Full Shade-Loving Plants for Australian Gardens

When it comes to creating a gorgeous garden that you love to spend time in, there are always going to be spots that will prove a little challenging.

We are reader-supported and may receive a commission on purchases made through links on this page.

Areas that receive no sunshine and are in full shade all day can be a particular challenge for gardeners.

That’s why we’ve come up with this list of shade-loving plants that you might like to consider.

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)

David Stang I Wikimedia I CC 4.0

Winter daphne is a popular plant to grow in the shade. It’s pretty pink or white flowers will brighten up a shaded spot and fill the air with their gorgeous fragrance.

Winter daphne does need well-drained soil and regular watering.

Pruning should be minimal and you should feed the plant with a balanced fertiliser after flowering has finished.


  • Produces lovely pink or white flowers that are fragrant
  • Requires only minimal pruning
  • Suitable for most climates


  • Needs well-drained soil
  • Slow-growing
  • All parts of the plant are toxic

Heartleaf Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Raul654 I Wikimedia I CC 3.0

This attractive flowering plant does best when grown in full shade.

The lovely green foliage forms a small mound and in early spring, tall flower stems grow with multiple blooms on each stem.

The flowers are generally white with touches of pink. 

This plant grows best in moist, well-drained soil and is low-maintenance. All you have to do is remove any dead leaves and deadhead the spent flowers.

It prefers soil that has organic matter added and doesn’t require any additional fertiliser.


  • Low maintenance
  • Lovely green foliage with pretty flowers in early spring
  • Suitable for most climates


  • Needs well-drained soil as the roots do not like to sit in water and will rot

Australian Violet (Viola hederacea)

Harry Rose I Flickr I CC 2.0

Our own native violet is one of the best groundcovers for shaded gardens.

It will spread around the garden and pop up quite readily to form a fairly dense mat of dark green foliage.

The lovely white and purple flowers appear through most of spring and summer. 

Australian violets like moist soil and are perfect for planting under trees and in rockeries. The only thing that they don’t like is dry conditions.

They do prefer to be kept moist but not waterlogged.

They spread by underground runners quite readily.


  • Low maintenance
  • Flowers appear for long periods over spring and summer
  • Very easy to replant in other areas of your garden by digging up some of the runners
  • Suitable for most climates


  • Do not tolerate drought conditions
  • Can spread rapidly so may need controlling so that they don’t take over your entire garden

Fire Lily (Clivia miniata)

Teresa Grau Ros I Flickr I CC 2.0

Clivias are popular shade-loving plants that many gardeners have discovered.

These lovely clumping plants make a great base under taller trees as their dark green strappy leaves add a bit of lushness.

But it’s when these plants produce their lovely big flower heads that they really add a splash of colour to any shade garden.

Clivias prefer well-drained soil and regular watering. However, they are drought-tolerant when established and have a dormant period during winter.

During this time, they don’t need either extra water or fertiliser. It’s best to fertilise these plants in summer and autumn with a slow-release feed.


  • Low maintenance
  • Strappy green leaves with large flower heads
  • Drought-tolerant when well-establish
  • No pruning is required except to remove spent flower heads and dead leaves


  • Can be expensive to purchase
  • Should be lifted periodically to divide them up
  • Need frost protection

Winter Roses (Helleborus orientalis)

Dominicus Johannes Bergsma I Wikimedia I CC 3.0

Hellebores are stunning shade-loving plants that flower in winter and early spring.

They add some glorious colour to a winter garden as they’re available in many different shades including white, yellow, red, pink, lilac and peach. 

These plants do prefer fairly rich soil that has had plenty of organic matter added to it.

Young plants need to be kept moist, however, once established, they become drought-tolerant.

It’s best to give these plants a trim in late winter and they should be fertilised once a year with an organic manure-based fertiliser.


  • Low maintenance
  • Dark green foliage with pretty rose-like flowers in winter
  • Add plenty of colour to what might be an otherwise drab winter garden
  • Suitable for cooler climates south of Sydney and Perth


  • Need to be kept watered when young
  • Require regular pruning in late winter before new growth appears


All of these shade-loving plants require very little maintenance and will grow happily in shady spots in your garden.

Not only will their dark green foliage add a bit of lushness but their flowers will brighten up those areas in your garden that don’t receive a lot of sunshine.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture. She has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She also had the responsibility of a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.