Best Surfaces for Shady Areas

Shady gardens can be a real challenge when it comes to choosing a suitable surface. The lack of direct sunlight can make some materials slippery, prone to mould and algae, and generally difficult to maintain. However, with a little research and careful planning, it's possible to find a paving or decking solution that's perfect for your shady garden.

Paving Options for Shade

When it comes to paving, there are several options to choose from, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. A north-facing garden is often dull and poorly lit meaning the natural choice is to opt for a lighter coloured paving to brighten it up, but this may not always be a good choice. Here's a rundown of the most common paving materials and how they perform in shady gardens.

  1. Natural Stone Paving

Natural stone paving is a popular choice for its natural beauty and durability. However, some types of natural stone can be slippery when wet, which can be a real problem in shady areas where moisture is more likely to linger. Certain types of natural sandstone are slightly more porous which means they are more prone to algae which is what makes them slippery. In a shady garden, the lighter shades of Indian sandstone such as Fossil Buff, Mint and Ivory tones are more prone to algae growth than some of the darker shades such as grey and autumn tones. This is due to them being slightly more porous than the darker shades and this in turn leads to a higher chance of algal growth which manifests itself as black flecks on the paving. Stone types such as slate are a hard stone that is highly resistant to algae, although the dark colours of slate may not be the ideal choice for brightening up a dull corner of the garden. 

Natural Paving Black Slate Paving

Select Sawn Edge Autumn Brown Sandstone

Select Range Autumn Brown Sandstone

Strata Whitchurch Grey Sandstone

Select Kandla Grey Sandstone

  1. Concrete Paving

Concrete paving is a low-maintenance option that can be designed to mimic the look of natural stone. It's usually slip-resistant and resistant to algae growth, although in shady gardens you may see black flecks on the paving where algae has taken hold. This would be especially true where there are dips in the paving allowing water to pool. Overall, concrete paving is a good choice for shady areas, however it can be prone to cracking and can look unattractive if it's not properly installed

Brett Canterbury Slate Grey

Bowland Stone Lakeland Cumbrian

Stonemarket Ryton Buff

Bowland Stone Chalice Honey Brown

Brett Stamford Charcoal

  1. Porcelain Paving

Porcelain paving is a newer option that's gained popularity for its durability, low maintenance, low porosity and slip-resistant surface. With it being 99.9% non porous, it's also highly resistant to moss and algae growth, making it a great choice for shady areas. Porcelain paving is available in a wide range of styles and colours, making it easy to find a look that complements your garden. Porcelain paving is even available in white and cream tones which are a great choice to adding some light to a dark and shady area of the garden. 

Select Aosta White

Strata Grey Sandstone Porcelain

Digby Stone Regale Scout Beige

Digby Stone Essential White

Talasey Vitripiazza Yorkstone

  1. Gravel

Gravel and decorative stone is a cost-effective and easy-to-install option that can add texture and interest to a garden. It's also non-slip and allows for good drainage, which can be especially important in shady areas where moisture can linger. However, gravel can be difficult to walk on and can be displaced over time, which can make it a less-than-ideal option for high-traffic areas. Some types of gravel, such as flint-based stones are highly resistant to algae whereas other stone types formed of limestone and marble are likely to suffer from green algae discolouration. 

Decking Options for Shade

If you're looking for a more natural look, decking can be a great option for shady gardens. Here are two of the most common decking materials and how they perform in shade.

  1. Softwood Tanalised Timber

Softwood tanalised timber is a popular choice for its natural look and affordability. However it's not such a good option for shady areas because when damp it can be extremely slippery. Coupled with this, the grooves on the decking will often fill up with organic matter which in itself will also be slippery. Softwood tanalised timber can also be prone to warping and splitting, and it requires regular maintenance to keep it looking its best.

  1. Composite Decking

Composite decking is a newer option that's gaining popularity for its durability and low maintenance. It's also slip resistant and resistant to moisture and algae growth, making it a great choice for shady areas. Composite decking is available in a range of colours and styles, so it's easy to find a look that complements your garden. However, it can be more expensive than other decking materials, and some people prefer the look of natural wood.

How to Clean Existing Patios & Decks

If your existing paved patio or timber decking is covered in algae and becoming slippery, there are steps you can take to rectify the situation.

For Paved Patios:

  1. Clear Debris: Before cleaning the patio, remove any debris such as fallen leaves, twigs, and moss.

  2. Mix Cleaning Solution: Mix a cleaning solution of one-part bleach to ten parts water in a bucket or iy may be preferable to use a ready made paving algae remover. Always test on an inconspicuous area and never use on black limestone paving which is prone to bleaching and marking leaving unsightly stains. 

  3. Apply Solution: Apply the solution to the affected area and let it sit for 10-15 minutes or as instraucted by the manufacturer of the algae removing product. Avoid letting the solution sit for too long as it may discolour the surface.

  4. Scrub: Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the surface of the patio. Be careful not to damage any grouting or pointing.

  5. Rinse: Rinse the area thoroughly with water. Use a hose or a pressure washer to remove all traces of the solution.

Pavetuf Green off Cleaner

NCC Blackspot and Algae Remover

For Timber Decking:

  1. Clear Debris: Remove any debris such as fallen leaves, twigs, and moss.

  2. Choose a Cleaning Solution: There are several cleaning solutions available in the market specifically designed for cleaning timber decking. Choose a solution that's suitable for your decking.

  3. Apply Solution: Apply the solution to the affected area and let it sit for 10-15 minutes or as instructed by the manufacturer.

  4. Scrub: Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the surface of the decking. Be careful not to damage the timber.

  5. Rinse: Rinse the area thoroughly with water. Use a hose or a pressure washer to remove all traces of the solution.

After cleaning your patio or decking, it's important to take steps to prevent algae from growing back.

For Paved Patios:

  • Seal the Surface: After cleaning and letting the surface dry, consider sealing the surface with a sealant specifically designed for patios. This will help to prevent moisture from seeping into the surface and encourage the growth of algae.

NCC Stone Sealer & Enhancer

NCC Water Based Patio Sealer

Lithofin Water Based Sealer

NCC Stone Sealer

Gftk 3 in 1 Stone Protect

Pavetuf Satin Sealer

Pavetuf Invisible Sealer

For Timber Decking:

  • Apply a Coating: After cleaning and letting the surface dry, consider applying a coating of oil, stain or varnish. This will help to seal the timber and prevent moisture from seeping into the surface.

  • Remove Overhanging Trees and Shrubs: Overhanging trees and shrubs can provide shade, which is ideal for algae growth. Prune trees and shrubs to allow more sunlight to reach the decking.

By following these steps, you can rectify an algae-covered surface and prevent it from becoming slippery again. However, it's important to note that regular maintenance is essential to keep your patio or decking looking its best.

Pavetuf Composite Cleaner

Pavetuf Decking Cleaner

Protek Decking Stain

Other Features to Include on a Shady Patio

In addition to choosing the right surface material, there are several other features you can include on a shady patio to make it more inviting. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Lighting

Good lighting can make a huge difference in a shady garden, especially if you want to use your patio in the evenings. Consider installing some outdoor lighting, such as string lights or solar-powered lanterns, to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

  1. Plants

Plants can add colour and texture to a shady garden, and they can also help to purify the air and reduce noise pollution. Choose plants that thrive in shade, such as hostas, ferns, and heucheras, however be aware of slugs with hostas! By using gravel as a mulch on the planting borders averts many slug fuelled feeding-frenzies amongst your hostas. Complement the plantings with large boulders for a truly Jurassic feel in addition to using use pots and planters to create a layered and varied look.

  1. Water Features

A water feature can add a calming and relaxing element to a shady garden. Consider installing a small fountain, pond, or waterfall to create a soothing sound and attract wildlife.

  1. Seating

Having comfortable seating on your patio is essential for enjoying your outdoor space. Choose seating that's durable, weather-resistant, and comfortable, and add some cushions or throws for added comfort.

  1. Outdoor Rugs

An outdoor rug can add a pop of colour and texture to a patio, and it can also make the space feel more comfortable and inviting. Choose a rug that's weather-resistant and easy to clean, and consider adding a non-slip pad underneath to keep it in place.


Finding a suitable surface for a shady garden can be a challenge, but with the right research and planning, it's possible to create a beautiful and functional outdoor space. Consider the benefits and drawbacks of different paving and decking materials, and don't forget to add other features, such as lighting, plants, and seating, to make your patio feel inviting and comfortable. With a little creativity and effort, you can transform your shady garden into a peaceful and relaxing oasis that you can enjoy all year round.

We hope this has inspired you, but we’d love to hear from you with any further questions.