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Spring Shade Garden Plan with Cowslip

By: Marisa Reyes
Fill your spring shade garden with cowslip, coral bells and bleeding heart!

Illustration of spring garden bed with Primula, fern, bleeding heart and coral bells

Enjoy spring blooms in shade with cowslip

If you're looking for more spring color, this garden plan is just the ticket. Deep purple foliage of coral bells contrast with cowslip’s lemon-yellow blooms and bleeding heart’s delicate flowers and foliage in spring. Later, ostrich fern fronds unfurl to paint a backdrop of green. As cowslip and bleeding-heart fade away by summer, the garden remains vibrant with foliage texture into autumn.

Yellow Primula flowers: Lightly fragrant, bell-shaped, lemon-yellow blooms give your early spring garden a boost of color and pollinators will thank you for this rich nectar source.

Tips for growing this spring part-shade garden

  • Grow this combination along a garden's edge or pathway in moist but well-drained soil where plants will receive morning sun and afternoon shade.
  • Cut bleeding heart's foliage back to the ground once it begins to yellow from the summer heat.
  • Deadhead spent flowers on cowslip, bleeding heart and coral bells to keep plants looking tidy. Cowslip may bloom a second time.
  • A 1-to-2-inch layer of mulch will help conserve moisture and keep weeds at bay
  • Fertilize in spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.
  • In early spring, protect emerging plants from a sudden frost with a protective cloth when temperatures reach below 32 degrees F.

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Spring garden bed with Primula: Brighten up your shade garden with these early-spring flowers.

Meet the plants in this part-shade combination

A) Old-fashioned bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)
Perennial; heart-shaped pink flowers with white inner petals from early to midspring; full to part shade; 24 to 36 in. tall, 18 to 30 in. wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

B) Coral bells (Heuchera ‘Shanghai’)
Perennial; small, bell-shaped white flowers emerge above silvery purple foliage from late spring to fall; full sun to part shade; 10 to 18 in. tall, 10 to 12 in. wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

C) Cowslip (Primula veris)
Perennial; clusters of fragrant, yellow bell-shaped flowers from early to midspring; part shade; 6 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 16 in. wide; cold hardy USDA zones 3 to 8

D) Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Perennial; fiddleheads emerge in early spring and unfurl into green feathery fronds from early spring to summer; part to full shade; 2 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 3 ft. wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.


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editors choice garden plan issue 175 january february 2024 part shade perennials shade

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