If you are looking for plants for a shady area most nurseries have a shade house so head for that area. There are a number of plants that are suitable for these areas:
Austromyrtus – related to lilly pillies, it’s a variety of a native rainforest shrub with red new growth. It grows 3-4 metres (around 10 – 15 feet) but with dense growth. It’s suited to hedging and screening.
Baby’s Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) is a plant that will grow in moist areas under benches and similar places. It has tiny leaves and has a moss like appearance. It needs to be protected from hot sun.
It will grow in most areas of Australia although in very cold areas it may die back over winter. As well as being used as a ground cover in moist shady areas it can also be potted or used in a hanging basket either on its own or as a ground cover around other plants.
The bird’s nest fern or Crow’s nest fern (Asplenium australasicum) is an excellent foliage plant for semi shady areas. It will develop into a large plant with strap like leaves. It’s not always happy in deep shade or areas that are poorly drained but as part of a backyard “jungle” or “rainforest” mixed with plants such as lomandras, dianellas and elkhorns they are very attractive.
Bamboo palms are also excellent plants for areas that have dappled shade. They are excellent for narrow shady spots beside the house. Being such a narrow plant it can be planted along a fence without creating problems by leaning over your path.
Curuligo is a plant that has been around for some time but dropped out of fashion so is under-used. It’s an interesting native plant from rainforests. Its strongly pleated leaves are held vertically and the plant will grow in quite heavy shade.
Ferns are of course an obvious choice for shady areas. Maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp) in particular is very useful. It is the most widely grown fern in Australia and one of the easiest to grow. Although if allowed to dry out the foliage quickly turns brown although with care they will come back to life. There is a huge range of maidenhair ferns. Some species are tougher than others. The wild native species Adiantum hispidulum will tolerate full sun but is best in light shade. It will grow in a variety of soils from good to very poor and is cold hardy.
Other ferns include hen and chicken, blechnums, hare’s foot fern & prickly rasp fern (Doodia aspera). Your local nursery or garden section of a Bunnings store should be able to advise you on the most shade tolerant ferns they have for sale.
To add colour to a shady area bromeliads with their striking foliage and flower colours, clivias with their bright orange or yellow flowers; ardisias with their pretty berries and even white spathiphyllums (normally an indoor plant) are worth considering.
Other plants for shady areas include:
Hostas (beware of cold & snails)
Jacobinias (Brazilian Plume flowers)
Lamium (Aluminium plant)