10 Best Perennials for Shade

Looking for something to plant in that shady area of your garden? These perennials thrive without sunlight and add great garden color in beds, borders and containers.

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Photo by: Gary K Smith

Gary K Smith

That shady spot in your garden doesn’t have to be bare. There are shade perennials that will thrive without sun. Plant them once and they will come back every year. Most feature colorful foliage but some will produce flowers. Most need a moderate amount of water and moist, rich soil. Plant these shade-loving perennials in beds, borders and containers for great garden color. You’ll have it made in the shade. And the part shade, too.

Bleeding Heart

An old garden favorite, bleeding heart has inch-long, heart-shaped flowers that dangle from arching stems. Blooms can be pink or white. It loves heavy shade and looks great in a woodland garden among other shade perennials. 

Astilbe

Plumes of flowers in pink, lavender, red, white and salmon rise above fern-like foliage. Astilbe is one of the most common perennials for shade, working well in borders or along paths. It’s also lovely in containers.

Hosta

These shade perennials are most known for their beautiful leaves, but they bloom, too, producing stalks of white flowers in the summer. Hostas come in a multitude of shapes, textures and colors, ranging from cool blue-breen to chartreuse. Some varieties are huge and will grow to be a couple of feet in diameter.

Hydrangea

This shrub likes light shade and produces big, round clusters of flowers in shades of pink, blue and white. It’s one of the most popular shade perennials. Blooms can be dinner-plate sized.

Lioriope 

Commonly known as monkey grass, lioriope tolerates full sun to light shade. It grows in 12-18” tall clumps of strap-like leaves and produces stalks of violet flowers in late summer. It’s good for borders.

Christmas Fern

This hardy fern has evergreen leaves that will brighten a winter landscape. It’s good for woodland gardens and can be planted on slopes to prevent erosion. It won’t spread but the clumps will get larger.

Lenten Rose

Also known as hellebore, this is one of the loveliest perennial flowers for shade. It grows in clumps of dark green leaves and produces large, cup-shaped blooms in white, pink and rose-purple.

Creeping Jenny

Round, chartreuse leaves on trailing stems creep along the ground, lighting up shady beds and providing contrast to your other shade perennials. It roots as it grows and spreads quickly. Plant in containers and it will spill out, beautifully.

Lily of the Valley

Another one of the shade flowering perennials, lily of the valley produces white, bell-shaped flowers that smell very sweet. Lily of the Valley makes a good ground cover under trees. 

Vinca

Popular groundcover with smooth leaves and tubular, purple flowers. It spreads by creeping on the ground, putting out roots as it goes. Plant it with your perennial shade plants and it will keep down weeds.

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