Every yard features a shady area; the problem with those areas is finding something to grow there. Don’t make the same mistake many other home gardeners make in thinking nothing of value will grow well in those shady areas. Whether it’s underneath your trees or along the side of your house, we offer you several suggestions on the best perennials for shade.
Instead of ignoring shaded regions, simply pick the best perennials that like shade from our list or your research. With shaded areas, the number of perennials to choose from is limited, but that doesn’t mean any colorful blooms as several perennials provide your garden with that bright burst.
Figure out how much shade your desired location receives each day, as some shade perennials require full shade, and others do best with partial shade.
- Incredible Perennials for Shaded Areas
- Caring for Shade Loving Perennials
- Picking out the Best Perennials for Shade
- Best Shade Loving Perennials – Astilbe (Astilbe hybrids)
- Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
- Japanese Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta)
- Coral Bells (Heuchera) – Best Perennials for Shaded Areas
- Lungwort (Pulmonaria)
- ‘Sweet Kate’ Spiderwort (Tradescantia’ Sweet Kate’)
- Perennials for Shade – Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
- Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)
- ‘Jack Frost’ Heart-Leaf Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla’ Jack Frost’)
- Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) – Best Perennials for Shade
- ‘Bluebird’ Columbine (Aquilegia ‘Bluebird’)
- Bugleweed (Ajuga)
- Shade Loving Perennials – Hosta (Hosta)
- Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)
Incredible Perennials for Shaded Areas
Knowledge of your USDA Hardiness Zone or growing zone is required to design your ideal shade garden properly. Understanding the limitations of your growing region also ensures you provide your shade-loving plants with the proper care.
Caring for Shade Loving Perennials
The best perennials for shade require different care than the ones who thrive in the sun. One of the differences is watering. For shade-loving perennials, the water requirement is lower as the shade prevents the heat of the sun from drying out the soil.
Mold and mildew problems are more likely to occur in shady spots as the ground stays wet longer. When watering plants in shaded areas, avoid getting the leaves wet as the lack of sun and airflow slows down the drying process.
Picking out the Best Perennials for Shade
Before purchasing any shade-loving plants, always know your USDA Hardiness Zone, as some plants do better in certain zones compared to others. As you narrow down your choices, you are ready to start choosing the ones you like best.
Aside from looks, keep in mind that your landscape offers different types of shade, and not all perennials work for all types of shade. Before heading out to buy plants, watch your landscape at different times of the day to see how much shade specific areas receive and when those areas receive it, as these factors play a vital role in purchasing the best perennials for shade.
For areas of deep shade, look for plants that require no sunlight. The middle of the flower beds often receive some sunshine, so determine if it’s morning or afternoon sun and then pick plants accordingly. The borders and edges receive the most sunlight.
Best Shade Loving Perennials – Astilbe (Astilbe hybrids)
Ideal for shade gardens, Astilbe offers glossy foliage similar to ferns paired with breathtaking flowers. The flower clusters range in size from six inches up to two feet, while the height of the groups ranges from six inches to five feet.
These beautiful plants provide color and texture to areas where others won’t survive. Avoid full sun, as burning will occur. Opt for a planting location that offers moderate shade, although light shade also works.
Use well-draining soil, but know Astibles prefer below average moisture. These plants spread quickly, so separate overgrowth regularly. Trim after the first frost to enjoy new growth in the early spring.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Bleeding Heart thrives in hanging containers along with the patio or shade gardens. The heart-shaped flowers hang from arching stems as they drape themselves over the sides of beds or pots. Dormant in the winter, the plant offers bluish-green foliage all season long with pink or white flowers blooming in the early spring.
The ideal planting location stays moist for days at a time, so the more shade provided, the better. As foliage turns yellow, cut it back. Never prune the plant if green leaves are present.
Japanese Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta)
As an attractive shade perennial, plant Toad Lilies where you can enjoy them up close. The spotted blooms are either bell or star-shaped. For the tallest growth, opt for consistently moist soil. The average bloom period is in the early fall, with the plant being hardy in zones 4 to 9.
For hotter areas, deep shade is preferred and keeps the perennial protected from winds. In northern regions, Toad Lily plants tolerate full sun for early spring blooms. Avoid soggy soil as root rot becomes a problem. Some varieties spread faster than others, so choose your Toad Lily variety carefully.
Coral Bells (Heuchera) – Best Perennials for Shaded Areas
The variation of leaf colors makes Coral Bells a welcome addition to shady gardens. The bell-shaped flowers are set against leaves in salmon, silver, burgundy, orange, and many other variations. The blooms come in different shades, but most common are pink, white, and red.
To create the best looking shade garden, plant Coral Bells in groups. Once the plant blooms, cut back the stem to encourage new growth. Watch closely for black vine weevil larvae; treat to prevent any damage.
The long and narrow leaves of Lungwort range in color from silver to a spotted silver. The breathtaking foliage pairs with white, blue, or pink flowers that bloom in the early months of spring.
Lungwort thrives in full shade, so consider planting under trees or other areas to protect from the sun. For poor soil, boost conditions with compost before planting. To retain moisture, apply a thin layer of mulch around the base of the plant.
‘Sweet Kate’ Spiderwort (Tradescantia’ Sweet Kate’)
This variety of spiderwort offers violet bloomers against chartreuse leaves. Spiderwort has a messy grass-like look with quarter-sized flowers that begin blooming in the spring. Blooms often last only one day and close in the afternoon sun.
Mature plants reach up to 24 inches tall with a spread of about 36 inches. Spiderwort self-sows; to prevent overgrowth, cut back after the last flowering to avoid going to seed. Young ones are susceptible to snails and slugs, but once mature, they remain deer resistant and pest free.
Perennials for Shade – Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
Deadnettle, like Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra), grows and spreads quickly. To thin out the plants or grass, tug out the excess and discard. Deadnettle planted near Japanese Forest Grass provides a startling contrast, as the silvery foliage and colorful flowers stand out against the golden color of the grass.
Use Deadnettle for a ground cover or erosion control. The deer-resistant plant is extremely low maintenance and drought tolerant. The shadier the area, the better as Deadnettle grows, but it will tolerate some sun.
Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)
The leathery leaves paired with the distinctive rose-shaped blooms of the Lenten Rose are a welcome addition to shade gardens. Use Lenten Rose as a border plant as its deer-resistant evergreen leaves protect tender young shots planted inside.
Blooms begin appearing in the late winter and last until the early spring and last up to eight weeks. Choose a planting location in partial shade that offers well-draining soil. Prune back the plants in the late winter for new growth to begin next spring.
‘Jack Frost’ Heart-Leaf Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla’ Jack Frost’)
Excellent groundcover for shade gardens, these plants are also called False Forget-Me-Not. There sky blue flowers appear in the mid-spring and are set against the heart shaped hairy green leaves.
The silvered green foliage is one of the most popular options. Opt for a planting location in a well-shaded spot. Use organically fertile, well-draining soil.
In cool and shady environments, Heart-Leaf Brunnera survives the occasional drought but requires supplemental watering as the ground must stay moist. Deadhead spent flowers and ugly foliage on improving the plant’s looks.
Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) – Best Perennials for Shade
Monkshood or Wolfsbane is poisonous when ingested for humans and animals, so use it in areas to deter deer and other animal pests. The perennial is named after its sepals that look similar to the cowls worn by monks. The attractive foliage is paired with blue or purple-colored flowers.
Use Monkshood as a background plant as it quickly reaches heights of up to four feet with a two-foot spread. Blooming time varies from late summer until the early fall, depending on the region.
‘Bluebird’ Columbine (Aquilegia ‘Bluebird’)
As a hybrid of the native Columbine, the ‘Bluebird’ variety offers long spur flowers that face up. The plant is deer and rabbit resistant, but an attractant for hummingbirds. The “Bluebird” offers pale blue and white blossoms set against deep green foliage.
Like other varieties of Columbine, “Bluebird” blooms in the late spring until early summer. Most plants reach up to two feet tall with a similar spread. When planting, choose a partially shaded location that offers organically fertile and well-draining soil.
This fast-growing groundcover is ideal for shady locations where you want color from May to June. Bugleweed grows where nothing else will, including under trees or along walkways. Use Bugleweed as a way to provide year round interest to your yard or to prevent weed growth.
Flower colors on Bugleweed are blue or white and are paired with variegated, purple, or green foliage depending on the variety purchased. The plant offers upright blossoms in the form of spikes. To thrive, these perennials require well-draining soil and medium-moisture.
Shade Loving Perennials – Hosta (Hosta)
Sometimes referred to as a Plantain Lily, Hostas are the most popular shade-loving plants around. Hostas are a popular choice among many home gardeners thanks to their attractive foliage and how low-maintenance they are.
Currently, there are over 2,500 varieties to choose from, each one offering different leaf appearances, sizes, and texture.
Hostas’ leaves provide your shade garden with plenty of colors. Leaf colors range from light chartreuse to deep green, along with everything in between, including variegated.
Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)
The name is derived from the way the light green leaves seem to form rungs. While the leaves are attractive, it is the cluster of flowers sitting on top of the long stems that catch your eye. The bell-shaped blooms appear from the middle to late spring in shades of lavender and purple. A yellow center offsets those.
Choose a planting location that provides part shade with well-draining soil. The secret to growing Jacob’s Ladder in shady areas is keeping the ground moist. To encourage a second blooming, deadhead spent blooms.
Thank you for taking the time to read our ideas on the most incredible perennials for shade. If you found any of our shade-loving perennial suggestions useful, please take a minute to share the best perennials for shade with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest.