Deciding what to plant along a north facing wall can be a true challenge — this aspect of your garden will not only receive an unusually hefty dose of shade, but it’s also usually significantly colder as well as often drier.
It would be such a shame to let this garden real estate go to waste by allowing it to turn into a plantless wasteland, though!
So long as you pick the right set of plants to grow along a north facing wall, you can transform a bare patch of garden into a whimsical and mystical place you’ll be happy to visit every day. The plants you select for your north facing wall don’t even have to be particularly high-maintenance.
What to Plant Along a North Facing Wall?
Walls present a unique opportunity to add more climbing vines to your garden — these plants will turn a bare and dark space into a green oasis in no time, and depending on the aesthetic of a wall, they can allow an already pretty wall to shine even more, or they can hide an ugly fence that you’d prefer not to look at.
- The key to creating a stunning north facing wall lies in layering, so you will want to add taller shade-loving shrubs as well as low-growing flowering plants and plants with beautiful foliage.
- To break the space up even further, grow some plants in large clay pots, and add large boulders and other decorations — maybe a bird bath, unique outdoor lighting, or some small statues.
Before you know it, the trickiest spot in your garden will become one of your favorite places.
It might be harder to find the best plants for this aspect, but once you start your search, you’ll discover more and more species that won’t only grudgingly tolerate this colder and shadier spot in your garden, but actively thrive in it.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite plants to grow along a north facing wall, but gardeners should keep in mind that it’s only a start — many more plants can succeed in these conditions.
Vines to Grow Along a North Facing Wall
The look of a tall, and sometimes even cold-looking, intimidating, wall, can be transformed in an instant when climbing vines are allowed to make it their home — but those with a lot of ground to cover will appreciate creeping vines that can act as ground cover plants, too.
Many vines are appreciated for their dense foliage, but some give rise to amazing flowers that can brighten your shady wall up.
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus Quinquefolia)
The Virginia creeper has well and truly earned the first spot on our list, as it’s notorious for being an incredibly easy vine to grow in many different conditions, including the shadier ones you’ll find along a north facing wall.
This deciduous woody vine, which is also sometimes called woodbine, is native to eastern and central North America and Mexico.
These creeping vines will offer a sea of gorgeous and dense green foliage for your north facing wall. With some varieties, you can also get stunning shades of red in the fall.
If you’re thinking about adding the Virginia creeper to your north facing wall, it’s important to know that:
- Virginia creeper won’t mind being grown in shadier areas, and it does best in either full, partial, or dappled sunlight.
- When it comes to what soil you should plant a Virginia creeper in, these creeping vines aren’t picky at all. Both moist and occasionally dry soil are fine for your Virginia creeper, and it can even tolerate drought. It also won’t mind acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH levels. Clay, loamy, or sandy soil are all great choices.
- The Virginia creeper will attract pollinators to your garden!
- Be careful when growing Virginia creepers, as they have a tendency to “creep” and are very rapid growers, meaning they could go places you won’t want them.
- It is important to note that Virginia creepers are toxic to both humans and pets, and if you ingest their berries, this can even kill you.
Periwinkle (Vinca Minor)
Also called creeping Myrtle, periwinkle (Vinca minor) is a herbaceous perennial vine that’s native to Europe. It belongs to the Apocynaceae family, and although the plant thrives in full or dappled sun, periwinkle also copes quite well with deep shade.
If you would like to enjoy a creeping vine that makes for an excellent ground cover plant, and you do want to have the opportunity to enjoy periwinkle’s lovely delicate blue flowers, which bloom in spring and summer, it’s best if you can at least offer this plant two to four hours of morning sun.
Not sure if periwinkle is right for your north facing wall? See if you can make it comfy first:
- These plants need quite a lot of moisture, so when you’re growing them in a north facing spot, you’ll have to water them regularly. Still, it can cope with periods of drought quite OK, too.
- Periwinkle does best with clay, loam, or sandy soil types.
- Periwinkle is a veracious spreader that may need quite a lot of pruning if you don’t want it to end up everywhere.
Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria Sinensis)
Wisteria is a large genus of climbing vines that generally need full sun to thrive and to produce the wonderfully fragrant and gorgeous flowers you’re probably hoping to see along your north facing wall.
The Chinese wisteria, Wisteria sinensis, is a notable exception — these vines will show their amazing drooping flower clusters even when they are planted in areas with partial shade, even though they technically prefer more sun.
Because Chinese wisteria needs a sturdy support system to grow well, an arbor or a wall is perfect for these plants, which also attract plenty of butterflies.
Before you bring a Chinese wisteria into your garden to grow along your north facing wall, know that:
- These are slow growers that will take years to become well established.
- They prefer slightly acidic, loamy, sandy, or clay soils.
- Chinese wisteria does need quite a lot of water, and should be offered supplemental watering whenever the soil is dry.
- The flowers of the Chinese wisteria are their most attractive and prominent feature — add other vines if you are looking for dense foliage.
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica)
Supremely lazy gardeners who’d love to enjoy beautiful plants along their north facing walls but who are not quite sure they have the time, resources, or skills to pour into caring for a plant may want to make full use of slightly more invasive, and hard to kill, species.
The Japanese honeysuckle is a wonderful example. It can climb as well as creep, but doesn’t play nicely with other plants — owing to its invasive nature, the Japanese honeysuckle can kill off less hardy species.
This vine has its advantages, though — think wonderfully delicate white flowers that bloom for much of the year, a rapid growth rate, and the ability to attract both butterflies and songbirds.
- Prefers full sun or partial shade, making it a fine choice for your north facing wall.
- Tolerates periods of drought.
- Prefers loamy, sandy, or clay soils.
- Has edible flowers, but can cause poisoning symptoms if eaten in larger quantities; to be on the safe side, keep pets and small kids away.
- May spread to neighboring gardens, potentially starting a feud with people who are angry that you chose to grow an invasive vine.
This absolutely gorgeous hydrangea doesn’t need complex trellises to climb to impressive heights! It will grow up your north facing wall, pretty much regardless of what it’s made of, in no time — sprucing your garden up with both dense foliage, which is evergreen, and stunning flowers in spring and summer.
Hydrangea integrifolia deserves a place along your north facing wall because it:
- Actually doesn’t like too much sun at all, and will be perfectly happy with the morning sun it will get in this spot in your garden.
- Copes well with drought, and will not need to be watered too often.
- Isn’t particular about the pH levels of the soil it grows in, and does well in loamy, sandy, or clay soil, as well as richer soil types.
- Is one of those rare vines that will reward you with ab abundance of flowers, despite the heavier shade.
Shrubs to Plant Along a North Facing Wall
Some shade-loving shrubs are famous for their foliage, while others produce stunning berries that will look festive during the fall and winter, or colorful flowers to liven up a previously-dull part of your garden.
You’re spoiled for choice, but here’s a glimpse at some of the easiest shrubs to grow along a north facing wall.
Saw-Toothed Azara (Azara Serrata)
Azara serrata, commonly called the saw-toothed azara, may be native to the subtropical regions of South America, but they absolutely thrive not just in shadier conditions, but also in colder ones — these wonderful flowering shrubs, which produce dense clusters of bright yellow flowers during the summer, have even received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, meaning they’re easy to grow in the UK.
Want to add a saw-toothed azara to your north facing wall? Here’s a look at the conditions it needs to thrive:
- These shrubs will be happy to receive consistent morning sun, but otherwise do fine in the shade.
- Azara serrata doesn’t do well with heavy winds, however, and should be placed in a sheltered position.
- They thrive in loamy, sandy, or clay soil.
- The saw-toothed azara will appreciate occasional supplemental watering if you have not had rain for a while.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia Latifolia)
Mountain laurels are are gorgeous flowering broadleaf evergreens known for their stunning blooms. Also known as ivy bush and calico bush, these pretty shrubs are from the Ericaceae family and are native to North America.
Their pink, purple, and white colored saucer shaped flowers are definitely the calico bush’s most eye-catching feature. Mountain laurels can attract all kinds of animals to your north facing wall — pollinators, butterflies, humming birds, and even some small mammals!
Thinking about adding mountain laurel to your north facing wall? You might be interested to know that:
- Mountain laurels are known to thrive in partial shade, but when put under deep shade it may interfere with their blooms.
- These flowering shrubs should be planted in moist but well-draining soil and do best in acidic soil with pH levels of 5.0 to to 5.5. Loamy, sandy, or shallow rock soil are all good choices but mountain laurels don’t fare well in heavy clay soils.
- A mountain laurel plant that has just been planted will require regular watering every three to four days for a couple of weeks.
- Their flowers will bloom in the spring time!
Japanese Holly ‘Sky Pencil’ (Ilex Crenata)
The Japanese holly is a dense evergreen shrub which is often used as a border in landscaping. These slow growing shrubs will make for a perfect addition to your north facing wall if you’re looking for dense green foliage.
Japanese holly shrubs have many different cultivar’s, but ‘Sky Pencil’ stands out for its more narrow shape, usually growing to be six to eight feet tall.
Does the Japanese Holly ‘Sky Pencil’ sound appealing to you? Keep in mind that:
- While Japanese holly plants won’t mind sandy, clay, or rocky soil, it does best in a well-draining looser loamy soil. These shrubs will also appreciate slightly acidic pH levels.
- Japanese hollies won’t mind full or partial sunlight. It does best with at least three hours of direct sunlight, though.
- The Japanese holly shrub will enjoy moist, but not soggy soil.
Delavay Teaolive (Osmanthus Delavayi)
Delavay teaolive is a superb evergreen shrub with tiny white flowers, that “dust” the foliage in spring and winter — which makes this shrub uniquely suited to gardeners who are hoping to create winter gardens.
Because the Delavay Teaolive does need plenty of time to grow, you’ll have to be patient. We promise it’s worth the wait.
- Have an extremely dense growth habit.
- Will succeed along your north facing well if it gets two to four hours of morning sun.
- Prefer mildly acidic soil, which can be rich, loamy, or sandy.
- Are amazingly drought tolerant.
Flowering Plants for Your North Facing Wall
Once you’ve got your climbing vines and larger shrubs covered, you’ll want to add some smaller flowering plants to balance your garden out.
You may think that you don’t have much choice, but that’s not quite true — once you start looking, you’ll discover that plenty of gorgeous plants with even better flowers can grow just fine in the sorts of conditions you’ll typically find along a north facing wall.
Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)
Lilyturf is an amazing tufted evergreen from the Asparagaceae family that looks just like a prolific ornamental grass, though it technically isn’t one.
Pick this plant for its wonderfully spiky flower clusters, which bloom in fall and summer and which can be white, lavender, or a deeper purple in color, and which peek out from behind the slender, dense, foliage.
If you do want to add lilyturf, which is native to China and Vietnam, to your north facing wall, though, do know what you are getting into — this isn’t a low-maintenance plant:
- Lilyturf can be attacked by a variety of pests, including garden slugs.
- Lilyturf can be quite invasive, which is good if you want a hardy plant, but not good if you don’t necessarily want it absolutely everywhere.
- These plants thrive in partial to deep shade, and don’t tolerate sunny conditions very well, making it a great choice for north facing spots.
- They need a rich soil that rains well, but do appreciate supplemental watering if it hasn’t rained in a while.
Busy Lizzy (Impatiens walleriana)
Why, yes! Your north facing wall can become drenched in an explosion of deep pink, orange, red, or purple — and Impatiens walleriana will help you get there.
Also called Busy Lizzy, this Impatiens species is a wonderful mounding annual that’s native to the tropical regions of Africa and can bloom during the spring, summer, and fall.
These plants don’t like full sun and do best with partial to deep shade, making your north facing wall a great place to plant them.
These Impatiens flowers need rich soil and prefer wetter conditions, usually making supplemental watering absolutely necessary — don’t allow their soil to dry out! It is best to plant Impatiens in clusters, where they can truly shine.
Wax Begonia (Begonia Semperflorens Cultorum)
These shade-loving plants produce large and colorful pink, red, or white blooms and showy serrated leaves, which have red veins on their undersides.
Wax begonia species are absolutely guaranteed to add to the array of colors along your north facing wall, blooming in summer, lasting into fall. Native to Mexico, they’ll need:
- Deep shade to partial shade.
- Rich soil and periods of moisture as well as periods of drought — there’s no need to water these plants too much, but they’d appreciate an occasional deep watering.
- A neutral to slightly acidic soil.
Everlasting Sweet Pea (Lathyrus Latifolius)
The everlasting sweet pea, or just sweet pea, is a herbaceous perennial climbing vine with gorgeous flowers. Sweet peas are fast growers and will certainly brighten up your north facing wall. Their pretty flowers can come in many different colors — pink, purple, blue, yellow, and white — and bloom in the summer.
If you’d like to add this attractive flowering vine to your north facing wall, it will need:
- A well-draining and rich soil with a slightly alkaline pH level.
- To be watered whenever the top inch of the soil is dry.
- To be placed in a sunny spot or a spot with partial shade.
- Fertilizer during the growing season to help it grow and stay healthy. A tomato fertilizer makes a good choice when it comes to sweet peas.
Holly Fern (Cyrtomium Falcatum)
This beautiful fern, which is native to Vietnam, is commonly called the holly fern because its foliage resembles that of holly shrubs, and like the holly, it usually has evergreen leaves.
Ferns are a great choice for your north facing wall, because they’ll usually add an infusion of year-round green.
If you’ve chosen to add quite a few of the wonderful flowering plants that grow well in the shade to your north facing wall, you will need to balance that out with some greenery.
- Thrive in deep to partial shade and can cope with dappled sun as well.
- May be a little too easy to grow — in some areas, the holly fern can become invasive.
- Like to be planted in larger clusters, and especially along a pond or water feature.
- Needs plenty of moisture, and can be attacked by pests like mealybugs if they are allowed to sit in dry soil for prolonged periods of time.
Gardeners who began reading this guide under the impression that finding plants to grow along a shady, dry, and colder north facing wall would be difficult have now hopefully been dispelled of that notion.
Honestly, it would be fairly easy to write an entire book on best plants to grow along a north facing wall, and while you’ve now been introduced to quite a few wonderful options, there are plenty more.
No matter what kind of vibe you are hoping to create along your north facing wall, a whole army of great plants is waiting to make your vision come to life!