What are the best plants for north-facing gardens? Living in a north-facing home does not mean you cannot have a fabulous lush, green garden.
Many people believe that creating a paradise in a cooler, shadier north-facing garden is very difficult.
It is not! Many plants prefer shade to sun.
Many plants won’t tolerate full sun at all. These kinds of plants are perfect for a north-facing garden.
In a north-facing garden, you will get sun on the eastern side when the sun rises. You will also get some afternoon sun when it sets in the west.
However, for most of the day, areas of your garden against walls, fences, and structures will be in the shade.
You will probably get a maximum of 3 to 4 hours, or less, of direct sunlight.
Take advantage of these cooler, shadier spots and create a beautiful and attractive garden.
Hence, let’s look at some plants that do well in north-facing gardens.
Which plants do best in north-facing gardens?
- Azara serrata (Saw-toothed azara)
- Cyrtomium falcatum (Holly fern)
- Hydrangea integrifolia
- Osmanthus delavayi
- Lathyrus latifolius ‘White Pearl’ (Everlasting sweet pea)
- Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower)
- Heuchera (Coral Bells)
- Digitalis (Foxglove)
- Lamium Maculatum (Dead Nettle)
- Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
- Alchemilla (Lady’s mantle)
- Albéric Barbier (Rambling Rose)
- Virginia Creeper
Read about the best plants for a north-facing balcony.
Best Plants for North Facing Gardens
1. Azara Serrata (Saw-toothed azara)
Photo Credit: @nativainsular on Instagram!
Do you have a cool north-facing wall that needs some love and care? The beautiful Saw-toothed Azara is the perfect plant to grow up against a wall.
In north-facing gardens, many walls see very little sun, if any at all. Plants that require full sun will not do well, but plants that love the shade will thrive.
The saw-toothed Azara makes a great background to other plants when it grows against a wall in your north-facing garden.
It is happiest in shady, sheltered conditions and does want full sunlight.
The plant is an evergreen shrub with dark green leaves that have serrated edges, giving it the name of saw-toothed.
In spring and summer, you will be rewarded with stunning masses of yellow-gold flowers that grow in clusters.
Your Azara serrata is not fussy about the soil type. Just ensure that your soil is deep and that you water from time to time.
And, don’t stress about sunlight, this plant loves shade and will thrive in your north-facing garden.
2. Cyrtomium falcatum (Holly fern)
Another fabulous plant that loves dark and damp spots is the Holly fern. In fact, most ferns prefer shady and damp conditions.
Ferns can suffer from leaf burn if they grow in full sunlight. So, they are perfect for a garden that’s facing the north side.
North-facing gardens get far less sun than south-facing gardens and can sometimes feel dark and unattractive.
Planting ferns bring color all year round to your living space. They create a lovely lush atmosphere that makes your north-facing garden stand out.
The Holly fern has bright green leaves that are often used for Christmas decorations. They are ideal to add texture to borders and can block out unattractive walls and barriers.
Holly ferns do not want sunlight. They love the shade and can be planted in areas of your north-facing garden that get minimal sunshine.
When it comes to soil, they enjoy moist but not continuously soggy soil. Water and allow the soil to almost dry out before watering again.
They require minimal care, making this a great choice for a beginner gardener with a north-facing garden.
Trim your fern back only if it starts to grow too large and look untidy.
3. Hydrangea integrifolia
Many beginner gardeners think that growing vines means setting up trellises and supports.
But, the lovely Hydrangea integrifolia will climb without any help.
It clings to tree trunks, fences, walls, and rough surfaces, forming a gorgeous lush display. And, best of all, it loves cool shady conditions, making it ideal for your north-facing garden.
Because north-facing gardens only get sun in the early morning and late afternoon, they tend to have large sections that are exposed to shade for most of the day.
The Hydrangea integrifolia will not have a problem thriving in these shady conditions.
In fact, it does not want the full sun at all and will tend to wilt if the conditions are too sunny.
The evergreen plant offers dark green leaves that add color to your garden all year round. In summer, it puts on a show of lace-cap type flowers that are a glorious creamy-white color.
This is a lovely ornamental plant for your north-facing garden that will happily cover an attractive wall, fence, or structure.
4. Osmanthus delavayi
Osmanthus delavayi belongs to the olive family. I love this plant because it is evergreen and adds color to a garden all year round.
Osmanthus delavayi is a shade-loving plant and can thrive in both light shade and deep shade. That makes it perfect for your north-facing garden as it will only get a few hours of direct sun every day.
The plant offers lovely tubular white flowers that bloom in April. They have a delightful scent that will waft into your living space.
Contrasting with the white blooms is dark charcoal-green foliage that makes it very attractive.
You can plant Osmanthus delavayi against a wall or fence and not worry about sunlight. Clip it into a hedge or screen, or leave it to grow naturally.
The care needed is minimal, making this a great choice for beginner gardeners.
Tip for creating more light in north-facing gardens: Check whether you have large trees or bushes on the east or west side.
These may be blocking out some of the valuable sunlight that falls onto the garden in the morning or afternoon.
Trim back if possible to get extra light and more sun.
5. Lathyrus latifolius ‘White Pearl’ (Everlasting sweet pea)
When you feel like taking a break, stroll around your north-facing garden and observe where the sun filters in. Not all north-facing gardens are sunless.
You will probably find a section on the west side that gets afternoon sun when the sun dips and starts to set.
This is the ideal spot to plant Lathyrus latifolius ‘White Pearl’, otherwise known as the Everlasting sweet pea.
Sweet peas are easy to care for and are very popular plants, especially with beginner gardeners.
They will thrive in part-shade conditions, making them ideal for a north-facing garden.
The Everlasting sweet pea offers showy clusters of snow-white flowers that bloom from June to September. The leaves are an attractive gray-green shade.
This plant can be grown as a climber over a fence or wall. You can also grow it as a shrub or a hedge, but you may need to offer some support until it becomes strong enough to stand on its own.
Give your sweet pea rich, well-draining soil. You can add organic compost during the summer for an extra feed and boost.
6. Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower)
The Tiarella cordifolia, or Foamflower loves shade! This makes it the perfect plant to grow in your north-facing garden.
When planning on where to place your plants in a north-facing garden, keep in mind that the east and west sides will get sun in the morning and afternoon.
The middle or north-facing sections will probably get no sun at all or very little.
Plants that need 8 hours of sun per day are not suited for your north-facing garden.
But, the lovely Tiarella cordifolia is happy in partial shade or full shade. When it comes to sunlight, it can grow in as little as 1 to 2 hours of sun per day.
This plant offers charming creamy white flowers that have an attractive star shape. The flowers are beautifully contrasted by the green foliage with burgundy stripes on the veins.
The plant is evergreen, another great way to keep color in your garden all year round.
The flowers also last for a long time, up to 6 weeks, and add a splash of brightness to beds and borders.
Sometimes, it is difficult to grow a lawn in a north-facing garden, especially if it is very dark and damp.
The Foamflower can be used as a ground cover, creating an eye-catching display and offering a unique look in your garden.
This plant loves cool, moist, well-draining soil. Add some humus from time to time during summer to enrich the soil.
It does not require much care, making it a great choice for beginner gardeners.
7. Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Adding texture to your garden is an important part of creating a professional look. Don’t panic – doing this is easy when you plant the lovely Heuchera plant, also known as Coral Bells.
This is a hardy plant that is not fussy about sun or shade. That makes it perfect for your north-facing garden.
North-facing gardens do not get 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight per day. That makes them far more suited to plants that thrive in shade. And, there are many.
Don’t feel that your north-facing garden is drab and unattractive. With a little care and the correct plants, they can look just as stunning as a full sun garden.
Coral Bells will thrive in your north-facing garden. It is a semi-evergreen perennial that puts on a show of delightful tiny bell-shaped pink flowers.
However, most people love it for its foliage. The leaves are large and have a unique purple color, tinged with bronze.
Plant into soil that is well-draining and not too full of clay. Add an organic fertilizer once during the summer months. This plant can be neglected and still do well.
If you don’t have a garden, Coral bells look stunning growing it in a container on a north-facing patio.
8. Digitalis (Foxglove)
I love a north-facing garden! It offers a sense of a darker, more exotic forest, with damp patches filled with unusual foliage and flowers.
North-facing gardens attract less sun than south-facing gardens and deciding which plants to choose is simple. Ask your local nursery about perennials that thrive in shade or partial shade.
The next plant that I always choose for a north-facing garden is the Foxglove.
Foxgloves are not fussy about the sun and can thrive in full shade or partial shade. That makes them ideal to plant in any position in your north-facing garden.
Foxgloves offer large pink-purple spikes of trumpet-shaped flowers that persist through the summer months. They are bright and eye-catching and add a pop of color to your living space.
The flowers are rich in nectar and soon you will have birds, bees, and butterflies adding sound and movement into your garden.
This plant is easy to grow and requires little care. It will thrive in sandy, loamy, or clay soils. Keep the soil moist but well-drained.
North-facing gardens tend to have soil that is damper as a result of getting less direct sunlight.
Because this plant can grow up to 2 feet to 3 feet (60cm to 90cm) in height, it makes an attractive tall backdrop for smaller plants in a bed or border.
You may find that certain plants that you choose just do not thrive well in your garden. One main factor to look at is the amount of sunlight that your plant is getting.
Many plants want 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight per day. Others are far happier in shade or partial shade. These shade plants will not do well in gardens that are too hot or too sunny.
When choosing a plant for your north-facing garden, look for plants that thrive in shade or partial shade.
Another great choice for a north-facing garden is the Astilbe.
If you are not familiar with this shade-loving plant, you are in for a surprise. It offers fabulous bright color, texture, and height to a garden.
The flowers grow in spires and offer a fluffy candy-pink hue against dark green foliage. The blooms last as long as 4 to 6 weeks.
The foliage of the Astilbe looks similar to ferns, and these plants make attractive partners planted next to ferns in your north-facing garden.
Astilbe is easy to care for. They need a minimum of 1 hour of sunlight per day and do well in the gentle morning sun on the east side of your garden.
Plant into rich fertile soil and keep it moist. They are great for damp spots in a garden that get very little sunlight.
10. Lamium Maculatum (Dead Nettle)
If you are struggling to get a lawn to grow in your north-facing garden, it is probably because it is not getting enough sunlight.
Do not despair, north-facing gardens offer the opportunity to use fabulous ground covers in place of a lawn.
Lamium Maculatum, also known as Dead Nettle or spotted dead nettle, is a great choice to create an attractive ground cover in a darker and damper garden.
This plant is easy to grow, as long as it is in the shade. It is tolerant of a wide variety of soil types.
You will be rewarded with lovely blooms in late spring, from May to June. The flowers are pink, white, lavender, or purple.
The leaves are a bright green speckled with lighter spots.
This plant likes to spread, making it ideal as a ground cover for your north-facing garden. If it tends to become too large or unwieldy, trim it back to keep it in shape.
It also looks great in hanging baskets on a shady north-facing patio. Don’t stress if it dies back in the fall, it will perk up as soon as spring arrives.
11. Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
Another lovely plant that thrives in full shade or partial shade is the Lungwort. Because their native habitat is damp forests, they love cool, darker regions.
The name may not sound attractive, but you will be delighted with this pretty plant.
Your north-facing garden is the ideal spot to plant Lungwort. North-facing gardens get far less sun and you can take advantage of this by choosing plants that thrive in shady, damp conditions.
Lungwort offers flowers that are shaped like a lung, giving it its weird name!
The flowers are showy blooms that can be white, blue, or pink. They often bud in one color and change into another shade as they mature.
The foliage of the lungwort plant is also eye-catching. It has a lovely dark green hue with random white spots.
Plant into moist rich soil in full shade or partial shade. Your plant does not want to be in full sun.
When it comes to sunlight, it is happy in partial shade or full shade. Full sun will scorch the leaves and your plant may even die.
Lungwort requires minimal care, making this a great choice for beginner gardeners with north-facing gardens.
12. Alchemilla (Lady’s mantle)
If you live in a home with a north-facing garden, you need to think of damp exotic forests, climbing vines, and loads of lush ground cover.
Many people think that they are at a disadvantage because a north-facing garden gets less sunlight than a south-facing garden. You are definitely not!
North-facing gardens are ideal for growing plants that love the shade. They are also ideal for plants that want partial shade, as you will usually get a few hours of gentle sun in the early morning or late afternoon.
One great plant for a north-facing garden is the Alchemilla, known as the Lady’s mantle.
Lady’s mantle is a perennial offering scalloped-shaped leaves that are an attractive green-gray color.
Late in spring and early summer, the plant produces small yellow-green flowers.
This plant loves shade and can survive with as little as an hour per day of sun. It also enjoys damp soil. That is why it is perfect for a north-facing garden.
Lady’s mantle makes an attractive ground cover under a tree where grass won’t grow. It also looks stunning as a border along a walkway or path in your garden.
Grow it amongst rocks in a rock garden to create a focal point.
13. Albéric Barbier (Rambling Rose)
While most roses do best in sunny gardens, as an owner of a north-facing garden, you will be happy to know that some varieties are tolerant of shady conditions.
So, you can also have a stunning show of roses in your shadier, north-facing garden.
The Albéric Barbier, also known as the Rambling Rose, is more than happy growing in shade.
It is a vigorously growing plant that offers creamy-white flowers with a peach center. Flowers will appear in early summer.
The Rambling Rose is ideal to grow as a climber. Train it to go up walls, trellises, pergolas, or over archways. It makes the perfect romantic entrance to your north-facing garden.
The plant is easy to care for. Plant it into any fertile soil and feed once during the summer months. It is happy to be neglected, making it a great choice for beginner gardeners.
When it comes to sunlight, it is happy in partial shade or full shade.
The scent of this lovely rose will soon attract birds, bees, and butterflies into your garden.
14. Virginia Creeper
Your north-facing garden is a haven for plants that love the shade. These gardens only get sun in the early morning when the sun rises, and late afternoon when the sun sets.
Read also about the best plants for the north-facing side of the house.
If you spend time in your north-facing garden, you will notice that the east and west sides do tend to get more sun than the middle sections.
Think forest, think vines, think creeping plants, and create a fabulous ambiance that far outweighs a full-sun garden.
The Virginia Creeper is a vigorously growing vine that will add depth and a lush ambiance to your north-facing, cooler garden.
It is happy in any type of soil and requires minimal care and attention.
The vines offer five-pointed leaves that are a lovely green color. As fall approaches, it puts on an amazing show when the leaves turn to a brilliant crimson color.
This plant is a great climber and can cover walls, trellises, and archways. Let it climb up the trunk of a large tree to create a spectacular focal point.
North-facing gardens are ideal for plants that do not want full sun and the Virginia creeper is a great choice. Its native habitat is darker, damper regions and that is why it will flourish in a north-facing garden.
Because it grows fast, you may need to trim it back from time to time to keep it neat and in shape.
Read about the best plants for northeast facing garden.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.