Partial Shade Garden

The following partial shade garden designs and instructions are provided by Prairie Flora, a local greenhouse that specializes in supplying pollinator-friendly plants. The selection of prairie wildflowers and grasses in these designs are suited to areas with only 4 hours of daily sun and medium to moist soils.

Gardens designed to meet the needs of you and your prairie plants!

Native prairie plants love to move and intermingle above and below ground, just the way nature intended. These gardens are designed to allow these natural growth habits. With bold drifts of colour that look beautiful as they move, a touch of spontaneity just for fun, and a layer of ground cover for weed suppression, these lively gardens will impress year after year. Depending on the space available in your garden, you can create either example of partial shade gardens using the layout with 32 or 96 plants.

32 shade garden96 shade garden

Here’s how to plant your prairie garden:

Place all of your plants in the garden, but keep them in the pots until you are ready to plant. This will prevent your plugs from drying out before planting.

If your garden shape does not match ours, that’s okay! Just create your own design with these helpful hints. Remember to place your plants in the order indicated using the recommended planting distances. This layout is designed to allow your drifts of colour to bloom to their full potential while being supported by the ground cover growing below.

Create large, natural-looking drifts of colour that bloom at different times of the season with the following plants. These plants are listed from tallest to shortest - plant the taller ones in the back. The drifts may move a little over time.

  • New England Aster (2 ft apart)
  • Giant Hyssop (1.5 ft apart)
  • Pearly Everlasting (2 ft apart)
  • Heartleaf Alexander (1 ft apart)

Scatter the following plants around your garden for spontaneity. Use the recommended planting distance as a guide. These do not need to be planted in groups. In fact, we like to scatter them. These plants will reseed and start creating a seed bank, so when a disturbance occurs, or a plant dies, they can grow in place of unwanted weeds. We highly recommend cutting back their seed heads the first and second season until other plants in your garden get established and start to fill in. A full garden will help keep these species in check.

  • Smooth Aster (1 ft from other plants)  
  • Blue Vervain (1 ft from other plants)

Finally, place your ground cover around all other plants as though they are mulch. Fill in all the empty spaces and let them intermingle with your drifts of colour! Again, use the recommended planting distance as a guide.

  • Sheep Fescue (1 ft from other plants)
  • Early Blue Violet (8” from other plants)

Aim for approximately one plant per square foot. The more filled in the space, the faster your garden will establish and the sooner it can help fend off weeds.

How to get your plugs out of long pots:

To give your young plants the best start, they are grown in long pots. Hold the pot upside down and GENTLY tap its top edge on a rock or another hard surface to knock the plug loose from the bottom. Then GENTLY pull it out, squeezing the pot and working slowly to remove it with as little root disturbance as possible.

How to plant:

Plant deep enough so the soil is level with the soil surface of your plug. Water the plants, and make sure they stay moist for about the first 3 weeks of establishment. Remember, prairie plants need well-established roots to survive our hot summers and cold winters. Allow them a few weeks to establish themselves before expecting above ground growth.


Your new prairie garden behaves and feels like Nature - diverse, healthy and colourful. It’s a garden that is truly dynamic, and a garden where movement and intermingling are celebrated and wildlife is welcomed and provided for.