What to plant if my balcony is in the shade most of the day?

Written by Boe Sallingboe from Altan-alferne.dk for Balcony Living Cph.

There is a list of plants who thrive in a shaded location. Common to these plants is that the dark green color is found in most of the plants, but there is great variation in their texture, leaf shape and flowers, and many of them are also evergreen. This means that you can easily create a cozy environment even if the list of plants is not that long.

When working with an outdoor space which is located mostly in the shade, it's a good idea to think beyond the colors of flowers.
Instead, you can create a sense of space and depth by thinking about leaf shapes and texture. And especially by thinking of the garden located in teh shade, as a year-round arrangement, instead of ensuring a colorful bloom over 3-5 months of the year. My biggest inspiration for working with nature in places with little sunlight comes from Japan.

Japanese gardens are world-renowned for their harmony and natural beauty, and what most people don't realize is that they are often laid out in partial or full shade under large trees, with plants that can thrive in shaded environments. This makes the gardens a delight to the eye all year round, even if flowers and bright colors are relatively rare.

Harmony can be designed and here the repetitive element plays an important role because it calms our eye if something is repeated. For example, you can create small islands of simple colors around the evergreen, by using the same lime color from the leaves of different species or plants repeatedly in different places. Or you can use a variety of plants where the leaves are brightly colored around the edges. An example here is the plant: Hosta with its many variations with white or yellow edges will brighten up a dark corner or as a ground cover under a larger tree.

If you are experiencing a lack of space in your outdoor space, which is often the case when in a city, there are different ways to make the landscape seem larger than it actually is by placing your plants so that the largest are at the back and the smallest at the front, and you can work with depth perspective by planting the darkest colors at the front and the lightest at the back, allowing the eye to wander through the landscape created by mixing the texture, light and darkness into a patchwork of evergreen shades.

A list of plants suitable for places in the shade:

Columbine, coral bells, arum, azalea, wisteria, deer fern, cambrian fern, royal fern, male fern, blueberry, blackberry, ivy, grass-bluetop, grass-Japanese star, grass-miliegrass, grass-cane, hazel, hydrangea, hosta, elder, elderberry, hollyhock, honeysuckle evergreen, climbing hydrangea, cherry laurel, bulbous onion, lieutenant's heart, hairy lion's foot, moss, moss-covered stones, wild garlic, sorrel, large-rooted cranesbill, lilac, yew, cranberry.


If you are curious to learn even more about urban city gardening, you can find more information at altan-alferne.dk and urbangarden.dk, as well as facebook/altan-alferne.
Boe Sallingboe has published the books "Naturen ind i byen" Gyldendal 2016 and "Naturen forkæler din hjerne" Mellemgaard 2018. (Both books in Danish).