How to Create Shade with Plants in a Sunny Backyard – Cool Tips

how to create shade with plants in a sunny backyard

Do you love spending time in your backyard, but find it difficult to do so during hot, sunny days? One solution is to create shade using plants! Not only do plants provide natural shade, but they are also a great way to add color and life to your outdoor space. In this article, we will explore different ways to create shade in a sunny backyard using plants and provide cool tips to help you transform your outdoor space into a comfortable, relaxing oasis.

Key Takeaways

  • Creating shade with plants is an effective way to beat the heat and transform your outdoor space.
  • Choose shade-loving plants that can tolerate sunny conditions to provide optimal shade.
  • Strategically placing plants and creating shade structures can maximize shade in your backyard.
  • Caring for your shade plants is crucial to ensure their health and longevity.
  • Enhance shade with additional elements like shade sails and outdoor curtains for added comfort.

Choosing the Right Plants for Shade in a Sunny Backyard

To create shade with plants in your sunny backyard, you need to choose the right backyard shade plants that can tolerate the heat and sunlight. Sun-loving plants for shade are ideal for creating a cool, relaxing oasis.

Types of Shade-Loving Plants

There are three types of shade-loving plants that you can choose for your sunny backyard:

  1. Full Shade Plants: These plants thrive in complete shade and are perfect for areas that receive no direct sunlight. Examples include ferns, hostas, and bleeding hearts.
  2. Partial Shade Plants: These plants need some sunlight but can still thrive in shady areas. Examples include hydrangeas, impatiens, and columbines.
  3. Dappled Shade Plants: These plants require filtered sunlight, which is perfect for under a tree or a trellis. Examples include astilbes, foxgloves, and coral bells.

Backyard Shade Plants

Here are some of the top sun-loving plants for shade that you can plant in your sunny backyard:

Plant Name Plant Type Sunlight Requirement
Begonia Annual Partial Shade
Caladium Perennial Partial Shade
Japanese Forest Grass Perennial Partial to Full Shade
Ligularia Perennial Partial to Full Shade
Heuchera Perennial Partial Shade

These plants are just a few examples of the many sun-loving plants for shade that will thrive in your sunny backyard. With the right selection of plants, you can create a cool, shady retreat in your outdoor space.

Strategic Placement for Shade Creation

Strategically placing shade plants in your sunny backyard can make all the difference when it comes to creating a cool, comfortable outdoor space. Here are some tips to help you maximize shade:

1. Consider the Sun’s Path

Observe the path of the sun throughout the day and plant shade trees on the west-facing side of your backyard to shield against the afternoon sun. Position tall shrubs or vines on the southern side to block out midday sun.

2. Layer Your Plants

A layered planting approach can create a more dense and effective shade system. Plant larger trees and shrubs at the back of the garden and progress forward with lower-growing plants like ferns and hostas. This will create a shaded under-story, which will help to cool the temperature and create a more comfortable space.

3. Combine Shade Plants and Hardscaping Elements

Use plants to complement hardscaping elements like retaining walls, benches, and garden structures to create a shaded seating area. Trellises and pergolas can provide shade while also adding architectural interest to your outdoor space.

4. Utilize Planters for Flexible Shade Solutions

If you do not have the luxury of planting trees, hanging baskets or planter boxes can provide shade on a smaller scale. They give you the flexibility to move them around your sunny backyard as needed and allow you to experiment with different plant combinations to create a unique, personalized effect.

By following these strategies and tips, you can effectively create shade in your sunny backyard using plants. With careful planning and plant selection, you can transform your outdoor space into a comfortable oasis that you can enjoy year-round.

Creating Shade Structures with Plants

Transform your sunny backyard into a cool oasis by using plants to create shade structures. These structures not only provide much-needed relief from the sun but also enhance the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space. Here are two creative ideas to get you started:


Trellises are a great option for creating shade structures in a sunny backyard. You can use climbing plants such as grapevines or wisteria to cover the trellis and create a beautiful shaded area. Additionally, the leaves of the plants will provide a cooling effect as they absorb the sun’s energy. Make sure to choose plants that can survive in both full sun and shade.

Pro Tip: Build your trellis in an area where it will cast shade during the hottest part of the day.


Pergolas are another excellent option for creating shade structures using plants. You can create a canopy of shade by planting climbing plants like roses or clematis around the posts of the pergola. This will create a beautiful, shaded space that you can enjoy all summer long.

Pro Tip: Train your plants to climb the pergola in a specific pattern to create an even canopy of shade.
Trellises Pergolas
Grapevines Roses
Wisteria Clematis

Creating shade structures with plants is a perfect way to maximize the use of your sunny backyard. These structures enhance the beauty of your outdoor space, provide relief from the sun’s heat, and allow you to enjoy your backyard all summer long.

Caring for Shade Plants in a Sunny Backyard

Creating shade with plants in a sunny backyard requires proper care and maintenance to ensure they thrive. Here are some essential care tips:

  • Watering: During hot, dry spells, water your shade plants every day or every other day to keep the soil moist.
  • Fertilizing: Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to provide essential nutrients for growth and development.
  • Pruning: Regularly prune your shade plants to remove dead or damaged foliage and encourage healthy growth.
  • Weeding: Keep the area around your shade plants weed-free to prevent competition for nutrients and water.
  • Pest control: Monitor for pests and diseases and take appropriate measures to control them, such as using organic sprays or removing infested areas.
  • Winter protection: In colder climates, protect your shade plants from frost by covering them with a blanket or burlap.

By following these care tips, your shade plants will flourish in your sunny backyard, providing a cool and comfortable oasis for you to enjoy.

Seasonal Shade Solutions

Creating shade with plants in a sunny backyard is a great way to transform your outdoor space into a comfortable oasis. To ensure year-round comfort, consider incorporating plants that provide shade during different seasons.

Spring Shade Plants

During the spring season, consider planting deciduous trees and shrubs that provide ample shade. These plants have broad leaves that block out the sun while allowing cool breezes to pass through, creating a comfortable environment. Some popular spring shade plants include dogwood, redbud, and azalea.

Summer Shade Plants

In the summer, choose plants that can thrive in hot, sunny conditions while still providing shade. Trees such as the Eastern Redbud and Japanese Maple can withstand heat while also offering relief from the sun’s rays. Hardy perennials such as Hostas, Ferns, and Hellebores can also thrive in hot weather while providing ample shade to your sunny backyard.

Fall Shade Plants

During the fall season, consider planting trees and shrubs that provide shade while also featuring lovely fall colors. Trees like the Sugar Maple and Red Oak feature bright orange and red leaves that create a stunning display while blocking out the sun. Shrubs such as the beautyberry and fothergilla also offer beautiful autumn foliage while providing ample shade.

Winter Shade Plants

During the winter season, evergreen trees and shrubs are an excellent choice for creating winter shade. Plants such as Boxwood, Holly, and Rhododendron maintain their green foliage throughout the colder months and provide a natural barrier from the sun’s rays. These evergreens can also create a visually appealing backdrop for your winter landscape.

By incorporating different shade plants throughout the year, you can ensure that your sunny backyard remains a comfortable, inviting space no matter the season.

Enhancing Shade with Additional Elements

Incorporating additional elements can enhance the shade provided by plants in your sunny backyard. Consider using shade sails, umbrellas, or outdoor curtains to create an even cooler and more comfortable environment.

Shade Sails

Shade sails are a cost-effective and easy-to-install option for creating shade in your backyard. These triangular or square pieces of fabric are secured to poles or trees and offer a versatile and customizable shade solution. They come in a variety of colors and sizes to complement any outdoor space. Shade sails are also easy to remove or adjust depending on the position of the sun.


Umbrellas are another popular option for adding shade to your backyard. They come in different sizes, colors, and designs, making them a versatile addition to any outdoor living space. You can choose from freestanding, table-mounted, or even wall-mounted umbrellas. They are perfect for small spaces or as a portable option if you want to move them throughout the day to follow the sun’s path.

Outdoor Curtains

Outdoor curtains are an elegant and stylish addition to your backyard that provide shade and privacy. They come in a variety of materials, colors, and designs to match any outdoor décor. By strategically placing outdoor curtains around your seating area, you can create a cozy and comfortable space away from the sun’s harsh rays.

By incorporating these additional elements, you can enhance the shade provided by plants in your sunny backyard and create a cool and relaxing outdoor oasis. Experiment with different options to find the perfect combination that meets your needs.

Are Eco-Friendly Lighting Options Effective for Creating Shade in a Sunny Backyard?

Eco-friendly lighting options are the perfect solution for lighting up backyard without electricity while providing shade. Utilizing solar-powered lights or lanterns, you can create a serene atmosphere, adding a touch of elegance to your sunny backyard. These lighting options not only reduce energy consumption but also help in preserving the environment for a greener planet.


Congratulations! You have learned how to transform your sunny backyard into a comfortable, relaxing oasis using shade plants. By incorporating these cool tips, you can create a cooler environment that is perfect for outdoor activities.

Remember to choose the right plants, strategically place them, and care for them properly to ensure their longevity. Additionally, consider using shade structures and additional elements to enhance the shade provided by plants.

Creating shade with plants not only makes your backyard more comfortable, but it also adds aesthetic appeal to your outdoor space. So, why not implement these tips and enjoy a cooler, more beautiful backyard. Your family and friends will love it!

Can San Diego Native Plants Help Create Shade in a Sunny Backyard?

Yes, you can grow your garden with San Diego native plants to create shade in a sunny backyard. Native plant species like California lilac, California buckwheat, and San Diego sunflower are excellent choices for providing shade in a sunny garden while also conserving water and attracting local wildlife.


Q: How can I create shade with plants in my sunny backyard?

A: There are several ways to create shade with plants in a sunny backyard. One option is to select shade-loving plants that can tolerate sunny conditions. Another option is to strategically place plants in your backyard to maximize shade. You can also create shade structures using plants, such as trellises and pergolas. Lastly, you can enhance shade with additional elements like shade sails and outdoor curtains.

Q: What types of plants are suitable for creating shade in a sunny backyard?

A: There are many shade-loving plants that can thrive in a sunny backyard. Some examples include Japanese maple trees, hydrangeas, hostas, ferns, and impatiens. It’s important to choose plants that can tolerate direct sunlight and provide ample shade for your outdoor space.

Q: How should I strategically place plants in my backyard to maximize shade?

A: To maximize shade in your backyard, consider planting taller trees and shrubs on the west and south sides of your outdoor space. This will create shade during the hottest parts of the day. You can also create shade by planting vines on trellises or using tall potted plants to create a natural barrier from the sun.

Q: How can I create shade structures using plants?

A: You can create shade structures using plants by installing trellises, pergolas, or arbors and training vines to grow on them. This will provide both shade and aesthetic appeal to your sunny backyard. Additionally, you can use large potted plants to create temporary shade structures that can be moved around as needed.

Q: How should I care for shade plants in a sunny backyard?

A: It’s important to provide adequate watering for shade plants in a sunny backyard. Make sure to water them regularly, especially during hot and dry periods. Additionally, apply a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth and prune any dead or damaged foliage. It’s also beneficial to mulch around the base of the plants to retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

Q: Are there plants that provide shade during different seasons?

A: Yes, there are plants that provide shade during different seasons. For example, deciduous trees provide shade in the summer months when they are full of leaves but allow sunlight through in the winter when the leaves have fallen. Evergreen trees and shrubs, on the other hand, provide shade year-round. By selecting a combination of these plants, you can ensure year-round comfort in your sunny backyard.

Q: How can I enhance shade in my sunny backyard with additional elements?

A: To enhance shade in your sunny backyard, you can incorporate additional elements such as shade sails, umbrellas, and outdoor curtains. These can be positioned strategically to provide extra shade in areas where plants may not fully cover. They also add a stylish and functional element to your outdoor space.

Related Posts