Q&A: Which plants thrive best in the shade?

Q: After several years of trying to grow plants in a shady border, I need some help. Can you advise me on shrubs that can live, if not thrive, with only the briefest glimpse of sun?

Buxus sempervirens will grow anywhere.

A: You have my sympathy, but I’m pleased to see that you’re not giving in. There are many plants which can live in shade, but you have also to consider the quality of the soil, drainage, cold winds etc. So, all I can do is to list a dozen or so shrubs renowned for their ability to survive in the dark, as it were, and then it’s up to you to decide if they are suitable for your problem border.

Aucuba, the spotted laurel, has always been one of my favourite, grow-anywhere shrubs, and it’s unlikely to fail you.

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The same applies to the beloved Box, Buxus sempervirens, which can be allowed to grow unhindered or cut to shape.

Camellias are happy with a certain amount of shade and, of course, they produce superb flowers in spring.

Then there are several varieties of Elaeagnus, the rather elegant Fatsia and Osmanthus heterophyllus.

Consider Hypericum, although it can be a bit invasive, and the dependable Mahonias, and the gorgeous Viburnum davidii. Lonicera nitida, the shrubby honeysuckle, seems to be able to live anywhere. It’s also happy to be pruned. Grow the golden form.