Garden shade ideas to shelter from the sun in style

From planted pergola, parasols and simple sails here's how you can enjoy your outdoor space for longer

As much as we all love the sun, sometimes you need a break from direct rays while still being outside. Enter garden shade ideas to bring you the best of both worlds.

Our favourite kinds of garden ideas are those which add a solution to our outdoor space. Shade is a must for every garden, because there are points of the summer where you just need a gentle respite. This may be to cool down slightly or to protect yourself from harmful UVA rays.

Even if you're not sunbathing, a shady garden allows you to spend more time tending to gardening tasks. So shade ideas benefit everyone in the family.

Garden shade ideas

These garden shade ideas offer solutions for creating shade in order to make an outdoor dining or seating area a pleasure to use on even the brightest of summer days.

1. Choose a two-in-one solution

garden with shade

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

When considering what garden furniture ideas are best for your space, make sure to think about shade. Look for options which have integrated parasols, roofs or covers.

We especially love a simple outdoor dining table with a space in the centre to insert a parasol. This essentially combines the best of freestanding and built in parasols. You can put in whatever style fits your style or theme, but you've got support and you're not taking up any more room in your garden.

2. Work with overhanging foliage

garden shade

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

While most may think of overhanging trees and hedges as a nuisance, you can work with, rather than against, to enjoy shady spaces. Equally as good for front garden ideas as for back, this is a simple and cheap way of adding shade.

Work out which area of your garden gets the most shade from overhanging plants and plan around this accordingly. Supplement with your own planting to add a deeper cover if you need.

3. Choose a shapely style

curved sail

(Image credit: Future PLC/Frenchie Christogatin)

Sails, shades and awnings are all too often thought of as clinical or commercial. Add some personality to yours by looking at more decorative options. As well as pretty colours and prints that complement your planting, there are shapely styles, too.

A curved sail will add softness to your space, while still working hard to offer you shade.

4. Invest in a hard-working pergola

swimming pool with sofa

(Image credit: SUNS)

Pergolas are a great option for garden shade ideas. Consider an option which offers more options than just protecting you from direct sunlight.

Choose a design with vented roof shutters, like this design from SUNS (opens in new tab), so you can choose how much sun or shade you want. These pergolas also have the option of side screens, meaning your area will be protected from the other elements, like rain and wind.

5. Create an ad hoc canopy

garden shade

(Image credit: Future PLC/Max Attenborough)

Shade designs don't have to be complicated or expensive - easy garden ideas are perfect for helping you out. A simple fabric canopy creates shade wherever and whenever it is needed, and choosing a bright colour will make it a ‘destination' in a large garden too.

Outdoor fabrics have the benefit of being showerproof, strain-resistant, UV and fade-resistant, but an improvised shade in a sturdy interiors fabric will stand up to occasional use too. Simply attach the fabric to surrounding trees.

6. Plant trees for shade

plant trees for shade

(Image credit: Future PLC)

An alternative garden shade idea is to incorporate mindful planting into your garden design, so that you know there will always be some form of a shady spot to retreat to.

Wether that's shaping shrubs or trees to provide a canopy of lush green or simply rethinking a layout so the patio is near existing trees, be mindful on the light quality when planning your garden layout.

7. Float a simple sail

garden area with chairs and trees

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Create a small shaded spot with the simple placement of a sail shade gazebo. This example by Dobbies (opens in new tab) is just the thing to float above a seating area to welcome a break from sitting directly in the path of  scorching sun beams. The lightweight sail shade is quick to assemble and fast becomes a garden essential, perfect for a whole range of outdoor events, from family gatherings to spontaneous BBQs and more.

The simple shade solution boasts a robust powder-coated rust resistant steel frame plus a durable polyester canopy for protection from the elements. Come rain or shine, a sail gazebo has you covered.

8. Shelter beneath a canopy of plants

garden terrace with shade

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Scarboro)

Encourage climbing plants to take up residence on a terrace pergola  to provide a beautifully natural shaded area. This garden shade idea is beneficial for adding a charming touch of planting and colour to a patio area.

While also highly-practical for providing a shaded area on the terrace beneath, offering the ideal safe spot for lunch.

9. Move with the times throughout the day

garden area with patio umbrella and grey sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC)

A freestanding, lightweight parasol allows the freedom to follow the sun and move the positioning depending on the time of day. A moveable shade solution is ideal on patio areas that are far-removed from the house, where there is no tree covering to offer any protection from the sun.

10. Attach an awning to shade a patio

patio area with table and chairs

(Image credit: Chris Everard)

To save space on having a sizeable parasol on the garden decking or patio area, not to mention the storage for out-of-season months, consider a smart awning. Having an awning attached to the rear exterior wall allows you to have a retractable source of shade, as and when you need it  – and in a matter of minutes.

Many of the modern designs are now electrical, making the job even easier. The average cost of an awning starts from around £200, and can range to anywhere up to £8,000.

11. Stick to natural cover

garden area with white table and flower plants

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro)

A patio area immediately off the kitchen is the ideal place for a permanent structure to shade a dining area. Keep the scheme simple and rustic with a covering of wooden lengths laid across a solid wooden frame. A simple willow slatted framework feels light and airy, and seems to float in the space.

12. Seek shade with a garden room

garden room with white sofa and potted plants

(Image credit: Garden House Design)

Timber structures have long made favourite garden shelters, and there is a vast choice of styles beyond the standard summerhouse. This contemporary pergola offers a private place to sit away from the glaring rays of the sun and the gaze of neighbours.

The Maluwi Canopy garden room (opens in new tab) can be attached to an existing wall or house, or freestanding. The multi functional aluminium and timber canopy comes in a variety of lengths to suits gardens of all sizes. With water-resistant walls, plus lighting and heating options this really is a structure for all seasons.

Of course a garden structure of this stature is not a cheap option, but it is well-worth the investment for creating an alfresco space to enjoy for all seasons - explore garden room costs.

13. Weigh in with a fixed parasol

patio garden with white wall and trees

(Image credit: Future PLC/Nick Pope)

A solid parasol, the likes of which are used by restaurants and hotels will be a practical solution for a patio and won't wobble and fall over as soon as the wind picks up. Weight it down with concrete for extra stability. A wall mounted parasol is a great solution for a small garden idea and offers flexibility for angling to protect from the sun.

14. Add an arbour for a charming touch

country style cottage garden with arbour

(Image credit: Future PLC/Spike Powell)

In a country-style garden an arbour is ideal for adding a charming area to seek a seat in the shade. The wooden structure adds character to the surrounding garden while providing a much-needed spot for shade. Add outdoor cushions to make the seating experience all the more comfortable.

In this picturesque cottage garden idea the arbour is surrounding by country-style planting and accessories, including a bistro table and chairs set. Garden arbours are suitable for all budgets, they start from £185 at Wickes but you can spend a lot more at other high-end garden retailers.

15. Shade in serene green

sitting area with wooden table and bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Hiscock)

Enclosing patio seating in lush planting, not only cools the area, it has a cocooning effect that will envelop the space in scent, colour and the sound of breeze through the leaves. Add a fabric awning over the pergola structure until the green has grown in pace, for fine-tuning the shade on the sunniest days.

How do I make shade in my garden?

Making shade in the garden is easier than you'd think. There are a wealth of options to provide shade, for all garden types and all budgets. For those looking to keep options cheap and simple, a fabric canopy is the perfect solution. Ensure the material is an outdoor fabric that will offer a level of protection from harmful sun rays. Specialist outdoor fabrics have the benefit of being showerproof, strain-resistant, UV and fade-resistant.

A canvas parasol is another reliable and affordable way to offer shade for a garden. Plus a parasol is handy for every style of garden, from small courtyards to large gardens with a pool – there are many fabulous designs on offer t cater for each gardens needs.

Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.