Tips for Gardening on a Shady Slope


Gardening on a Slope with a Water Feature.

What better way to in increase the value of your home than to create a peaceful oasis in your backyard?

One of my real estate clients asked me for some advice on his backyard garden and hired me to create a  peaceful place to rest on a summer day. There was somewhat of a garden there with a nice water feature but the soil needed amending with compost and fertilizer. The area was on a slope which made it difficult to work on and was also full of tree roots and poison ivy.  The plants needed dividing and many more needed to be installed. But before the planting can begin there needed to be a major clean up. 



Begin with cleaning up the slope and surrounding areas.

Fortunately,  this slope was not very steep so terracing the garden would not be needed. The slope was gentle enough so there was no runoff of dirt and mulch. They have installed a stone retaining wall to hold the dirt back.  Access to the beds for maintenance can be an issue on a steep slope. There is an irrigation system to handle the watering.

I began removing the debris of  leaves, dead tree branches, and pull vines from the trees. Bittersweet vines, grape vines and poison ivy had invaded the property. The neighbors also  tossed cement blocks in the woods which was in full view of the garden. Anything like that needs to be removed immediately. Your eye will skip right over the garden and go straight to the cement blocks.


This is a shade garden with lots of large and small trees in the area. Next the thing to do was cut small tree saplings and trim branches off the large trees to get some dappled light on the garden. Once the area was cleaned of debris the compost was brought in, hauled up the hill and turned into the soil. Preparing a rich soil base is very important.

Now we are ready shop for the plants keeping in mind that they must love shade and be able to compete for water with the tree roots. Mastering shade gardening is a skill that requires knowledge of soil conditions and designing with foliage colors that will pop in dark areas. There are a multitde of plants with amazing color that will thrive in the shade. You can get some ideas from my article on Shade Gardens That Inspire!

Slope Garden Design and Plant Choices.

Plants to install on garden with a slope.

Now it’s time to head to the nursery to purchase the plants! I always install a mix of shrubs, perennial, grasses, and annuals. Having various sizes of planting are a must for interest.  When buying plants make sure they look heathy. If the roots have grown in a circle they must be untangled before planting.

Shade gardens are a mix of colorful foliage and if you add annuals like coleus and impatiens they will reward you with color from spring to fall. 


Plants List Installed in this Garden:

  • Hostas: Blue, yellow and variegated hostas. Plantain lilies and occasionally by the Japanese name Giboshi. Hostas are widely cultivated as shade-tolerant foliage plants. Warning: they are a salad bar to deer and voles! Find out more about deer resistant plants and how to stop deer from destroying your landscaping.
  • Leopard Plant Ligularia: I like the red leaf variety and cut off the ugly flowers.
  • Bleeding Hearts: Use lime green leaf plant for more color.
  • Dead Nettle: (Lamium maculatum): My favorite is ‘White Nancy’ which  has silvery gray-green leaves with green edges, and white flowers. Spreading to 3 feet wide, this perennial is great cascading over the wall.
  • Perennial Geraniums: When it comes to growing conditions, perennial geraniums are relatively low maintenance and will bloom in a variety of areas.
  • Lithrope Grass: Also known as lily-turf or monkey grass, makes for a tough, drought-tolerant ground. Grows in sun or shade.
  • Japanese Iris: They love water. Part of the hill was very wet from spring and this plant can grow in a pond.
  • Hydrangeas: Most hydrangeas thrive in rich, porous, somewhat moist soils. Add compost to enrich poor soil. They prefer full sun in the morning, with some afternoon shade; however, many will grow and bloom in partial shade.
  • New Guinea Impatiens: These grow best with about 4 to 6 hours of afternoon shade so put it in brighter spot of shade garden.
  • Coral Bells: Heuchera has many different leaf colors (peach, red, purple, chartreuse green) : stunning color in the garden, you’ll fall in love with the plant’s intense variety of foliage color!
  • Ginger: Wild Ginger’s large heart-shaped leaves create a low, solid, dark green carpet – beautiful ground cover.
  • Variegated Salomon Seal: An elegant woodland plant that is native to North America.
  • Golden Creeping Jenny; Gold Moneywort, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’
  • Climbing Hydrangea: Easy to grow, it needs no attention. It is self clinging with aerial roots, the flowers are a creamy white and it is deciduous.
  • Astillbe: A perennial with beautiful, showy flowers atop glossy, fern-like foliage.  Astillbe perform best in partial shade, but they will also grow in full shade. Like water and fertilize often.

Maintenance and Garden Care


Many people ask me for “care-free” garden and don’t want to work maintaining the garden. ALL GARDENS NEED WORK!  You can get plants that grow in clumps so the don’t spread and take over the garden but eventually after a few years they will have to be divided. You can then spread them elsewhere on your property or donate to your local garden club for selling in the spring plant sale. 

Shade gardens are a mix of colorful foliage and if you add annuals like coleus and impatiens they will reward you with color from spring to fall. 

Once you have installed the garden maintaining the garden is essential. The following spring you will have to fertilize, clean up debris, and have an April gardening to do list to follow as well a list for May

Increase the Value of Your Home

This beautiful home in Simsbury, CT didn’t have much of a backyard and now it has a peaceful and serene place to entertain guests. The patio is staged with colorful pillows, beautiful outdoor furniture and potted plants. Never underestimate the increased home equity that professional landscaping adds.  Which patio would you prefer as a home buyer – Here is a before and after patio that you can do with a little sweat equity.

Additional Contributions:

10 Tips to Create an Outdoor Oasis in a Backyard by Sharon Paxson

Create Your Dream Patio In Just 5 Steps by Kyle Hiscock

15 Landscaping Ideas To Sell Your House by Joy Bender

Landscaping Trends That Increase the Value of  Your Home by Lynn Pineda

Real estate and garden information was provided by Eileen Anderson, recognized leader in her field. If you are looking to hire a top realtor , Eileen can be reached via email at or by phone at 860-966-2112.

I am licensed for residential real estate sales in the state of Connecticut including but not limited to the following CT towns: Avon, Bloomfield, Burlington, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, East Granby, Hartland, Hartford, Suffield, Windsor, New Hartford, North Granby, Farmington, Newington, Litchfield, Simsbury, Suffield and West Hartford, CT.

“At the Heart of the Sale – Making a House a Home!”