Finding the perfect low light outdoor plants can sometimes be a challenge. Not all of us get to live in the Sunshine State, and even then the rain and weather can make it difficult for flowers to get all the light that they need. Even in areas where we may get a ton of sunlight, that doesn’t always mean our garden will get as much light as we would like.
Some properties line their borders with massive trees that stretch far enough out to cover most of your garden. In some cases, they may even include your entire backyard. So what do you do in these instances? You don’t want to forgo growing a garden at all just because there isn’t a lot of light in your area.
17 Illuminating Low Light Outdoor Plants for Shade Gardens
There are plenty of outdoor plants that don’t need sun or at least flourish with very little light. Many of them are already common household names and produce flowers that grow in shade, as well. This list will explore 17 different options for you to add to your garden.
Coral Bells (Heuchera): Low Light Outdoor Plants with Bright-Colored Leaves
Coral Bells are excellent low sunlight plants that grow well in partial shade. Exposure to too much sunlight and heat can cause their leaves to burn and wither. Their leaves are part of their charm, so protecting them with partial shade and plenty of water in warmer climates is essential.
As an evergreen plant, Coral Bells display their multi-colored leaves year-round, with colors ranging from purple to yellow to dark green. Highly noted for their vibrant foliage, Coral Bells also produces lovely coral-colored flowers in the spring and summer. Add the fact that it flourishes throughout most of the USDA hardiness zones, and you have a gardening match you can’t refuse.
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Another low light outdoor plant is the Foamflower, a close relation to Coral Bells. These are flowers that don’t need sunlight as much as their cousins the Coral Bells do. They love the shade. Foamflowers only need around 3-5 hours of daylight, and all of those hours can come from within the shade.
Foamflowers are low maintenance perennials that perform best in moist, well-drained soil. Their fragrant blooms also give off a light honey scent from early spring to early summer. Flowers come in lovely white and pale pink colors.
Trailing Periwinkle (Vinca minor): Beautiful Trailing Flowers that Grow in Shade
If you’re looking to fill those shady areas with a little bit of color, your best bet is going to be the Trailing Periwinkle. Trailing Periwinkle is a type of ground cover plant but also makes delightful spreading plants. They cast beautiful tendrils of vines and flowers that are sure to brighten up even the darkest of shady spots.
Trailing Periwinkle can grow in numerous soil conditions, but prefers acidic soil. These flowers only need a few hours of sunlight a day, all of which can be received in the shade. When kept happy, Periwinkles can spread two up to 8 feet wide.
Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)
With flowers that look similar to a snapdragon, Dead Nettle is part of the mint family. Like most mint plants, Dead Nettle is highly invasive and grows like a weed – mainly because it is one.
Still, these plants thrive throughout the country for their beautiful, purple flowers that bloom from late spring on into the beginning of summer. In some regions, they’ve even been known to bloom year-round.
These are low-maintenance, outdoor plants that need little light and will grow in partial shade as well it does in full sun. They also make excellent ground cover plants.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum)
One of the best shade-loving plants out there is the Peace Lily. Most gardeners know Peace Lilies as spectacular indoor plants since the plant purifies the surrounding air by breaking down toxic gases. However, these plants make excellent additions to any container garden or shady locations.
Peace Lilies bloom intermittently throughout the year, starting in the summer. They produce lovely white flowers that will brown if exposed to too much sunlight. Some have even been known to thrive in rooms with no direct sunlight. Don’t be afraid to leave these beauties in a nice shaded area.
Hydrangeas (Saxifragranceae): Iconic Flowers that Don’t Need Sunlight
Another group of outdoor plants that don’t need sunlight is hydrangeas. Even if you aren’t an expert gardener, you are still probably familiar with these lovely pink and blue flowers. Typically seen in weddings and gardens throughout the South, these flowers are iconic with their breathtaking beauty.
Some will even change colors if you shift the ph levels in their soil. Hydrangeas love a shady garden and will even grow in areas of full shade.
Prolonged periods of too much shade, however, are not recommended to keep those beautiful blooms flourishing. Instead, place them in an area of the garden where they can get a couple of hours of morning sunlight each day. In the afternoon, those colorful flowers will have it made in the shade.
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
Flowering Quinces are shade tolerant plants that grow as dense shrubs and produce pink, white, or orange flowers. The thick, impenetrable form of the Flowering Quince, coupled with its sharp thorns, makes it an excellent plant for protective barriers and hedges. These shrubs are relatively easy to take care of and are drought-tolerant.
While Flowering Quince tolerates partial shade, many still grow the plant in full sun. This practice is because the flowers on the quince become much brighter and fuller when exposed to direct sunlight. Flowering Quince is also a spectacular plant to have around in the winter though since it blooms at the beginning of the year and lasts until early spring.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa): Veggies that Thrive in Low Light Conditions
If you are looking for vegetables that like shade, then lettuce is just what you need. Most of the leafy greens you toss in your salad do quite well in low light. Plants like bok choy, spinach, and arugula all need around three hours of sunlight to thrive.
Lettuce, in particular, prefers shady spots and sufficient water, especially in hotter climates. Too much heat can cause the vegetable to bolt, sending up stalks too soon.
This side-effect will leave you with a bitter-tasting veggie for your salad, and not in a good way. So let the lettuce enjoy its shady spots. Your plants and your taste buds will thank you.
Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)
Bleeding Hearts, sometimes called Burning Hearts, are a great plant to add character to your shade garden. Lovely heart-shaped flowers dangle from the long drooping stems of the plant, making them look like sad, tearful hearts. These flowers bloom every spring, growing best when in partial shade.
The Bleeding Heart is another perennial plant that loves consistently moist soil that is rich in humus. Many gardeners suggest planting the Bleeding Heart with a deciduous tree that will provide it with minimal shade in the springtime and plenty of shade during the hot summer months. These plants are easy to manage and can even be grown indoors in containers.
Much like Hydrangeas, Begonias only need a little bit of morning shade to grow well. All of the three main species of Begonias are considered low light flowers. The Tuberous Begonia especially loves the shade and proliferates when kept out of the heat.
Begonias are some of the best plants to have no matter where you want to plant them. They are drought-tolerant and love the shade, solidifying their role as easy-care plants. Fibrous Begonias can also be grown indoors to make lovely hanging baskets.
Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana): Low Light Flowers Perfect for Indoor and Outdoor Gardens
Another family of flowers that grow in shade is Impatiens. These flowers grow in partial to full shade and enjoy moist soil. They are versatile flowers used in everything from hanging baskets indoors to borders along the rim of outdoor gardens.
Impatiens also bloom for an incredibly long time, appearing in early spring and remaining until the first frost in winter. This characteristic is highly desirable since you will have bold streaks of oranges, blues, and purples in your garden for most of the year.
The only drawback to these flowers is they are not very winter hardy. In colder climates, bring your Impatiens inside for lovely hanging flowers.
Japanese Forest Grass
Another plant that loves the shade is Japanese Forest Grass. Typically used as an ornamental grass, Japanese Forest Grass grows best in shaded areas. It can be used as a ground cover plant around taller plants or at the base of trees. The light green leaves bear streaks of gold and make a brilliant accent piece to any garden.
This ornamental grass grows to be about a foot and a half tall but can spread up to two feet wide, so give it plenty of space between neighboring plants. It also prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic compost.
Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon): Outdoor Plants that Don’t Need Sun
The Yellow Archangel is in the same family as the Dead Nettle plant. The Yellow Archangel differs in that it produces yellow flowers instead of purple. Like Dead Nettle, the Yellow Archangel is an invasive plant whose flowers bloom from May to early summer. It is not as widely spread across the county as the Purple Dead Nettle.
These plants love the partial shade and typically prosper in shaded woods and fields. The plants only grow to about two feet tall and have fuzzy stalks and leaves. To thrive, they need moist soil but will also tolerate some brief periods of drought.
Dogwood Tree (Cornus)
In a surprising twist, the Dogwood Tree also enjoys the partial shade. While this may seem a little counterproductive for a tree to want shade, compared to other trees, Dogwoods are relatively small. Some colossal giants reach up to 100 feet tall, where Dogwoods tend to stay around 25 feet. This difference in height means they can still benefit from a little bit of shade in a more towering forest.
These trees often appear as specimen plants or statement pieces in landscaping, however. When growing these plants, remember to provide them with a little bit of dappled afternoon sunlight, especially when raising a young Dogwood tree. All these plants need is just some loamy soil and water twice a week.
Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)
We’ve talked about flowers and trees, and even some grasses. We don’t want to leave out the ferns, especially when the Lady Fern is a lovely example of low light plants. Plus, this fern pairs wonderfully with many of the plants already listed above, such as Dead Nettle, Bleeding Hearts, and Coral Bells.
Lady Ferns enjoy partial to full shade and also flourish as container plants indoors. Their lovely green foliage stretches to about two feet wide, which is also nearly as high as it grows. Water the plant regularly to maintain its moist soil.
Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
The Virginia Bluebell is one of those plants that just kind of go with the flow. They can be grown in most climates and soil conditions and grow just as easily in partial shade as they do in full shade. While most gardeners want to know how to get rid of fungus on plants, some bluebells have even formed a bond with fungi to provide them with extra nutrients.
Virginia Bluebells bloom for only a short period, sometimes seeming to pop up overnight. They display vibrant bluish-purple flowers that may occasionally take on a magenta color, too. Virginia Bluebells make an excellent candidate for fairy gardens striving for that whimsical touch of color and style.
You may notice a pattern with the names Lungwort and Pulmonaria. The flower species received its name from traditional medicines that used the flower to soothe lung disease. While this plant is no longer used to cure such ailments, the name of these shade plants has remained and with it an intriguing legacy tied to its origin.
Lungwort is another color-shifting plant, whose blue and pink hues may change based on the ph levels in the soil. This plant loves shady areas, blooming in both full and partial shade. If it can’t get either of those, it should be kept in moist soil and frequently watered.
There are plenty of low light plants to fill your garden. This list has only scratched the surface of the wide variety of options you have available. Hopefully, these flower ideas and gardening tips will at least point you in the right direction. And if you’ve already found your shade-loving soul mate, then congrats and happy gardening!
We hope you enjoyed this selection of low sun plants and flowers that love the shade. If you did, don’t forget to share how much you love these low light outdoor plants with everyone you know on Facebook and Pinterest.