Pergola shade ideas: 10 ways to use a pergola for shade

There are many pergola shading ideas that will make your garden more cozy during the summer. Ranging from simple fabric coverings to more substantial solid roofing, they can also suit any style of garden.

Traditionally, a pergola is a frame, usually made of wood, consisting of four posts and a roof. Typically, these roofs are open slatted and, although aesthetically pleasing, they don’t provide much shade, which is essential in the hottest parts of the country.

But there are tons of pergola shade solutions you can combine with your pergola ideas to make yours a comfortable place to sit even on the hottest days. We’ve rounded up the best to inspire you.

Pergola Shade Ideas

Pergola shade ideas make this garden structure a more versatile addition to a yard. “Pergolas are great for providing filtered sunlight as well as shade,” says Tammy Sons, founder of tree nursery. “They are a nice addition to patios for placing hot tubs, swings, lawn chairs and picnic tables. Outdoor lights work exceptionally well around pergola tops for nighttime enjoyment. Pergolas can also be decorated with all types of climbing plants and vines for added beauty in spring and summer.

To make the most of any location and any look, consider these ways to build a pergola for shade.

1. Add a rustic roof

Garden ideas

(Image credit: Real Stone and Tile Co)

A rustic design can be one of the best pergola roof ideas for creating shade in a backyard. However, as natural daylight will fade more quickly under a pergola designed for shade, be sure to include garden lighting to illuminate it.

This shady garden space is used for outdoor lounging surrounded by beautiful architectural plants – and the pergola is built as an element of patio ideas.

2. Hang curtains on a pergola

pergola with reed roof and curtain sides

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro)

While shade from above is important, shade around her sides can be crucial for comfort throughout the day.

In this idyllic configuration, weighted curtains are suspended from the rails installed under the wooden frame of the pergola. Besides providing shelter from the sun, these pergola shade ideas give the space a softer edge and add both color and pattern.

3. Layer the roof materials

covered pergola with beams and sticks and space for outdoor dining

(Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)

If you’re designing a pergola, it’s worth considering layering the roof materials to provide enough shade.

In this spacious scheme, a wooden beam structure creates an airy roof. To provide additional shade for the pergola when the sun is at its highest, above is a second roof structure made up of loose willow branches that provides an escape from the sun while still allowing lovely dappled beams to pass through.

4. Grow a living pergola roof for shade

Patio with armchair and sofa and pergola above with vine

(Image credit: Future/David Cleveland)

Consider growing climbing plants on the roof of a pergola to create a wonderfully cool seating area during the hottest times of the year. This is an especially attractive pergola shade option if you want your structure to be attached to the house as it creates an attractive view from upstairs windows.

There are many different plants you can use, but you may prefer fast-flowering vines because they will provide both shade and interest over a relatively short period of time – usually just a few years.

5. Opt for a retractable pergola awning

blue and white striped retractable pergola awning

(Image credit: ShadeFX)

For maximum flexibility, take a look at a retractable awning that allows you to create a pergola for shade when you want it – or not when you don’t – perfect for achieving the perfect balance of light and shadow.

A retractable awning has a soft, casual aesthetic like a fabric roof, but added durability. It could also offer protection from the sun and rain, which will help preserve your furniture while providing a space to relax in all weathers.

Designs like this Oakville awning from FX Tint are controlled by a motor, although there are also more affordable options that are operated by a cable pulley system or a manual drive.

6. Relax in a pergola tent

fabric cover on pergola on lawn

(Image credit: Raj Tent Club)

If you’re hosting a garden party, adding a decadently dressed pergola for shade to the lawn creates a focal point for gathering and the perfect place to escape the heat of the day.

Ideal for summer parties, this 9 foot (2.8m) pergola Raj tent club can accommodate up to 10 people. As well as providing shade from above, the delicately tied curtains at each pole can also be untied and closed to create an intimate setting. Simply add lighting to linger in the yard after dark.

7. Introduce scent and color as well as shade

pergola with roses climbing on supports by Jo Thompson Garden Design

(Image credit: Jo Thompson Garden Design)

Planting climbing roses is one of our favorite pergola shade ideas, introducing beautiful blooms and fragrance, as well as additional coolness to the area. They can also provide privacy for a yard that is neglected.

There are many varieties of climbing roses that can be used to create shade over a pergola.

“Theo Clevers roses work well planted next to pergolas or porches where they will make a great display in combination with climbing plants,” recommends Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Manager at dobbies, ‘This variety has a sweet strawberry aroma and has beautiful rosette-shaped flowers in large, tight clusters. They are also suitable for growing in larger pots if you only have space for containers on the terrace.

8. Install a louvered roof

caribbean blinds black pergola blinds in the garden

(Image credit: Caribbean Blinds)

If you’re looking for pergola shade ideas with maximum flexibility, a louvered roof is a sensible solution, allowing for adjustment throughout the day.

‘Designed for those who want to ‘live the life outdoors’, modern pergolas with rotating aluminum louvered roofs allow the user to play with light and shadow, providing an outdoor feel in the open air air when left fully open and providing complete protection from water, wind and even a snow tight roof when closed,” says Stuart Dantzic, Managing Director of Caribbean blinds.

9. Create a temporary shade with vintage fabrics

temporary pergola with fabric covering

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

Pergola awnings do not need to be permanent additions to the structure. On a sunny day, simply drape a minimalist metallic pergola with pretty fabric to create welcome coolness and privacy. Use mismatched fabrics to create a laid-back, boho vibe, then pair them with rattan patio furniture and lots of pillows to create a cozy place to relax.

10. Take advantage of natural shade

Barn Carousel, Oxford Garden Center

(Image credit: Grange)

If you are looking to erect a new pergola in your garden, consider positioning it in an area that is already shaded. This beautifully simple wooden carousel design from the Oxford Garden Center has a completely open roof which allows it to feel bright and airy but, since it is placed under the branches of a willow tree, is perfectly shaded. Dressed in garlands, pillows and picnic blankets, it is ideal for outside to eat.

How to add more shade to a pergola?

You can add more shade to a pergola with side coverings. Fabric panels are a simple addition and can be hung, like curtains, from railings installed just below the perimeter of the roof structure. They will also soften the lines of the pergola.

You can also use large foliage plants in pots, positioned at the sides of the pergola to cool and green the area.

What can you use to shade a pergola?

To shade a pergola, use hanging fabrics like curtains or drapes over the roof, patio planting ideas, and different roofing materials alone or in combination. Your choices may depend on the permanence of the pergola and the style of your garden.

If you erected a temporary pergola to provide shade over a few sunny days, the fabric makes an excellent source of shade. As permanent solutions, consider adding blinds or even building a solid roof.

Comments are closed.