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Tips for a shady garden or balcony with a touch of green without sunlight

A classic for completely shaded spots: ferns.

Sun, sun and more sun: this is how many gardeners imagine the perfect conditions for their garden paradise.


The reality is, our gardens usually look different: trees and buildings cast shadows at different times of day, sometimes more or less depending on the season. Direct sunlight can be in short supply – at least on north-facing balconies anyways.


But such conditions are no reason to despair. “Often shady places are associated with the idea that nothing can be planted or cultivated there. But that’s just not true, ” says Thomas Wagner from the Federal Association of German Garden Friends. “In addition to many ornamental plants, there are plenty of fruits, vegetables and herbs that thrive in shady places.”Gardening author Katrin Lugerbauer recommends paying close attention to the location of your garden and selecting plants accordingly.


“It’s helpful to bring a photo of the location with you when you visit a plant nursery – preferably from a few angles – so that they can better judge how shady it really is there, ” advises Lugerbauer.


There’s little chance of a colourful sea of flowers in a shady location. But there are other options. Wagner’s tip: “For dark places, use white flowering plants or those with variegated leaves. They make beautiful accents and bring life to dark corners.”

Fuchsias also develop splendidly in the shade. 

Suitable for shade but less well-known are lady’s mantle and columbine. There are also the elegant Solomon’s seal and rodgersia.

“These wonderful leafy ornamental perennials like slightly more humid soils and become huge. Depending on the variety, the leaves are roundish or divided, like those of a chestnut tree, ” Lugerbauer says.

If you’re looking for a robust ground cover, she advises epimedium or aureola. Another classic for fully shaded locations: ferns.

Lugerbauer recommends the intricate, five-fingered fern (Adiantum pedatum), the tropical-looking royal fern (Osmunda regalis) and wintergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum) with the classic dark green fern fronds overhanging in an arch.

Whether or not you can grow edible plants depends on the type of shade. “Many varieties thrive in the shade, ” says Wagner.

“However, in severe northern climates, you must avoid certain fruit, vegetables or herbs – but you can experiment here.”

Chives, sorrel, parsley, mint and lemon balm will thrive.

Beetroot, radishes, leeks, carrots and kohlrabi are suitable for half-shade. “Cabbages, in particular, feel more comfortable in half-shade than in full sun, ” says the expert. – dpa/Melanie Oehlenbach

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