Perennials that thrive in the shade will brighten and lighten the dark and dreary side of the backyard.
Shades of Green
Shade-loving perennials may not bloom as abundantly as the sun-loving ones, but their blossoms are that much more precious because of it.
Also, shade perennials make up for their lack of abundant flowers with infinite lush shades of green.
The Dreaded Dry Shade
At the top of every gardener’s challenging areas, the dry shade problem can be overcome with shade-loving perennials that tolerate low moisture levels such as hosta, heucherella, bleeding heart, and ferns.
To combat dry shade, amend the soil with moisture-holding components such as peat moss, retain moisture with mulching, and install automatic irrigation.
Create a welcome sanctuary with shade-loving perennials to make the most of naturally shady spaces.
Hanging Out in Shady Places
Various Depths of Shade
Perennials that thrive in shade have slightly different light requirements including full shade, part shade, light shade, and dappled shade.
Take note of the intended shade garden’s hours of sunlight to pick the perfect plants for the location.
Perhaps choose the lightest colored plants to brighten up areas of deep full shade.
1. Columbine (Aquilegia)
A wonderful woodland perennial that loves part shade but also tolerates some sun.
Columbine’s spurred flowers arrive in late spring to early summer in contrasting colors and rich shades of blue, purple, pink, white, red, yellow, and orange.
The lush columbine plants have scalloped tri-lobed foliage, thrive in zones 3 to 8, and reach heights of 1 to 3 feet.
2. Primrose (Primula)
Gorgeous in part to full shade, primrose forms a rosette of leaves with bright flowers emerging from the center.
Flowers are on short or long stalks and bloom in spring in charming shades of blue, red, purple, pink, white, yellow, and orange.
Tiny, low-growing primroses reach only 6 inches while drumstick varieties reach over 20 inches in zones 4 to 8.
3. Foamflower (Tiarella)
The mounding rosettes of interesting colorful and variegated foliage are available in a wide range of shapes and colors and prefer part shade to full shade conditions.
Blooming in spring, like candles in the dark, foamflower’s white blooms are nearly iridescent in shade gardens.
Tiarella grows in zones 3 to 9 and reaches heights of 24 to 36 inches.
4. Japanese Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa macra)
Ornamental grasses, normally reserved for sunny locations, look fantastic in contrast to lush shade-loving foliage. Luckily, there’s Japanese Hakone Grass which loves shady places.
They also provide a summer bloom in yellow and green.
Japanese Hakone Grass grows 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide in abundant mounds in zones 4 to 8.
5. Hosta (Hosta)
It’s almost impossible to pick just one hosta for the full-shade garden. This article 29 Best Hosta Varieties For Your Shade Garden will show you the best ones to choose from.
In summer, rising above the famously luxurious foliage, hostas bloom in purple, pink, and white.
With varieties that grow only 6 inches tall, while others reach over 5 feet, hostas meet any discerning shade garden requirements in zones 3 to 9.
6. Astilbe (Astilbe)
Nothing brightens up a shady corner of the backyard like Astilbe which loves part shade conditions.
The feathery, showy, pyramidal flower clusters bloom in spring and summer in a wide assortment of whites, pinks, and reds.
Growing in zones 3 to 8. Astilbe comes in dwarf varieties of 6 inches tall while some varieties reach over 2 feet in height at maturity.
7. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
This tough woodland groundcover loves part shade under trees, shrubs, and places where other plants just won’t grow.
The dainty white pendulous bell-like flowers bloom in spring emitting their enchanting fragrance.
This surprisingly durable plant grows in zones 3 to 8 and reaches just 6 to 12 inches tall.
8. Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)
This whimsical classic garden perennial is deceptively easy to grow and thrives in part and full shade.
The delicate, dangling, heart-shaped, puffy flowers grace this plant in springtime in pink, red, and white.
Hardy even in zone 2 and up to zone 9. Choose tiny varieties with delicate lace-like leaves or large classic cultivars which grow up to 3 feet tall.
9. Heucherella (Heucherella)
In part to full shade, heucherella is a cross between the shade-loving heuchera and the woodland native tiarella.
Prized for its diverse colorful foliage, heucherella bloom in spring with delicate sprays of pink and white.
Hardy in zones 4 to 9, this 8-to-12-inch plant provides interest for many years through all seasons.
10. Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum)
For a luscious tropical feel, Solomon’s Seal has vibrant stepladder leaves, outstanding in full and part shade.
Hanging from the arching branches are parades of white, pink, and green trumpet-like flowers in mid to late spring.
A woodland favorite of zone 3 to 9, Solomon’s Seal may reach up to 7 feet or be tiny at only 6 inches.
11. Lungwort (Pulmonaria)
Lungwort is an impressive, thick, groundcover plant that loves part shade.
Pretty in pink… Or blue. Lungwort flowers open pink and change to blue seemingly right before your eyes in spring.
In zone 3 to 8, lungwort may form a thick carpet 6 to 12 inches tall.
12. Toad Lily (Tricyrtus)
A rare, almost unimaginable psychedelic-looking plant that loves part shade.
The numerous orchid-like flowers are spotted, striped, or multicolored in blue, red, white, purple, pink, yellow, and orange.
Growing in popularity, a remarkable assortment of toad lilies are available. They range in size from 1 to 3 feet and are hardy in zone 3 to 8.
13. Lenten Rose (Hellebore)
In part to full shade, the Lenten rose of the buttercup family has leathery foliage and rose-like flower buds.
An evergreen perennial, the early spring blossoms celebrate the Christian season of Lent, in dusty shades of purple, pink, white, and yellow.
Growing from 1 to 2 feet tall in zone 3 to 9, Lenten rose get better and better each year.
14. Dead Nettle (Lamium)
Dead nettles light up full to part shade gardens with their variegated, silvery, fuzzy foliage.
In late spring to early summer, the purple, white, or pink flowers emerge from the leaf axils.
Forming lovely mats or carpets in zone 4 to 8, dead nettles range from 3 to 12 inches tall.
15. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Towering spikes of foxglove thrive in part sun to part shade, a classic in cottage gardens.
In late spring, the large whorls of tubular flowers light up the landscape in speckled reds, purples, pinks, whites, and yellows.
Reaching 2 to 5 feet tall depending on the variety, foxgloves are hardy in zone 3 to 9.
16. Trillium (Trillium)
Prized in native flower gardening, trilliums are spectacular specimens in part shade gardens or naturalized woodlands.
In spring, the triple petaled flowers are white but cultivars are available in red, purple, pink, and yellow.
Growing 1 to 2 feet tall, trilliums are showy, tolerate wet soil, and thrive in zone 4 to 9.
17. Blue-Eyed Mary (Omphalodes cappadoccia)
Perfect border perennial, Blue-Eyed Mary love part or full shade.
The interesting ½ inch flowers bloom in late spring in bright blue with a white eye center.
Grown in rock gardens or groundcover, Blue-Eyed Mary reaches 6 to 8 inches in zone 6 to 9.
18. English Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non scripta)
A strong multiplier, English Bluebells form naturalized carpets in part shade garden areas.
Long-lasting, violet-blue flowers arrive in late spring and last up to 4 weeks.
For borders, shady rock gardens, and groundcovers, the 12-inch English Bluebells perform in zones 4 to 9.
19. Hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium)
Matt forming foliage with dainty, butterfly-like blossoms light up garden spaces in partial shade.
Blossoms arrive in fall in shades of white to pink.
The plants grow 3 to 6 inches tall only and are hardy in zone 5 to 9.
21. Lavender Mountain Lilies (Ixiolirion tataricum)
A delightful plant part shade with abundant clusters of funnel-shaped flowers.
The long-lasting fragrant blooms arrive in late spring in lavender shades of violet-blue.
The compact plants grow 12 to 16 inches tall and are hardy in zones 3 to 9.
22. Fairy Wings (Epimedium)
An interesting foliage plant that serves as an excellent blooming groundcover in part shade to full shade.
The springtime burst of color erupts in shades of red, purple, pink, yellow, and white with the adorable tiny flowers.
The ground-hugging 6-to-12-inch foliage changes color throughout the season in zone 5 to 9.
23. Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)
Large, thick, heart-shaped leaves of Bugloss are surprisingly easy to grow in full to part shade.
The blue flowers are like forget-me-nots, rising above the foliage in spring.
Dense plants reach 12 to 18 inches tall in zone 3 to 8.
24. Elephant’s Ears (Bergenia cordifolia)
The waxy, leathery leaves form a dense carpet, creating a rich, humid atmosphere in part to full shade.
The red, pink, and white flower clusters rise above the foliage in early spring.
Hardy in zones 4 to 8, Elephant’s Ears reach 1 to 2 feet in height.
25. Leopard Plant (Ligularia)
In full to part shade, the leopard plant boasts huge, tropical leaves in shades of vibrant green.
Uniquely yellow flowers for the shade garden, tall spikes of daisy-like blossoms bloom in early to midsummer.
A large colony-forming plant, Leopard plants reach 3 to 4 feet tall in zones 3 to 8.
26. Monkshood (Aconitum)
A long-lived perennial that produces abundant lush foliage and striking blooms in part shade.
Monkshood has long-lasting purple and blue flower spikes from early to late summer.
Clump-forming, monkshood plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall and are hardy in zones 3 to 7.
Fun With Ferns!
The perfect backdrop to all the best shady bloomers!
The feathery, intricate foliage of ferns are literally made for full and part shade.
27. Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum pictum)
Hardy in zone 3 to 8, this 18-inch-tall fern boasts a rare metallic hue to its triangular fronds.
28. Ostrich Feather Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
This 3- to 6-foot-tall giant award-winning fern is hardy in zone 3 to 7. The arching, finely dissected, leaves are like ostrich feathers.
29. Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Forming a lacy, circular mound, cinnamon fern grows 2 to 3 feet tall in zones 3 to 9.
30. Maiden Hair Fern (Adianthum pedatum)
A magical fern that grows 1 to 2 ½ feet tall in zone 3 to 8, the maidenhair fern has beautiful outward-facing fans of foliage.
31. Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)
The lacy fronds of lady fern seem to be lit from within. They grow in zone 4 to 8 and reach 1 to 3 feet tall.
Flowering perennials that love the shade with brighten and lighten all your shady garden spots!