Shade-loving plants that attract wildlife

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Shade gardening

Would you like to spend more time in nature and regularly unwind to a beautiful soundtrack of birdsong and buzzing bees? 

If your garden gets a lot of shade, you can’t go wrong with our selection of shade-loving plants that will invite local wildlife into your garden.

Generally, however, you’ll invite birds, bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects to your space if you:

  • Minimise paving, which can make your garden inhospitable for wildlife.
  • Don’t have a large lawn (lawns leave little space for diverse plants and wildlife).
  • Avoid using chemical pesticides, which kill insects and destroy natural ecosystems.
  • Aim for variety in your garden, as diversity attracts wildlife.
  • Mixing up the lawn with wild grasses and other indigenous plant species.

Celebrate indigenous diversity

South Africa boasts a rich tapestry of indigenous flora, and incorporating these plants into your space is like rolling out a green carpet to attract the local wildlife. 

Here are some of our top shade-loving picks:

  • Wild foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): With its striking spires of tubular flowers, this plant serves as a beacon for sunbirds, adding a burst of colour and life to the shaded corners of your garden.
  • Cape forget-me-not (Anchusa capensis): These plants entice bees and butterflies with their vibrant blue blossoms, creating a lively atmosphere in your garden.
  • Ferns: These understated yet essential components of shaded gardens provide an elegant touch and a welcoming environment for various insects. With its delicate fronds, the maidenhair fern (Adiantum) is a favourite among butterflies and dragonflies.
  • Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis): These shade lovers bring romance to shaded gardens, impressing human visitors and the charming malachite sunbird (Nectarinia famosa). The birds are drawn to the nectar-rich, heart-shaped flowers.
  • Wild garlic (Allium ursinum): This plant will add a fragrant layer to your garden and invite an array of local pollinators, including the hard-working honeybee and the striking Table Mountain Beauty (Aeropetes tulbaghia). 
  • Coral bells (Heuchera): Introducing a modern aesthetic to your shaded garden, this beautiful plant attracts local bees and hosts the elusive Rose’s ghost frog (Heleophryne rosei). The plant is ideal for creating a harmonious balance between your garden’s visual appeal and its ecological significance.
  • False goat’s beard (Astilbe): This magnificent plant has feather-like plumes and comes in various shades. It also serves as a meeting point for the Painted Lady butterfly and the Cape white-eye (Zosterops virens) bird.
  • Hostas: No shade-loving plant list is complete without the versatile Hostas. With their lush foliage, these plants provide a tranquil retreat for various South African creatures. The endemic Table Mountain Beauty butterfly and the Cape robin, with its melodic song, enjoy the cool shade offered by this plant.
  • Clivias: These gorgeous plants bring a burst of orange colour to shaded landscapes. They also attract the attention of the Cape sugarbird with its long tail feathers and distinctive song. Including clivia in your garden ensures a display of vibrant blooms every year (especially in spring) and the presence of local birdlife.
  • Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides): With its star-shaped, creamy-white blossoms and glossy green foliage, star jasmine entices local insects, including bees and butterflies. The sweet, heady fragrance of this South African native climber will transform your garden into a scented haven. Its vines provide a charming backdrop, making the plant a versatile, enchanting addition to shaded areas.
  • Wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus): Known for its striking orange tubular flowers, wild dagga is a fast-growing shrub that provides a beacon for nectar-loving birds and insects, including sunbirds and bees. 

Time to cool down in the shade

Thoughtful plant choices are the key to a thriving shaded garden that welcomes local wildlife. All these plants collectively contribute to a diverse ecosystem, ensuring your garden is visually appealing and a haven for the wonderful creatures around us.
Need help finding the right indigenous, shade-loving plants for your garden? Chat with an in-store consultant or tap into our popular consultants-on-call service.