If you explore native woodlands, take note they are a combination of both evergreen and deciduous plants. There is also the carpet layer, which includes evergreen perennials and spring ephemerals. If you use this approach when designing your own landscape, your garden will offer interest throughout the year.

Southern Living Plant Collection offers a variety of plants, including those with striking foliage and colorful blooms that not only thrive in the shade but stand up to the heat and humidity of summer, too.

Southgate Rhododendron Series

Selections of large leaf evergreen Rhododendrons like the Southgate® Series are hybrids that hold up in our intense heat and humidity. Aptly named, Southgate® Brandi™ starts out pink in bud and opens to white flowers flecked with purple. Use this evergreen as a background for deciduous shrubs or an informal screen.

For a contrast, combine it with Southgate® Divine™, which has lavender buds opening to light purple.  

Mountain Snow Pieris

A good companion for these large leaf rhododendrons is Pieris, commonly known as Andromeda. The selection Mountain Snow™ Pieris boasts striking foliage and pendulous white flowers in spring. When new leaves emerge they start out bronze-red and turn green as they mature. The flower buds appear in summer, persist through winter and open the following spring. This evergreen beauty also attracts birds and butterflies.   

Empress of China Dogwood

For a combination that offers spring flowers, evergreen structure and summer blooms, combine dogwood, both the native (Cornus florida and selections) or the evergreen Empress of China® Dogwood, with ‘Big Daddy’ Hydrangea and the heat tolerant Yewtopia® Plum Yew, a selection of Plum Yew that grows 3 to 4 foot tall. 

Inspiration™ October Magic Camellia

October Magic® Inspiration™ Camellia in the Landscape

For part shade, the Southern Living Camellia Series offers shrubs in shades of white, pink and magenta which are happy in the garden or in containers. For a colorful contrast, combine them with perennials like 'Cracked Ice', 'Twilight' or 'Solar Eclipse' Heucherella

‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia

Soft Caress Mahonia in a container on a partially shaded porch

Use ‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia to create an inviting retreat or in a shady container. Grow alone, or combine with annuals, changing them out for each season. With feathery, thorn-free foliage, high shade tolerance and brilliant yellow blooms each winter, what’s not to love?

Purple Pixie Loropetalum

Purple Pixie Loropetalum works well in partial shade too

While Loropetalum will grow happily in full sun, it will also tolerate a good bit of shade. Try Purple Pixie® or Purple Diamond® Loropetalum. For privacy in part-shade, Oakland™ Holly or Robin™ Holly offer evergreen foliage and handsome berries.

When it comes to creating a shady retreat, there are many options. Start with the shrubs and trees and then add your perennials, annuals and bulbs.  Select a variety of shrubs to ensure you will have blooms not only in spring but also in summer, fall and winter. Make sure to include a place to sit and enjoy your garden, too, especially on hot summer days.  

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A Shady Retreat with Soft Caress Mahonia