Perennials That Love Shade

These 10 plants will add color to your shade garden and return year after year.

cherry berry hosta is variegated white and green

Hosta. These long-lived perennials make a splash in the shade garden from spring to fall. Hundreds of cultivars offer foliage variations in shades of green, from chartreuse to smoky green-blue, plus white and cream. In midsummer lavender to whitish flowers bloom on tall stems. Give hostas moist, well-drained soil. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9 (Pictured: 'Cherry Berry')

Plants That Love Shade - Hellebores

Hellebore. Nodding flowers in rich hues of cream, white, pink, maroon, rose and green appear in early winter to early spring, depending on the variety. The dark-green evergreen foliage remains attractive all year. Give this plant moist, rich, well-drained soil in dappled light to full shade. Best site: plant them on a shady slope where their flowers can best be appreciated from below. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9 (The Christmas rose is hardy to Zone 3.)


Bleeding heart. It's hard not to love rows of miniature dangling "hearts" in spring on a plant that needs virtually no maintenance year to year. The ferny foliage is beautiful but short-lived; place bleeding heart where its yellowing foliage in midsummer won't be a design buster. Moist, well-drained, rich soil in shade is a must; placing it in a wind-free area is good too. USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9

Plants That Love Shade - Japanese Painted Ferns

Japanese painted fern. A colorful addition to the shade garden, this deciduous fern has glowing pewter-and-green fronds and red or purple stems. Give this plant moist, well-drained soil. It can handle some sun during the day if the soil stays consistently moist. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8


Ajuga. A fast-growing groundcover, ajuga has low-growing foliage and flower spikes in pink, white, blue or lavender. Plant 12 to 18 inches apart. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 10

foam flower is clump forming perennial

Foamflower. With evergreen foliage and long-blooming, late-spring flowers, this low-maintenance groundcover is ideal for a spot in part to deep shade where there's room to expand. Depending on the variety, its leaves may have red, maroon or dark centers. The species has white flowers; cultivars such as 'Slickrock' offer pink flowers. This perennial spreads quickly in a moist, well-drained soil that's high in organic matter. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Plants That Love Shade - Astilbes

Astilbe. This low-maintenance perennial is a must for any shade garden that can supply moist, rich, well-drained soil. In midspring, the graceful, feathery plumes in pink, red or white complement light green fern-like foliage. Plant in masses for maximum impact in the garden. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

brunnera Siberian bugloss flowers perennial

Siberian bugloss (brunnera). Known for its often colorful, heart-shaped leaves, brunnera is a carefree plant that thrives in partial shade. The airy sprays of bright blue flowers appear in early to mid-spring. 'Jack Frost' has variegated green and white leaves with a silvery cast. Give brunnera a well-drained soil that's consistently moist; this perennial won't tolerate occasional drought. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8


Japanese reed grass. The cascading golden and green foliage of variegated Japanese reed grass creates a bright splash for the shade garden. The stems occasionally turn shades of red and pink in the fall, then die back for the winter. Plant in moist, well-drained soil and don't worry about it taking over the garden: it's very slow-growing. USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 (with protection) to 9

bowl of beauty peony has showy double blooms

Peony. Showy flowers and heavenly fragrance make peonies a much beloved perennial for mid- to late-spring color in the garden. Typically best placed in an area with at least six hours of sun, the peony needs afternoon shade in warmer climates. The showy flowers can be vibrant shades of white, yellow, pink and red. Peonies are extremely long-lived plants; a 75- to 100-year lifespan isn't uncommon. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

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