Don't let shady spots annoy you. Plant these gorgeous Australian shade-loving plants and learn to love your shady patches as much as your sunny ones.
Top Australian Native Plants for Full Shade
Plants need sunlight to produce energy, so finding species that like shade is challenging. But even though Australia is such a sunny country, there are plenty of great native Australian shade-loving plants that'll soon have you loving your shady garden spots.
Bird's Nest Fern
Asplenium australasicum, the bird's nest fern, is an evergreen epiphyte, which means it can grow without soil, in trees and on rocks, for example. It grows well in full and partial shade in sub-tropical to cool-temperate areas of Australia.
Blandfordia grandiflora, or Christmas bells, produce beautiful bi-colour red and yellow flowers in summer that attract butterflies and birds. They'll grow in most parts of Australia and are moderately frost tolerant. They prefer full or partial shade, well-drained soil, and plenty of water.
Alpinia caerulea, native ginger, is a really useful and attractive plant. It's a magnet for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, and it produces fragrant white flowers and edible blue berries, leaves and roots that all have a mild, tangy ginger flavour. It's happy growing in pretty much any type of soil as long as it gets plenty of water. It's also happy in full or partial shade as well as sunny spots. However, native ginger plants are only suitable for subtropical and warm temperate areas, though they should re-sprout if knocked back by light frosts. (Heavy or prolonged frost will kill it, though.) The flowers, which persist all year, attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
Austromyrtus dulcsis, or midgen berry, is a popular bush tucker shrub that produces edible purple berries that make great sauces and jams. As a native of Queensland and NSW, it grows well in warm, humid parts of Australia and tolerates mild frost (down to -2 °C). It's happy in pretty much any soil as long as it's not boggy, and it prefers full or partial shade. It grows low enough to the ground that it can be used as a groundcover plant.
Soft Tree Fern
Dicksonia antarctica, soft tree fern, is a low-maintenance plant that grows well in full and partial shade. It'll grow in pretty much any soil provided it gets plenty of moisture. It is not, however, frost tolerant. Once mature, these gorgeous tree ferns can play host to epiphytes like the birds nest fern or any of the epiphytic orchids.
Aussie Natives for Dry Shade
Dry shade can be particularly challenging. But there are still some great Australian native plants that thrive in dry shade.
Viola banksii, native violet, is the perfect groundcover for almost any shady patch. It spreads via underground runners and acts as a wonderful living mulch. It'll grow well in full and partial shade in sub-tropical to cold areas, even in Canberra and alpine areas, though it won't flower all year round in frosty areas like it does in warmer areas. Native violets grow very well in dry shade; however, they can grow in pretty much any soil, even boggy soil.
Banksia canei, mountain banksia, is a medium shrub that produces pinkish-purple to yellow flowers in summer, prefers cooler parts of Australia and is frost tolerant down to -8 °C. It'll grow well in full or partial shade and has a definite preference for well-drained, sandy soil. It's a great choice if you want larger flowers in your shady spot.
Cabbage Tree Palm
Livistonia australis, cabbage tree palm, is a large palm tree, which can grow to 10-20 m. It's quite happy in full or partial shade (and full sun) and prefers dry to moderately moist soil. It's frost tender and only suitable for sub-tropical and warm temperate parts of Australia.
Blue Flax Lily
Dianella caerulea is a hardy, vaguely grass-like plant that attracts seed-eating birds with their bright blue, edible berries. Their blue flowers, which appear in spring and summer, are pretty too. Dianellas grow in pretty much any soil type, and they're happy with dry soil up to moderately moist soil. They grow in most parts of Australia from the sub-tropics to cool areas and are very happy in full or partial shade as well as full sun. Don't confuse them with Dianella nidra which is an NZ native that produces inedible berries.
Acacia verniciflua, or varnish wattle, like all wattles, produces yellow flowers in winter and spring and associates with nitrogen-fixing bacteria so acts as a living fertiliser. However, unlike many wattles, it prefers full or partial shade. It's drought tolerant once established and ok with frosts down to -8 °C. It'll grow in most parts of Australia and pretty much any soil.
Part Shade-Tolerant Australian Native Plants
For areas of your garden that aren't in full shade, these Aussie natives will work really well.
Helmholtzia glaberrima, the stream lily, is a wonderful Australian native shade plant that grows well in light and partial shade (and sunny spots). It will do well in most parts of Australia, from tropical to cool areas, though it'll only tolerate mild frosts. Despite growing from a bulb, it needs plenty of water and makes a great riverbank plant where it's useful for preventing erosion.
Liberia paniculata, grass flag, is a lovely rainforest plant that produces white flowers in spring. It's at home growing in most soil types in sub-tropical to cool areas. It prefers half or light shade with plenty of water and will tolerate mild frosts. If you want to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden, this is a great choice.
Hymenosporum flavum, native frangipani, tolerates dappled shade and prefers well-drained soil. It produces yellow, sweetly scented flowers that attract beneficial insects, butteflies, and bees during summer. It grows well in subtropical to cool parts of Australia and only tolerates very mild frosts.
Lomandra longifolias are popular Australian natives with people keen to attract local wildlife as they attract lizards and their flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. They're pretty frost tolerant and drought resistant and will grow in partial shade or sun. They suit most parts of Australia from the subtropics down to cool areas, and are pretty happy in any kind of soil as long as it's well-drained and doesn't get too much water.
Choose the Right Australian Shade-Loving Plants for Your Garden
To choose the right plant for your shady garden area, think about whether you'll appreciate a prominent flower or would prefer a nice foliage native plant. Then take a look at how much light the area gets (is it entirely in deep shade?) and whether it's subject to too much frost. You can then choose the plants that meet your particular conditions.