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20 Best Shade Loving Perennials

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Let’s face it, most of us have some shady areas in our yards that would look amazing with some beautiful perennials. The problem is that there aren’t many plants that do well in shade.

That is a myth we are ready to bust! There are plenty of shade loving plants that will immediately spruce up a sunless area. Sure, most of them are foliage plants, but here we’ve included a lot of flowery bloomers in this list.

That shady area on the side of your house, or under that giant oak tree no longer has to look forlorn. We have 20 shade loving perennials you can plant to kick your yard up a few notches.

A List Of The Best Shade Loving Perennials

1. Bleeding Heart

Bleeding heart plant close-up.
Bleeding heart plant close-up.
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Lamprocapnos spectabilis
  • Sun Exposure: Shade, partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Well drained, not soggy
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 9
  • Bloom Times: Spring into early summer

One of my personal favorite plants of all time is the bleeding heart. This colorful plant thrives in the shade and offers pink or red flowers for several months. The reason they are called bleeding hearts is the flower shape.

A string of delicate hearts hand down with what appears to be a droplet coming from it, hence the name. The foliage resembles a thin succulent or fern like appearance. Even when it’s not blooming, the bleeding heart is still an interesting plant.

Bleeding hearts can grow up to 3 feet tall and will slowly spread in your shady area. All you have to do is trim them if they get too unruly.

Bleeding hearts will die back in winter. They do better when you cut back the dead foliage and stems when they turn brown and dry out. Just leave a few inches above the ground and will return year after year.

A thick layer of mulch will help protect the roots from hard freezes.

While they are drought tolerant, in long dry spells water them when the first inch or two of soil is dry. They also require well drained soil as they don’t like to be soggy.

2. Hosta

Hostas close-up growing in a garden.
Hostas close-up growing in a garden.
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Hosta spp., plantain lily
  • Sun Exposure: Full shade to sun (depending on variety)
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Summer

One of the most popular shade loving plants is hostas. They come in dozens of sizes, shapes, and colors. Hostas can be from 1 to 2 feet wide, or grow to mammoth sizes over 6 feet across!

You’ll find nearly every color under the rainbow as well. Most hosta varieties sprout flowers that are vibrant, fragrant, and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Hostas are very easy to grow and will spread with ease. When I first started gardening, I was gifted hostas and I immediately fell in love because of their ease and beauty.

While they prefer moist, well drained soil, I’ve seen them grow in soggy and even heavy clay soils with no problem. These plants are nearly bulletproof; place them in the ground and let them go.

In the winter, the plants will die back, and it’s best to cut them nearly to the ground just to keep them healthy. They will grow back bigger and stronger next year. Mulch isn’t necessary, but in heavy soil and dry areas, mulch will help keep them strong and healthy.

3. Astilbe

Astilbe growing in the field.
Astilbe growing in the field.
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Astilbe spp., false spirea
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to partial sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Spring to summer

If your shaded area would benefit from some pops of color and interest that last until winter, astilbe might be right for you. These easy to grow plants have interesting lacy foliage and beautiful, delicate, spikes of feathery flowers.

While hostas are lower to the ground and mounding, astilbe are taller plants with plenty of vertical interest. Even when the flowers start to lose their color, the dried flower heads offer visual appeal.

These perennials do well in shade but do best with some sun. When planted underneath large trees, they get dappled sunlight which is best for flower production. They can survive in total shade, but the flowers may be small or nonexistent.

As far as soil, astilbe needs a soft, loamy soil that retains a little bit of moisture. If you live in a dry, hot climate, you’ll need to water them when the soil dries out. In very cold climates, apply at least a 2 inch bed of mulch to protect them from winter.

These plants need phosphorus for big, showy flowers. Fertilize them in the spring when they start coming out with either an all purpose fertilizer or a brand that promotes flower growth. Cut flowers are a great addition to your indoor arrangements. Keep in mind that astilbe only flowers once a year. Once you cut the flowers off they won’t grow more until the next year.

4. Foxglove

Foxglove growing in the field.
Foxglove growing in the field.
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Other Names: Digitalis purpurea
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 10
  • Bloom Times: Late spring to early summer

The foxglove is originally a biennial, but many cultivars are perennials. If you grow this plant from seeds, be prepared to wait for the second year before you see the tall flower spikes. The good news is, foxgloves will reseed themselves, so you could end up with flowers every year.

Foxgloves are relatively easy to grow, but depending on the climate, you may need to adjust how much sun they get. In cooler climates, they can tolerate full sun, but in dry, hot areas that regularly get above 90 degrees F, they’ll need shade from the hot evening sun.

When you purchase these plants from the nursery, they will usually be in full bloom. These blooms will last a few weeks before they dry up and fall off. You can deadhead them when this happens to get another, smaller flower spike.

If you want it to reseed itself, it’s better to leave the first spike up until the seeds drop.

When planting foxgloves, give them about 2 feet of space so they aren’t too crowded. They will grow between 1 to 2 feet wide and up to 5 feet tall. To get them that tall, provide plenty of moisture, a rich soil, and ample fertilizer.

They can be a great focal plant when surrounded by hostas, bleeding hearts, or other smaller plants.

5. Geranium

Pink Geraniums in a flower garden
Pink Geraniums in a flower garden
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Hardy geranium, bigroot geranium, perennial geranium
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well drained, somewhat moist
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 9 (dependent on variety)
  • Bloom Times: Spring, summer, or fall (dependent on variety)

When looking for geraniums, be careful, because many of them are annuals. You’ll need to look for varieties with names such as hardy, bigroot, perennial, and cranesbill geraniums. These will grow back year after year.

If you’re having trouble finding them at your local nursery, ask someone who works there, they should be able to help you out.

Once you find the perennial varieties, you’ll have one of the hardiest herbaceous shade plants you can find. High heat and drought, they shrug that off. Marauding deer and rabbits typically won’t touch them.

Unless your ground is devoid of nutrients, they do well without much fertilizer. In most soils, they will grow back big and full each year with a top coating of compost and mulch.

Hardy geraniums need some sun for ample flower growth, morning sun, or dappled evening sunlight is great for them. They can stand full sun, but when it gets hot and dry you’ll need to water them when the ground dries out.

They prefer a slightly moist soil but can survive well throughout the dry season. Just don’t water the leaves and flowers, they can be susceptible to fungal infections if the foliage is soaked often.

With a 2 to 3 inch bed of mulch, you won’t need to water your hardy geraniums unless you go weeks without rain. When that happens, just use a soaker hose to moisten the ground a couple of inches down.

With a little bit of work, you’ll get a show of pink, purple, or white flowers. Depending on the variety, the geraniums will bloom either in spring, summer, or fall. Of course, you could mix in annual geraniums for flowers until frost hits.

6. Deadnettle

Spotted Dead Nettles (Lamium Maculatum) blooming in Spring
Spotted Dead Nettles (Lamium Maculatum) blooming in Spring
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Lamium
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to part sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Spring, summer, or fall (dependent on variety)

Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s nothing nefarious about the deadnettle. The name means the sting is dead. There are stinging nettles that will hurt and give you a painful rash if you touch them, but not deadnettles.

These beautiful ground cover plants come in plenty of colors. You can find variegated foliage in blue and green, chartreuse and gold, or gray and silver. The leaves can also be solid green and varying shades of purple.

Deadnettles produce small, purple, blue, pink, or white flowers nearly all summer long. Some will continue to bloom from spring into fall and die back a little through the winter.

If you enjoy a spreading groundcover that requires almost no work, deadnettles might be the fit for you. These plants only get about 8 to 12 inches tall and spread up to 5 feet wide.

These plants are a part of the mint family, but they are nowhere near as invasive as most mint plants. If you plant deadnettles in your garden, they won’t attempt a hostile takeover of your entire property.

These shade loving plants will climb over rocks, and do great in containers. All you need to do is keep the soil moist. When deadnettles dry out, the leaves tend to curl and start to turn brown.

You won’t need to fertilize them though. At the most, a top dressing of compost once a year is enough to keep these little groundcovers happy all year long.

7. Toad Lily

Toad lilies in bloom.
Toad lilies in bloom.
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Other Names: Hairy toad lily, Tricyrtis hirta 
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, loamy
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Summer to fall

Toad lilies have a “not so pretty name,” but their flowers are quite the spectacle. They resemble tropical orchids. They sprout small, spotted, shades of purple and blue flowers, and can grow up to 2 feet tall.

They make beautiful accent plants in your shade garden and pair well with hostas, ferns, and other foliage rich shade plants. Especially the smaller, mounding varieties.

Toad lilies do require a bit of care, especially if you live in a dry climate. These plants need constantly moist soil, but not soggy roots, and plenty of fertilizer to keep them blooming. Fertilize in the spring to start the flowers off right, and again in the summer.

With the right care, you will be graced with 2 inch, gorgeous flowers from mid-summer into fall.

To propagate these flowers, simply divide them, or grow them from seeds. The seeds are relatively easy to grow, just collect them, keep them moist, and don’t let them get too hot. Too much sun and heat will stunt your toad lilies.

8. Hellebore

Hellebore plant growing in a garden.
Hellebore plant growing in a garden.
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Lenten rose, Christmas rose
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to part sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 9
  • Bloom Times: Early spring

Hellebores are very early blooming, evergreen perennials. The trick to keeping these interesting plants happy is to give them shade during the warm months, and sun in the winter.

Planting them under deciduous trees is the best way to keep the Lenten rose happy. They are named Christmas and Lenten roses because they will often start blooming around Christmas, or during Lent.

Though they help to break winter’s hold with beautiful flowers, their foliage provides color the rest of the year. When looking for an all year, shaded, flower garden, hellebores are the earliest bloomers, followed by columbines, bleeding hearts, and astilbe for spring flowers.

The Lenten rose is a very hardy plant that resists deer and rabbits. They are drought resistant and only need light fertilizer. Adding mature compost in the spring and fall will be sufficient in richer soils.

Hellebores come in varying shades of flower and foliage colors. Burgundy, green, white, pink, and cream flowers are the most common types you’ll find in the nursery.

You can purchase flowering, potted plants in late winter or early spring at your nursery, and you can grow them from seed, though they may take some time because they have to be cold stratified.

These early bloomers can grow between 1 to 2 feet tall and spread just as much. To propagate more, the easiest way is to divide established plants. Do this in winter, before they start blooming or they could become stunted.

9. Columbine

Columbine flower in bloom.
Columbine flower in bloom.
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Other Names: Aquilegia spp.
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, humus, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Spring to summer

Columbines have some of the most interesting early flowers in bright, vibrant colors. They will require some extra care to keep them growing well and are a little difficult to propagate, but with extra care, they will brighten up a shady area.

Their flowers are often multiple colors and pop out in early spring. They fade in the summer, but if you deadhead them, they can sometimes produce a second set of flowers.

Columbines need rich, moist soil with plenty of aeration and organic matter. They will not do well in thick, heavy, clay soils. You can still grow them if your ground is full of clay, you’ll just need to add a lot of peat, compost, or other organic matter to break it up.

While columbines will grow back every year, they aren’t the easiest to propagate. They have long, delicate roots that make dividing difficult. You’ll need to dig a deep hole to keep the roots as intact as possible, and not shake off the soil surrounding them.

Seeds need a few weeks of cold stratification to break their dormancy. Letting the seeds drop and leaving them in the garden is the easiest way to propagate columbines because the winter will snap them out of their dormancy.

Columbines can tolerate more sunlight in cooler climates, but in the south, they’ll need to stay shaded throughout the day. Some dappled sunlight is okay.

These beauties require regular feedings. Look for fertilizers that don’t have too much nitrogen. A good columbine fertilizer will have an NPK rating of 5-10-5. This rating has more phosphorus, and lower nitrogen for brighter, healthier blooms.

10. Woodland Phlox

Tender blue Woodland phlox or Phlox divaricata growing naturally
Tender blue Woodland phlox or Phlox divaricata growing naturally
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Phlox, wild blue phlox, phlox divaricata
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Spring

Woodland phlox is similar to the lower growing ground covers you often see in big box stores, only it gets a little taller. Whereas the carpeting phlox only gets a few inches tall and does great draping over retaining walls, woodland phlox grows up to a foot tall.

They still have the small, blue, purple, or white flowers that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects. These also make great ground cover, with some vertical appeal.

These plants grow naturally in rich, moist forests throughout the eastern half of the US and into Canada. For the best results, try to recreate the rich forest floor they come from.

While woodland phlox can survive in thick clay soil, especially when established, they do best in rich, loamy, moist ground. You don’t need to fertilize woodland phlox as long as you provide rich compost once or twice per year.

Drought tolerant once they are established, woodland phlox prefers moist, not soggy ground.

In cooler climates, woodland phlox can tolerate more sunlight, but shady, dappled shade in warmer zones is best for these plants. Grow woodland phlox with astilbe, columbines, or other, taller shade loving plants.

11. Virginia Bluebells

Virginia bluebells
Virginia bluebells
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Mertensia virginica, eastern bluebells, cowslips
  • Sun Exposure: Shade, to partly sunny
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Spring to summer

There are over 60 varieties of Mertensia bluebells, and all are native to the United States. They are not in the same family as Spanish and English bluebells.

The Virginia bluebell is the most popular, and as the name suggests, they are native to the eastern side of the States.

These shade loving plants start emerging in late winter and produce tubular, blue flowers that attract hungry honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Bluebells are a “set it and forget it” type of plant. They will spread through rhizomes and will reseed themselves. If you find you’re getting too many, just deadhead the flowers before they drop more seeds.

Keep these plants happy with moist, well drained soil, occasional 10-10-10 fertilizer, or rich, matured compost. They will need frequent watering in hot dry climes.

You can divide these plants if you like, just keep in mind that they might act picky and not bloom the same year they are transplanted.

These plants are early bloomers and will fade away in the summer. Cut away dried, dead foliage and flowers and they will return next late winter.

12. Spiderwort

Purple Spiderwort close up
Purple Spiderwort close up
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Tradescantia spp., dayflower, inchplant
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to full sun
  • Soil Needs: Many soil types, moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 12
  • Bloom Times: Spring to summer

Spiderwort plants are great for beginners and experts alike. They require little care, propagate on their own, and provide bright, blue blooms for months. They also have very little to fear when it comes to pests and diseases.

This plant will grow well in nearly any soil type and is drought tolerant once it’s established. They will grow fine in sandy, clay, and loamy soil. They prefer a well drained soil, but as long as their roots are not constantly swimming in water, they continue to grow.

Another great aspect of spiderworts is the huge range of temps they can grow in. In very hot climates, these plants will need protection from blazing heat. Just make sure they have ample shade when it’s blistering outside.

You don’t need to worry much about fertilizer as they tend to grow well on their own. When spiderworts grow in soils devoid of nutrients, provide some fertilizer in the spring and they will be happy.

After they bloom and start to dry out, spiderworts benefit from shearing. Trim them back to 8 to 12 inches high and that will reinvigorate them. They may even spring back and sprout more blooms.

Propagating spiderworts is easy. Just dig up large clumps and separate them. They will also reseed themselves, but to keep them neat, trim the flowers before the seeds drop.

These plants grow up to 2 to 3 feet tall, and one plant can spread as wide as 1.5 feet. They will spread through rhizomes, but you can easily separate them.

13. Woodland Stonecrop

Woodland Stonecrop
Woodland Stonecrop
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Wild stonecrop, sedum ternatum, Iceland moss
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Mid spring to early summer

Most sedums prefer bright, sunny locations, but woodland stonecrop thrives in shadier spots. This ground cover, like others carrying the sedum or stonecrop name, is a succulent.

There are many different varieties of sedum. Some grow tall, others stay low to the ground; the woodland stonecrop is one of the latter. They will spread and creep around rocks, and fill in small crevices.

In mid spring, woodland stonecrop produces feathery, white clusters of flowers. They last until early to mid summer, and attract honeybees.

These succulents easily forgive neglect. They are very drought tolerant and can grow in most types of soil, even clay without any problems.

They are disease, rabbit, and deer resistant. When you first plant them, they will require plenty of moisture, but once their roots are firmly planted, they can survive the most severe droughts.

Fertilize them in the spring if they are looking weak and small, but a well ground mulch or compost is all they really need. These plants are slow growing, so if you’re worried about spread, these could be just the thing.

Like other succulents, woodland stonecrop is easily propagated by cuttings. Snip off a few inches, or dig up a piece with roots already sprouting, and place it in moist, loose, well drained soil. Keep it watered for 2 weeks, and then plant it outside.

14. Ferns

Boston Fern on a white background in a steel bucket
Boston Fern on a white background in a steel bucket
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Many different varieties
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 – 10 (depending on variety)
  • Bloom Times: Valued for foliage

You’ll have to pay attention to the tags or speak to your local nursery expert to find out which ferns you can plant outside in your zone. Some are tropical plants that will need to be brought indoors before winter sets in.

There are certainly plenty you can grow outdoors and will return year after year. Most ferns require very similar care, which is why we’ve grouped them all together here.

Ferns don’t produce flowers but will create spores, usually looking like brown or black circles on the undersides of the leaves. That doesn’t mean that ferns are boring. There are plenty of colors and different growth patterns to discover.

These plants do need some amount of shade, and will not do well in full sun, especially evening sun. Under a tree, or otherwise protected from the afternoon sun is great for ferns.

These plants usually are found in shady forests, under trees, where the soil is rich and moist. Replicate these conditions for your ferns and they will provide beauty in your shady area of the yard.

If you have heavy clay or sandy soil, add compost, or other organic material to loosen it up. Ferns need moist soil, not soggy. Their roots reach deep, so adding a layer of mulch is usually enough to keep them happy.

If you add some compost around the roots once a year, that will be all the fertilizer your ferns will need to grow big and healthy.

Another wonderful thing about ferns, they are mostly free from disease, and deer don’t particularly care for them. If you want some added color, add in some columbines, spiderwort, foxgloves, or other taller plants.

Ferns typically mound close to the ground, but there are varieties that can grow very tall. Have you seen a fern that grows up to 6 feet tall? I haven’t, but they are out there!

15. Coral Bells

Coral Bells partitioned by wooden planks
Coral Bells partitioned by wooden planks
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Heuchera spp., rock geranium
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 9
  • Bloom Times: Spring to summer. Deadheading may produce into fall

Coral bells are mostly valued for their foliage, but they do sprout small, bell shaped flowers, on long stems. These little flowers are bursting with nectar and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

The flowers will show up in spring, or summer, depending on variety, and then die off. If you deadhead the flowers, they will often produce more through summer and sometimes into fall.

Foliage on coral bells is either evergreen or semi-evergreen depending on the zone. Warmer zones will see year long leaves.

New varieties are getting introduced all the time and there’s almost no telling what color you could find. There are coral bells with foliage in green, purple, pink, red, bright green, gold, and more colors.

These plants are easy to grow and native to North America. Drought tolerant once established, coral bells do best with rich, moist soil, but can tolerate clay if they get enough moisture and don’t stay wet.

Some varieties can grow well in full sun, but most shine in dappled or full shade. Fertilizer is not needed for coral bells if you spread compost around the roots yearly.

If you want coral bells around for more than a few years they need to be divided and transplanted every couple of years. If they are left alone, they will die off after a few years. Just separate them out and replant them to keep the plants growing year after year.

16. Trillium

Trillium flower in bloom.
Trillium flower in bloom.
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Other Names: Trinity flower
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to shade
  • Soil Needs: Fertile, moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 9
  • Bloom Times: Early spring

Trilliums are welcomed in early spring by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in the Appalachian Mountains every year. Now you can grow them in your own garden.

The trinity flower got its name from the growth habit. They have three petals, three sepals, and three leaves on a single flower stalk. They come in colors from white to painted, to deep red.

The warmer the climate, the more shade they need. When trilliums get too hot and are under too much sunlight, the flowers will wilt and dry up faster. With the right amount of shade, these flowers will last a few weeks.

After the flowers fade away, the foliage will slowly die back in mid summer. Once the leaves are all brown and dry, cut them to the ground so they come back next year with more vigor.

You can divide clumps of trilliums after they are spent for the season, but you need to get as many of the roots as you can. If the roots take a lot of damage, trilliums won’t come back.

These flowers need rich soil, full of organic material such as peat or compost. They won’t grow very well in heavy clay soil.

If you’re going for a four seasons garden, the trinity flower is a good early spring plant that fades away to make room for other flowers by late spring into summer.

17. Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Other Names: Arisaema triphyllum, bog onion, lord and lady
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, humusy
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 9
  • Bloom Times: Spring

The Jack in the Pulpit is an unusual looking plant. It looks similar to a pitcher plant, but it’s not a carnivorous plant.

These plants can also resemble poison ivy with the way the three leaves grow together. Don’t worry though, as long as you don’t try to eat them, Jack in the pulpit won’t hurt you.

These plants are very high in oxalates. Tiny, sharp, calcium crystals that can irritate the mouth and digestive system if consumed.

Native to the eastern United States, Jack in the Pulpit needs plenty of water and truly loves the shade. There’s a reason they are also called the bog onion.

Jack in the pulpit needs moist soil that is full of organic matter and good drainage. In hot, dry summers, you’ll need to water them a few times every week. As long as this plant is in the shade, gets plenty of water, and has rich soil, it grows well but slowly.

The most showy part of this plant is the upright, “hooded,” striped flower. In the fall, these plants sometimes produce bright red (inedible) berries.

Slow growers, the Jack in the pulpit may take up to 5 years before they finally bloom. Sowing them from seed is not recommended because of the long time and the need for cold stratification.

Young plants require just the right amount of water or they will develop root rot. It’s better to get well established plants because trying to get the Goldilocks amount of water (not too much and not too little) can be frustrating.

If you have a shady, low lying area in your yard that often has standing water, you might think about putting a few Jack in the pulpits there.

18. Snowdrops

Snowdrop anemone growing in a garden.
Snowdrop anemone growing in a garden.
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Anemone sylvestris, snowdrop anemone, 
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Loose, moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Late spring into summer

Snowdrops produce small, white, fragrant flowers in late spring. They grow well in most soil types and are great for naturalizing areas. They thrive under trees and shrubs that only let some dappled sunlight through.

They rarely grow over a foot tall and wide, but they will spread in loose soil. Snowdrops send out rhizomes, making them a good choice for ground cover.

The flowers don’t last very long, but cutting the foliage back after blooming can encourage another set of flowers.

Snowdrop anemones are relatively pest, and disease free. They also deter rabbits and deer, so they make great, easy to grow flowers that don’t need much care.

To propagate more snowdrops, separate the rhizomes and replant them. Do this after they are spent, and before winter sets in so they have time to reestablish.

19. Corydalis

Corydalis flower close up
Corydalis flower close up
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Corydalis
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to part sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones:  5 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Spring to fall with pruning

Corydalis come in several different flowering colors and shapes. Most of them have small, cylindrical tubers that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

These plants are hardy and native to much of the United States. In warmer climates corydalis are evergreens, but in other, colder areas, the foliage will die back in winter. Don’t worry, they will return next spring.

These plants grow best with some dappled shade, as if in a wooded area, or with morning sun. If they get too much shade, they will get “leggy” and won’t bloom very well.

They require a moist, but not too wet, loamy soil. Try to replicate the rich, forest floor where they typically grow naturally.

With so many small flowers, these plants reseed themselves readily. If left alone, they can end up looking overgrown. That’s easy to remedy though, just remove small seedlings, or dig them up and divide them.

Applying leaf or mushroom compost in the spring will be enough to keep these flowers fed and you won’t need to fertilize them.

If you trim off dried flowers and foliage, corydalis will continue to bloom into fall. Pair these plants with hostas, woodland phlox, or other groundcovers for full coverage.

20. Primrose

Yellow primrose plant growing in a garden.
Yellow primrose plant growing in a garden.
  • Experience level: Beginner friendly
  • Other Names: Primula spp., polyanthus
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well drained
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8
  • Bloom Times: Spring

Very early bloomers, the primrose is an easy plant to care for once they are established. Usually, the only thing you need to do with primrose clumps is to divide them every few years and give them some fertilizer during the flowering season.

They do need well drained soil and don’t like their roots to stay soggy, but once they are established, they are hard to damage. Mulching helps in drier climates, but it’s not a necessity.

Keep them at least partially shaded. Too much heat and too much sun will stunt them, or ruin them totally.

To propagate primroses, it’s best to just dig up a clump and separate them. Use some sharp shears or a sharp knife to separate them.

Propagating from seed is difficult. Primrose seeds need cool temperatures, from 40 to 50 degrees, to break germination. Then they need to stay that temperature until the first sets of blooms show up.

Since that’s pretty difficult to maintain indoors, growing primrose from seed is discouraged.

Primroses grow between 8 to 20 inches tall and equally as wide. They grow well with other shade plants that require rich, well drained soil such as toad lilies and columbines.

Ready To Get Planting?

No matter what kind of shade or sunlight you have around your property, there are plenty of options for vibrant foliage and beautiful flowers. You can even have blooms from early spring (hellebores, primrose) to the fall (toad lily, deadnettle).

Most of these plants require at least partial shade, which means 4 to 6 hours of sunlight. A few hours of morning sun is generally better for partial shade than the evening sun. This is because it’s cooler and less intense.

Many plants you get from the garden center need well drained, and rich soil. If you have rocky, clay, or sandy soils there are plenty of soil amendments you can add to the soil. From garden soil, several types of compost, peat moss, coconut coir, and more, mixing these with native soil will help add nutrients and provide drainage.

FAQs

Which perennials grow best in shade?

Many perennials survive shade, but there are several that thrive in partial to full shade. These include columbines, hostas, astilbe, hellebores, deadnettle, trillium, bleeding hearts, woodland phlox, and many more. Ask your local garden center employee for more shade loving perennials.

Do any flowers bloom in full shade?

Some shade loving flowers include astilbe, columbines, bleeding hearts, deadnettles, toad lilies, coral bells, hellebores, foxgloves, geraniums, woodland phlox, Virginia bluebells, spiderworts, trilliums, and snowdrop anemone. Depending on how hot the climate is, these plants flower better in shade than they do in bright, full sun. 

Wrapping Up

You don’t have to settle for scraggly growth, or sad looking sun loving plants if you have a shady property. There are plenty of beautiful flowers and interesting perennial foliage plants that grow great in the shade.

Whether you’re stuck between two large buildings that block all the light, or you’re surrounded by an entire forest, you too can grow happy, healthy perennial flowers.

You can stick with small groundcovers like woodland phlox, or woodland stonecrop or grow tall flowering perennials such as foxgloves, toad lilies, or feathery astilbe. Now you have plenty of choices to mix and match.

We hope this has helped you. Good luck planting!

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