part of the day (understandably - I mean, they're plants...). But I have a three or four-foot strip under the fence that gets zero sun, ever. 

Another limitation I have is that my house is rented. I can't make too many changes and I try to keep everything in planters and pots so they can come with me if I have to move.

My questions are:

1. I have some impatiens and pansies in containers, but will they die if they're in full shade?

2. I keep shying away from the suggestions of ferns and shrubs as I feel like they couldn't possibly do well in containers, and I lack the confidence to try them. Can anyone disabuse me of these notions?

3. Any ideas for what a novice gardener can grow in containers in zero shade?!

Thank you so much for any advice!  :)




  • Bee witchedBee witched Posts: 1,173
    Hello @shoshmccarthy ... and welcome to the forum.

    This website is really useful for finding shade loving plants and should give you some ideas.

    One of the plants on the site is Euphorbia amygdaloides var robbiae.
    I grow this in a large pot in total shade and it is doing really well.

    Good luck with your project.

    Bee x

      Gardener and beekeeper in beautiful Scottish Borders  

      A single bee creates just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
    • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 21,748
      I have grown Impatiens and Violas in full shade. I've also grown heucheras, hostas, begonias, ferns, geranium phaeum, Brunnera "Jack Frost" in pots in full shade.
      Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
    • PianoplayerPianoplayer Posts: 624
      Hi - another vote for ferns - I am a novice and have a couple in pots in total shade, and they are thriving. The fact your hosta is doing well is a good sign - they do well in pots and there are loads of different ones (different variegation and colours of leaves etc).
    • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,409
      The front of my house is north facing and I have Skimmias,  Sarcococca, Fatsia japonica, a silver variegated Carex and a box bush, all in pots.
      Nicotiana will flower in shade, I've grown them there some years, though this year's are a bit behind, like everything else, including me! N.sylvestris would be nice for adding a bit of height to your border.

    • B3B3 Posts: 25,256
      Ferns do very well in containers. Hardy fuchsias will do ok too
      In London. Keen but lazy.
    • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,184
      There are plenty of shrubs which can cope with being in pots, but bear in mind that you can't just grow them in compost. You need a good, soil based medium.
      You'll also need decent sized containers as they grow, and will have to be prepared to put in some effort in maintaining them. 

      In addition to @Buttercupdays' suggestions, Pieris will also be fine, with the appropriate care. The smaller Japanese azaleas are slow growing and will be fine in containers.  Most Acers will thrive in that aspect and are mostly slow growing and happy to be in containers long term :)
      It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

      I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
    • TheGreenManTheGreenMan Posts: 1,848
      Forgive the terrible pictures (I couldn't be bothered to open the french doors) but these are some ferns and an epimedium that I've grown over the last few years in pots with no sun. One of them now gets SOME morning sun but hasn't for the last 2 years.  Two types of plants that will bring you a lot of pleasure in a north facing aspect.

      Two of the ferns were £3 each from a high street store.

      I just give them a trim in spring (cut off the old and broken fronds) to make way for the new ones unfurling.

      The epimedium I've done nothing to apart from refreshing its planting medium and repotting it.

    • Thank you all for your replies and ideas. It's given me loads to think about!

      I've always assumed ferns are difficult but I'm going to look into those, and I'll have a look-see at the other plants mentioned too.

      Sorry for not replying to everyone individually but I'm really thankful!  :)

    • B3B3 Posts: 25,256
      Ferns in pots are pretty easy. Easier than in the ground,I've found😊
      In London. Keen but lazy.
    • TheGreenManTheGreenMan Posts: 1,848
      Ferns are easy. I’ve managed to keep those three alive. 

      Just be careful. I now have 12! 
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