14 Plants That Thrive In Shallow Soil And Shade That You Should Put To The Test

14 Plants That Thrive In Shallow Soil And Shade That You Should Put To The Test

Gardening is a pastime that we all enjoy. Maintaining and caring for your flower bed is a pleasure unlike any other.

But what do you do if your flower bed is just a little too shallow? What do you do if a giant tree is casting a shadow over it, robbing it of sunlight?

Well, planting one of these flowers might be a good start!



Starting our list of plants that are optimal for the shady shallow soil, we have the beautiful periwinkle plant.

A favorite of hanging basket and container plant-growers everywhere, this subtropical plant is already primed to be grown in a whole range of temperatures and soil conditions.

Periwinkles also come in a variety of sizes from small to large, so you can grow one plant or many! This perennial plant comes back every year with new growth, making it a great choice for anyone looking for something easy to care for.

This plant will attract butterflies such as Monarch and Orange Sulphur. It’s very drought tolerant and doesn’t need much water once established.

While not all varieties produce blooms each season, they do bloom well in warmer climates. The best time to plant is during late spring or early summer.

They add a nice pop of color and texture to any garden. Not only do these flowers come in a variety of colors, but the foliage is also interesting, being both variegated green and yellowish-green.



With its purple, pink, and white flowers, this plant is a beautiful one to grow in any garden, especially if you have a shady patch that needs a little extra color.

It takes at least six weeks before petunias begin flowering, which means it’s a good idea to buy some seeds now and sow them in pots when you’re ready to plant them outside.

While you can use a regular potting mix for planting petunias, it’s recommended that you use a specially formulated flower potting mix instead. These mixes contain more nutrients than ordinary potting soils.

You can plant petunias anywhere in your yard, but you’ll probably find that they do better when they don’t receive too much direct sunlight, since they tend to bolt (flower prematurely) when they’re exposed to heat.

If you want to grow larger petunias, look for varieties that mature into fully double flowers. Since the petals are shorter on single-petal varieties, you won’t get quite as many blooms.



The brunnera plant is a great piece of foliage to grow if you have a spot in your garden that you know doesn’t receive a lot of direct sun or moisture. They are an excellent plant to grow where other flowers will struggle.

They can tolerate a wide range of soil types but enjoy fertile loam. In winter, they prefer slightly drier areas, so a raised bed or area of mulch works well.

In addition to its attractive leaves, brunneras also produce lovely clusters of star-shaped flowers between May and July. They are pollinated by bees and provide nectar for hummingbirds.

In warm weather, brunneras like to stay moist, so keeping them well-watered will help prevent wilting. As soon as Spring arrives, remove any dead or dying leaves, to make way for new growth.



If you know you’ll be able to keep your flower beds nice and moist, then we would recommend the Pachysandra plant for those more shallow and shaded parts of your beds.

It grows quickly and will self-seed easily, so you might just end up with a whole bunch of these pretty pinks throughout your landscape over time!

Pachysandra comes in a variety of colors, including pink, red, yellow, and even blue. All of these will add some bright spots to your yard.

The best thing about pachysandras is that they usually bloom all season long, making them a popular choice for most gardening styles.

While this plant does not require any special care during the growing season, you should water it often and fertilize it every two weeks from spring through summer.

When the weather starts getting hot and dry, you may need to cut back on how frequently you water it. If you live in a very humid climate, you might not need to worry about overwatering.



This perennial herb has been used for centuries as a medicinal remedy. The essential oil extracted from lavender has a calming effect when inhaled, which makes it perfect for use as a room fragrance.

It’s easy to grow lavenders in containers, and you can choose from several different cultivars to make sure you find one that suits your needs.

Some people like the tall, rangy forms, while others appreciate the bushy shrub form. Whatever kind you go with, you’ll enjoy the beautiful scent of lavender as it fills your yard and house.

Lavenders thrive in full sun, and they can handle high temperatures as well as low ones. They also like plenty of water, especially after flowering.

Because they can take up a lot of space, you must give them adequate room to grow.

Don’t worry though, as much as they love a bit of wiggle room to thrive, lavender plants are shallow routers, so lack of depth in your planter or bed will not be an issue.

The blooms of lavender last long once planted, but you’ll want to deadhead regularly to get rid of spent blossoms.

Once you’ve removed the flowers, you can simply leave the stem intact until frost hits. Then carefully pluck off the dried buds. Be careful when handling lavender, since it contains oils that can cause skin irritation.



Also known as Evergreen Veronica, this plant is perfect for those gardeners and florists that want a shot of light purple in their shaded flower beds.

Hebes come in many varieties, each with its unique characteristics.

One of the most common types is called ‘Frost King’, which produces an abundance of small white flowers. These plants are drought-tolerant, so they can survive without regular watering.

They prefer to stay cool, so you may have to protect them from scorching heat in the summer months.

Also, be aware that hebes are slow growers, so it can take several years before you see any results from planting.

Once established, hebes can withstand some neglect, but you should still keep them well-mulched to prevent weeds from taking hold. You can prune them when they start to look leggy but wait until fall before you do so.

Hebes do best when grown in well-drained soil, and they can tolerate some shade.

If you live in a hot climate, you might consider growing these beauties in pots with pebbles set around the base to help retain moisture.



If you’re thinking about adding a splash of color to your shady areas, you could try hostas instead. These perennials are available in a wide range of colors in their foliage, including deep greens, lime greens, and even yellows!

Like all other hostas, they need plenty of water during dry periods. While they can tolerate some shade, you’ll probably want to provide extra sunlight for them.

To encourage healthy growth, feed your hostas monthly using a balanced fertilizer formulated specifically for hostas.

As with other types of perennials, hostas are prone to pests such as slugs and snails, so you’ll want to keep watch for signs of damage.

Keep hostas weeded to promote good growth, and you shouldn’t have to worry too much about pests or diseases. Fertilize them every spring, and cut back the leaves when they begin to yellow.



These bright little flowers work well in the garden because they don’t require much care. Just give them enough sunshine and water, and they’ll bloom year-round.

You’ll find zinnias in a variety of sizes and shapes, including daisies, single petals, double petals, and bicolors.

When selecting your plant, make sure to choose one suited to your particular location. Some varieties like hotter climates, while others prefer cooler weather.

Water your zinnias thoroughly after planting, then let them dry out between waterings. Don’t fertilize your zinnias unless you notice that they’re starting to look weak.

Instead, use a foliar application of compost tea, which will boost your plants’ nutrition levels naturally.

While zinnias aren’t as hardy as hostas, they can usually handle temperatures down into the mid-40s Fahrenheit. They also tend to grow better in light shade than hostas do.



These incredibly colorful flowers are the perfect solution to the problem of having too many shaded spots in your flower beds.

Not only do rhododendrons add beauty to your yard, but they also offer up excellent blooms year-round.

As long as you remember to mulch around your rhododendron’s roots, you won’t have to worry about weed competition.

The key to successful rhododendron gardening is to provide ample room for the roots to expand.

This means giving each shrub a generous amount of space, especially if you plan to grow multiple specimens in your landscape. They don’t need particularly deep earth, but they do need lateral room to breathe and thrive.

When choosing your rhododendrons, focus on what you’d like to get from the experience. Do you want an upright specimen? A more sprawling form? Or something in between? This little flower can do it all!

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

For a plant that will not just look great, but will taste delicious too, we have Swiss chard, an excellent vegetable to grow in shallow soil.

Chard needs full sun to produce its best results. It’s a cool-season crop, meaning you should start seedlings indoors in early spring or transplant them outside after the last frost has passed.

If you’ve got trouble growing chard, you may be planting it in too deep soil. The root system grows very slowly when planted below six inches, and you can speed things along by adding organic matter to the ground.

Give your chard a good soaking once a week throughout the season, and be sure to keep weeds under control.

If your chard gets nibbled on regularly, though, you might consider purchasing protective netting to keep pests away.



This beautiful flowering shrub looks particularly lovely clustered together with other hydrangeas. Hydrangeas thrive in rich, moist soil.

Like most other plants, hydrangeas bloom best if they receive at least four hours of direct sunlight daily. Some cultivars need even more sun and less shade, making them a cinch to grow.

Fertilize your hydrangeas generously every two months during the growing season. To keep your hydrangeas healthy and green throughout the winter, cut off any dead stems or leaves and trim back their growth to one inch.

English Ivy

English Ivy

While this evergreen vine may be invasive in certain climates, it does add a dramatic element to landscapes, especially those in shady areas where it can climb up trees and shrubs.

English ivy requires bright light and well-drained soil, although it does fine when planted beside a tree. Since English ivy likes warmer weather a lot more than many other plants, it can handle heat relatively well.

It thrives on neglect, which makes it easy to propagate from cuttings. Prune back branches to encourage new shoots, and prune out old ones to make way for fresh foliage. Foliage turns a striking red in autumn.



Pansies are another popular choice among gardeners looking for low-maintenance plants that thrive in the shade.

While these hardworking beauts have been around since ancient times, it wasn’t until recent decades that people started cultivating the plants commercially.

Pansies come in several varieties, including blue, purple, pink, and white, meaning you can create wonderfully vivid displays with just this one plant species.

Because they’re such wonderful additions to the landscape, you’ll want to ensure that you’re providing enough sun for your pansies.

But don’t worry — pansies do just fine when planted in partial shade, as long as you provide them with enough care and attention, as well as a decent amount of water.



For another vegetable that can be grown in shallow soil, and even in shade, you’ll be surprised at how well lettuce can grow in these conditions!

One of the first things people think of when talking about lettuce is iceberg lettuce, but there are so many types of lettuce available today that finding the right variety isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be.

Many different shapes and sizes are available, and you’ll likely discover that each has its unique flavor profile.

Some lettuces tend to get bitter quickly while others remain sweet longer, so try a few out before committing to buying any specific variety.

The secret to growing delicious lettuce is simply good soil. Make sure you use compost and manure to enrich the dirt and apply plenty of organic matter to improve drainage.

If your planting space doesn’t offer adequate drainage, you might consider adding raised beds or planters.


As you can see, there are plenty of options that are perfect for those shallow flower beds or shaded spots. As long as you provide the proper care and attention to your plants, you should be able to enjoy your garden for years to come.

Best of luck to you!

About The Author

Gina Harper grew up dreaming about farms and growing her own food. She began an urban garden to feed herself and turned it into an incredible hobby. Gina is here to teach you everything from raised beds to container gardening, how to keep plants alive and well in a smoggy city, and the works. It’s time that we carve our own piece of green earth and reap what we sow—she’s here to help you with that.