Plants For North Facing Garden


I have a North facing open aspect garden.
There are 2 large trees in the garden but the rest is all gravel.
I would like to plant hardy plants that take very little looking after to take away the harshness of the gravel.
What would the gardeners out there recommend?
Thank you
Kind Regards.

Grass? Sorry, but gravel isn’t really a garden in my books. Fine for a path or as a dry mulch, but that’s about it.
There are lots of tough low maintenance shrubs that will grow well in shade, although almost everything that flowers will flower more in sun.
Apart from the aspect, what about soil type and quality, drainage etc? Anything covered in gravel suggests that it might not have been kept in the best condition in which case improving it with added organic matter it going to help a lot.
If the soil is right I like some of the ericaceous plants such as Crinodendron, Rhododendron etc.

Think your idea of a north facing garden might be completely different to ours :grin:


I have a north facing border.
Hydrangeas,hellebores,heucheras,hostas,fuscia all do well here… But if your trees overpower the gravel most plants will struggle.
I agree with using a planting medium below gravel.
Beth Chatto published a couple of volumes. Gravel and shade.
Long Acre aka should help.

The christmas rose and elephant ears are pretty tolerant of most conditions……are evergreen, just let them get on with it. We watched in wonder as our-tight fisted neighbour bodged his driveway by concreting over elephant ears, followed by tarmac and gravel. It took 6 months but the elephant ears are back, the concrete could not stop them😁

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Hi @ChrisSU
The soil is good quality and free draining. The sub layer is natural gravels.
I used to have a front lawn but due to the aspect and trees it was more moss than grass, so I put gravel down.
Thank you for the plant suggestions.

Hi @Nick1940
The soil is good quality and free draining. The sub layer is natural gravels.
I used to have a front lawn but due to the aspect and trees it was more moss than grass, so I put gravel down. Also it is used a short cut by anybody carring out a delivery to our neighbours.
Thank you for the plant suggestions.

‘Life finds a way’, a quote from Jurassic Park.


My suggestions absolutely require an acidic soil, so if you are on limestone you can forget them!

Couple of pictures from my garden which is on a bearing of 330 degrees. As you can see stuff grows alright. What you will find is that any given plant will flower later and may not do as well as the same plant in a more favourable location.

My ‘garden’ is about 5m x 5m. Even at mid-summer the sun doesn’t cross over the roof-top until early afternoon and then disappears over the roof-line of the houses opposite by about half 6. Here in the North East UK with prevailing westerlies the soil can be pretty dry but I always plant with plenty of organic matter.

There are a huge range of possibilities - depending on how much you want to spend and how much effort you want to put into it, but with carefully selected plants / shrubs you can have something which provides constant interest throughout the year. I’d suggest talking to a good plants-person or a designer.


Hi @Maddog

Thank you for informative response.
You have a lovely garden.
Now to set to.

Hi @ChrisSU
We are gravel and granite, there is no limestone.

In that case you could create an ericaceous area, although you will probably need to add some suitable material to the soil to get acid loving plants to really thrive. Once you’ve done that you have a huge choice of very low maintenance, hardy, mostly evergreen shrubs to choose from, with different foliage, size, shape and flowering time. In addition to the Rhododendrons and Crinodendron I mentioned, there are Azaleas, Viburnums and others.
As it happens I planted just such a bed last spring in our N facing garden, which has naturally acidic soil. So far it’s doing well.

The autumn is a good time to start. One major consideration may be how much shade the ‘two large trees’ produce.

The ‘bottom end’ of my garden - the wild garden - is a north facing steep slope of Kimmeridge clay down 2m to an old railway bed of granite chips.
The clay slope gets some sun in mid summer, the rest of the year is total shade.
The granite chip area is, as expected, very well drained & can be exceptionally dry at times.
Overall, difficult is an understatement
I have a mix of UK natural shade tolerant wild flower species interspersed with bluebell, hellebores, various wild (natural) species of geraniums & cyclamen & a few ferns
Although we call it the wild garden it does need some maintenance. The wild flowers need cutting down in July/Aug & left to drop seeds, then raked off to reduce any organic material & discourage grass growing. Bluebell will spread & need controlling (dug out) every few years as do the hellebore seedlings. Some casualty replacements, cyclamen especially, are needed every few years, but on the whole it is low maintenance

Fell the trees, that way you have a blank canvass. They suck the light out of a north facing garden.

Fell the trees, that way you have a blank canvass. They suck the light out of a north facing garden.

…they also suck up the moisture and can keep a north facing garden turning into a marsh. Depending on annual rain fall…

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We get southerly busters which is a cold change and by keeping the trees it buffers the worst of the wind. Not sure if you get the equivalent northerly change but removing all the trees might leave you exposed. Also it not as if the light is coming from that direction.

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g’day Pete, in Europe we do get the cold blasts, the most damaging are not from the north as such as these travel across one or other of the ocean/sea areas which takes the bite out of su-sub zero artic air. The deep cold blasts come from an easterly quarter, from artic, via Siberia & deep frozen dry land.
Add to that in Northern Europe we get sub zero frost, not sure you get these in sea level Aus, but even in the warmer maritime climate of UK, these can last days go deep & do real damage & kill a lot of plants.

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The cold doesn’t normally effect our plants and trees it’s more likely wind, hail storms and of course fire. Something that is now having devastating result in Europe and North America

I guess as with my first post on this thread a north facing.

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