shady greenhouseI’ve previously had a question about acquiring a second greenhouse and what it could be used for. Today’s question is from Tony Sharp of Hertford and also involves a ‘greenhouse gift’. Tony asks:

‘My parents have offered me their old greenhouse, but the only available space for it in my garden is generally shaded. Is it worth the trouble of moving it to my place?’

Tony, it is certainly worth it. The great majority of popular greenhouse and pot plants prefer shady conditions when in the decorative stage- but good light, which does not mean direct sunlight under glass, is essential for them in their early stages of growth. If there is too much gloom, growth will be weak, straggly and pale. If your greenhouse is going to be very shaded, the use of a cold frame or other mini garden frame in a more open, sunny position might provide the right light levels for the early growth stages of some plants.

There are also many plants that revel in considerable shade, apart from the low growers suitable for placing under the staging (more on this below). Examples include:

  • Many ferns for both cool and warm conditions

  • Norfolk island pine (Araucaria excelsa) in its juvenile form

  • The climbers, Chilean bell-flower (Lapageria rosea) and Hoya carnosa- both with attractive flowers

  • Many ivies

  • The Schefflera foliage species

  • Camellias, which flower very well in pots when young

  • Streptocarpus

  • Gloxinias

  • Many of the Gesneria family

  • The ‘forest cacti’ such as Schlumbergera and Rhipsalidopsis

  • The annual Exacum affine, which is sweet-smelling

  • Anthurium crystallinum

  • Various palms

And there are many more possibilities to choose from depending on the temperature that can be maintained in the greenhouse.

I mentioned using the space under the staging in the greenhouse above. If you have a glass-to ground greenhouse the lighting conditions will probably allow this area to be used for a propagator or those plants that like slight shade. If, however there is considerable shade (as you might get with a solid wall greenhouse), only shade lovers can be put there- but once again there are lots of these to consider. Many houseplants like the sort of lighting you get in this area (and may even be raised there); so, too, do tropical  plants and exotic foliage subjects if warmth and humidity is adequate. Good crops of mushrooms can be grown and, if an area is blacked out, it can also be used for blanching and forcing crops such as chicory, rhubarb and sea kale.

You have staging- what can you use the area underneath for?
You have staging- but what can you use the area underneath for?

I’d suggest that you don’t use the under staging area as a store for general garden stuff (eg plant pots and trays) as these and other ‘junk’ can soon turn into places where pests and diseases will be encouraged. However this area can be useful as a store for tools that are used regularly in the greenhouse, as well as containers of seed and potting compost- as long as these can be effectively sealed (I’ve seen a bag of compost left open in a greenhouse and soon become a home for ants!).

Link: 10 Greenhouses you can build yourself

If you have any gardening questions that you think I might help with, then please email me at

Old School Gardener

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