15 Best Perennial Shade Plants to Plant in Your Garden

15 Best Perennial Shade Plants to Plant in Your Garden

When spring arrives, many gardeners look forward to seeing their perennials come back for another year. The flowers make a beautiful display, adding seasonal interest to your landscape and attracting essential pollinators such as bees and butterflies. But if you're hesitant when it comes to planting perennials in your garden because they get little sunlight, don't wait until another season passes. There are plenty of perennials that prefer partial or full shade conditions — and their flowers and foliage are just as stunning as the perennials that love to sunbathe. Ahead, we talked to garden experts about their favorite perennials for shade.

  • Adrian Roethlinggarden director of Paul J. Sinner Botanical Garden, a botanical garden in Kernersville, North Carolina
  • Kat Miholicco-founder of Women in Horticulture, an organization that provides low-cost networking opportunities for women in horticulture

Hosta

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Known for their beautiful bold leaves, hostas form small, lily-shaped flowers that come in white or purple colors. “There are countless diverse shapes with perfect markings of unusual lines,” says Adrienne Roethling, director of the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. “Cutting flowers arise from a rosette of leaves and flower in summer for several weeks.” Perennials come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you can add a mix to your shade garden.

  • Regions: 3 to 9
  • measuring: 4 to 30 inches tall x 6 to 36 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial shade, rich, well-drained soil

Hellbore Onyx Odyssey

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A gorgeous evergreen plant that forms beautiful double cup-shaped flowers ranging in color from purple to black, hellebore (Helleborus) The variety grows in a dense, straight clump. “Black flowers are often difficult to photograph, but they are always stunning to see,” says Kat Miholic, co-founder of Women in Horticulture. “You can't go wrong with any hellebore, but the dark flowering forms add a sense of elegance to the spring garden.”

  • Regions: 5 to 8
  • measuring: 12 inches long x 18 to 24 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Rich soil

Woodland phlox

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Many phlox species can tolerate shade, but one of the most common varieties is forest phlox (Phlox divaricata). “A carpet of medium-sized, rounded green leaves emerges in early spring, giving rise to 12-foot stems and producing five-petaled blue or white flowers,” says Roethling. “Plants usually become dormant due to the summer heat.”

  • Regions: 3 to 9
  • measuring: 6 to 12 inches long x 10 to 21 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial shade, average, well-drained soil

Autumn fern

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autumn fern (Dry red wings) will add season-long interest to your garden. “Its upright, V-shaped habit makes it a great shape in the garden, especially when paired with a bold host,” says Roethling. “New leaves appear in the spring with a rusty color. The smooth leaves eventually turn green before turning copper in the fall.”

  • Regions: 5 to 8
  • measuring: 18 to 24 inches long x 24 to 36 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Full shade, rich, well-drained soil

Barnort

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barnort ((Epimedium)It is a shade-loving perennial plant. “The shape of the epimedium leaves adds great texture to the garden, and then you get these gorgeous cream-colored flowers in late spring. There's a lot of interest in one little plant,” Miholic says.

  • Regions: 6 to 8
  • measuring: 8 to 10 inches long x 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Average, well-drained soil

Virginia bluebells

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Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are indigenous throughout the eastern part of the United States, extending west into the center of the country. “It emerges in late winter with oval, pale green leaves followed by stalks of blue, tubular flowers,” Rothling says. “The flower buds open from pink to translucent blue and persist for several weeks before becoming completely dormant.”

  • Regions: 3 to 8
  • measuring: 18 to 24 inches long x 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Full shade, moist, rich soil

Colorful Japanese fern

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Many perennials will provide interest for only a few weeks, but Japanese painted fern (Ethereum nipponicum var. fee) can last all season when well cared for. The plant is a clumping fern with arching stems. “New growth emerges in the spring, presenting a silvery-green color with purple in the middle,” says Roethling.

  • Regions: 4 to 11
  • measuring: 18 to 24 inches long x 18 to 24 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Rich, well-drained soil

Columbine

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Columbine (Aquilegia) Available in a range of colors blue, popular, orange, red, pink, white and even yellow. Any variety of this beautiful flower will work in a shady garden and will attract pollinators.

  • Regions: 3 to 8
  • measuring: 12 to 36 inches tall x 6 to 24 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Well-drained soil

Vasilia

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Great for filling in gaps in your garden, phacelia is native to the southeastern United States and self-seeds freely once in your garden. “The beautiful lavender flowers of Phacelia are great for pollinators in early spring and can quickly fill in large gaps in your garden,” Miholic says. “It's aggressive, and the foliage fades before summer.”

  • Regions: 5 to 8
  • measuring: 12 to 36 inches long x 12 to 36 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. It tolerates most types of soil

Northern maidenhair fern

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maidenhair fern (A step forward) is an elegant perennial that is great for deeply shaded areas of your garden. “The foliage is a vibrant green, and upon closer inspection, the jet-black stems add interest and coolness to any design,” Miholic says. “The fronds are positioned in a semicircle, giving it an interesting shape that blends well with other shade-loving foliage plants.”

  • Regions: 3 to 8
  • measuring: 12 to 36 inches long x 18 to 36 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Moist and acidic soil

Green and gold

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Ground covers are a low-maintenance way to fill in the gaps in your landscape, and Green and Gold Covers (Chrysanthemum virginianumIt is a shade-loving and easy-to-grow variety. “It blooms from May to October, and the sunny yellow flowers are most noticeable in summer,” Miholic says. “This is a great filler plant in the garden to combat weeds and add brightness to any bed.”

  • Regions: 5 to 9
  • measuring: 6 to 12 inches long x 12 to 34 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Average, moist soil

Foam flower

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Although foam flower (Tiarella) It is usually slow growing, can thrive in shade, and looks beautiful. “It has a beautiful green leaf with red accents that are more noticeable in the winter,” Miholic says. “The white flowers are a charming bonus in late spring.”

  • Regions: 4 to 9
  • measuring: 5 to 12 inches long x 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Medium to rich and moist soil

pneumonia

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Lungweed (Lung officinalis) is a shade-loving ground cover with flowers that change color with age. “It provides a beautiful green-silver foliage accent, a bright bloom of pink-purple flowers in the spring, and is deer resistant,” Miholic says. The low-maintenance plant generally takes care of itself and helps the plants next to it look their best, too.

  • Regions: 4 to 9
  • measuring: 6 to 12 inches long x 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Average garden soil

Bugleweed

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Bug weed (With the brain) is a perennial ground cover that tolerates all light levels, but grows quickly in areas with partial shade. It forms a dense mat with small clusters of purple flowers that bloom from mid to late spring. This plant needs good air circulation and should be transplanted when it becomes too crowded.

  • Regions: 3 to 10
  • measuring: 6 to 12 inches long x 6 to 12 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Well drained

Wild ginger

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Heart-shaped fuzzy wild ginger leaves (Canadian ducks) will add a welcoming texture to your garden. While its purple-brown flowers are hidden beneath the plant's leaves, they attract pollinators with their sweet scent. This plant does not tolerate drought, so the soil must be constantly kept moist.

  • Regions: 4 to 6
  • measuring: 6 to 12 inches long x 4 to 6 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial to full shade. Most of the soil

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