As homeowners, we’re always conscious of the kinds of plants we incorporate into our gardens. After all, we need to be mindful of how well they’ll thrive given our local climate, our soil type, and our lifestyle. And in Australia, there are few better choices to include in your landscape than native foliage – especially shade tolerant plants!
There are a variety of grasses, desert plants, shrubs, succulents, herbs, and even edible plants available for you to create a diverse garden. Many are easy to incorporate into any style or aesthetic. For dry shade-loving plants in Australia, some options include:
List of Shade-Loving Native Plants for Dry Areas
By using native plants, you can build up a garden that’s perfect for Aussie weather. And you can arrange them however you like – along paths or in garden beds, or as ground cover. You can even integrate them into your garden’s structure!
Looking for drought tolerant shade plants in Australia? Here are some details on your best options.
Bird’s Nest Fern
This is an epiphytic fern that extends its large fronds from a central point, in almost a cup shape. It can grow from 0.5m to 1.5m in both height and width, which means plenty of space needed! Bird’s nest ferns can take root on trees or rocks, but work well on damp but well-drained, loamy soil. You can even use them as container plants. Full sun can dry out their fronds, so keep them well-shaded!
This ground cover plant provides a pretty visual with its heart-shaped leaves and its violet-and-white flowers. It is generally low-maintenance, although harsher conditions can dull its appearance somewhat. Native violet thrives well in moist soil with plenty of shade, and the right conditions mean it can bloom year-round. Grow it alongside paths, or near ponds – and try planting them in baskets or hanging pots for a picturesque look!
Soft Tree Fern
A hardy fern, this plant produces long, graceful dark green fronds that hang down from its stocky trunk. When cultivated, it will usually not exceed 3.0m in height, although wild ferns can grow up to 15m! It thrives well during warmer months, but needs shade, especially while establishing its roots. Plant it in moist but well-drained soil with a generous layer of mulch or compost.
The large fronds of this fern shoot out from its centre, resembling the antlers or horns of a stag – hence the name. Like the other ferns on this list, this plant is very low-maintenance, requiring cool, shaded areas with moist soil. They look best when grown on the trunks of trees or on timber backing.
Australian Fan Palm
Here’s a plant for those who want a dramatic visual. Its large, jagged-edged fronds grow in circular clusters from its trunk, giving it a very imposing look. Australian fan palms prefer shaded locations, and grow well inside pots – perfect for positioning by the front door, on a patio, or even indoors! During the drier months, spray its leaves with water several times a day to keep it moist and cool. Keep the soil well-drained and bring the plant into the sunlight every once in a while to encourage photosynthesis.
This native Australian lily blooms beautifully in the summer, with a wealth of white or pale pink flowers. A perennial plant, this lily variant is fairly easy to care for, only requiring pruning when its leaves start growing out of control. Its natural habitat is around shady streams, and so thrives best in moist soil, but it can tolerate dryness! Keep an eye on it through the winter to make sure its leaves don’t succumb to frost.
Branching Grass Flag
A perennial herb with starry white flowers that bloom in spring, branching glass flag grows wild in Australian open forests. In gardens, their grass-like leaves can reach 50cm in height, with delicate stems growing between. These plants flower best in damp soil and semi-shaded locations, although they’re slow to germinate. Make sure to trim the foliage after the flowers wither to maintain a neat look and keep it fresh!\
These vibrant red flowers are often found in south-western Australia, and in the wild the shrubs can grow to 1.0m in height. Flame pea plants have heart-shaped leaves sheltering its sprays of red, pea-shaped flowers that bloom in early spring. This small, evergreen shrub flourishes under partial shade, in light and well-drained soil. It doesn’t tolerate damp conditions, but make sure to water it well in summer! Plant these in clusters and in small spaces, like rockeries or garden corners, to maximise its aesthetic.
There are plenty more options for native Australian flora, whether you need full shade-loving plants or partial shade ones. But keep in mind that while they are often tolerant of dry climates, they’ll still need to be well-watered and mulched to keep the moisture in!
Check on plants frequently to ensure they’re not drying out or harbouring pests and sickness, and stay on top of your garden maintenance. The best and most beautiful plants are always the healthiest ones.