The 20 best shade-loving plants to brighten up your garden

The 20 best shade-loving plants to brighten up your garden

Whether you're a container grower for a covered porch or need a plant that will thrive in a shaded garden, we have ideas for you. We appreciate that there are many plants that thrive in full sun, especially in the hot, “all-sun-all-the-time” climate of Southern summers. But sometimes, a shaded plant is just what we need. Shade plants can nest under trees or in cool, low-light gardens and still thrive.

Our favorite shade-loving plants feature gorgeous foliage and bright flowers, both of which add much-needed vibrancy to dark areas. In our list of shade plants we love, we've included evergreen shrubs like azaleas and boxwoods as well as seasonal flowers like begonias and hostas.

Whether you're looking for a hedge or container plant, a low-maintenance rock garden planting or an indoor flower for a hanging basket, we have the shade-loving plant for you. Plant something new from this list and make the shaded area your next favorite spot in the garden.

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  • Estimate the life of the Zoya: Rhododendron spp.
  • Sun exposure: Filtered
  • Soil type: Light, well-drained
  • Soil pH: acidic

One of the best shade shrubs for large garden color, azaleas feature bright green evergreen foliage and funnel-shaped spring and summer flowers in shades of white, red and pink. Some native azaleas are deciduous and lose their leaves in the winter. Azaleas grow best in dim sunlight under trees.

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Begonia
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil type: Well drained, loamy
  • Soil pH: acidic

With their beautiful flowers and glossy, deep green foliage, these plants are popular plants for containers in the shade. Some begonias are grown for their stunning, deeply-veined leaves in shades of green, pink, purple and white. Most begonias are hardy only in USDA zones 8 through 11 and are grown as annuals or as houseplants in bright, indirect light.

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: College height “Boston”
  • Sun exposure: Filtered, partial
  • Soil type: Well drained
  • Soil pH: acidic

When in doubt, embrace the fern. Vibrant green fern fronds add texture and brighten any shaded corner. College height 'Bostoniensis' is a Southern favorite. Hang baskets of Boston ferns for a classic, time-honored addition to your front porch. This evergreen fern is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 but can be brought indoors in the winter.

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Buxus sempervirens
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Sandy, loamy, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic, neutral, alkaline

These hedge shrubs are great privacy planters and are also great for borders due to their dense, lush evergreen foliage. Different varieties of boxwood grow from small to maze-worthy sizes, but most prefer afternoon shade.

Cast iron factory

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Aspidistra eliator
  • Sun exposure: the shadow
  • Soil type: Well drained
  • Soil pH: Acidic, neutral

Cast iron plants thrive in shade and are a great choice for hobby gardeners. This is because they do well both indoors and outdoors, even when they are neglected. This sword-shaped evergreen plant is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 11. Use cast iron plant in deep or filtered shade to create a tropical look in the garden year-round.

Creeping shape

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Ficus lines up
  • Sun exposure: Partial, complete
  • Soil type: Clay, chalky, silt, sandy
  • Soil pH: Acidic, neutral, alkaline

Creeping fig, or ficus line, It can grow in sun or shade. It is an evergreen vine and can also be grown indoors in moist soil. This handsome green climber is often used to cover fences and rock walls. Creeping fig is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 11.

Creepy Jenny

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Lysimachia numisaria
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil type: Sandy, loamy, loamy, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic and neutral

Lysimachia nummularia, Or creeping jenny, is a bright green ground cover that spreads quickly in sun or shade, spreading over garden walls, sidewalks and containers. This winter-hardy plant creates a luxurious carpet almost anywhere and is considered invasive in some states.

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  • Estimate the life of the Zoya: Aquilegia The prosecution.
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic and neutral

according to southern living garden book, “Lucy foliage and flowers beautifully rendered in brilliant pastels, deep shades and whites give columbine a fairytale, jungle-like quality.” Columbine prefers to grow in sun or partial shade, and sends up its two-colored flowers each spring. Hummingbirds are attracted to flowers. This perennial will become dormant in very hot climates.

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Peach cyclamen
  • Sun exposure: partial
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic

These hardy plants tolerate shade and bear delicate, fluttering flowers. They are great choices for low-light areas and rock gardens. Cyclamen go dormant in the summer and revive to bloom when temperatures cool, adding a much-needed splash of color from fall to early spring.

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Digitalis purpurea
  • Sun exposure: Partial, complete
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic

These dramatic plants produce long spikes of speckled, bell-shaped flowers that thrive in shade with regular water. Foxgloves are biennial plants that bloom in late spring or summer in their second year. Let some go to seed each year for a continuous crop of charming flowers.

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  • Estimate the life of the Zoya: Hosta plantagenia
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic, slightly alkaline

These plants produce sprawling masses of stunning foliage in a variety of green, grey, blue and variegated shades. Depending on the species, hosta leaves can be small or huge, cupped or wrinkled, and have purple or white flowers. Hostas make excellent edging or ground cover but will remain dormant in the winter.

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Impatiens valeriana
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic and neutral

These blooming beauties add a dose of color to shaded spaces and come in shades of purple, pink, peach, white and red. Impatiens are very popular in hanging baskets, in containers and for lining flower beds. These mostly warm-season annuals—some of which are hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11—can tolerate sun as well as shade, but all require ample watering.

Lobelia

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Lobelia
  • Sun exposure: Partial, complete
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic and neutral

As a general rule, lobelia thrives in soil rich with plenty of water. They will tolerate some sun, but as bog plants, they do best in shady climates. Lobelia erinus It is a clumping plant appreciated for its bright blue flowers during the colder months, while Lobelia cardinalisor cardinal flower, produces hot red spikes of flowers in summer.

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Hydrangea
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Clay, silt, moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: acidic

No shade garden is complete without hydrangeas, large-leaved deciduous shrubs that flaunt large flower clusters in late spring and summer. Hydrangeas can be small or tree-sized with mophead, cluster, or lace flowers of white, blue, purple, or pink. Hydrangeas prefer afternoon or filter shade and require plenty of water in hot weather.

Photography: Ralph Anderson
  • Estimate the life of the Zoya: Caladium The prosecution.
  • Sun exposure: Partial and complete shade
  • Soil type: Well drained
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic

Colorful courts will add a bright spot to your shade garden. Its variegated leaves come in white, pink, deep red and green, and some varieties have heart- or arrow-shaped leaves. They prefer filtered sunlight and shade, although some newer cultivars can tolerate afternoon sun. Add them to shaded containers or flower beds to add a pop of color.

Hector Manuel Sanchez


  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Helleborus The prosecution.
  • Sun exposure: Filter, partial shade
  • Soil type: Loamy, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Neutral and slightly alkaline

Pair these shade-loving plants with ferns and hostas for a beautiful woodland garden, or add them to a container garden for your balcony. They will take on dappled shade throughout the day. Plant in small groups of three to five. Its flowers range from white, yellow, and green to pink, purple, and red. The cup-shaped flowers hang down like bells. Plant in USDA zones 4-9.

  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Viola
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Loamy, well-drained
  • Soil pH: acidic

For bright color during the cooler months, plant pansies in flower beds or containers. They don't like heat so add them to a shadier location where they get a few hours of morning sun daily. Plant them in a well-drained potting mix so their roots don't become soggy. It can bloom in spring, summer and fall.

Ralph Anderson
  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Heuchera
  • Sun exposure: Partial sun and shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Neutral and acidic

Whether in containers or as a ground cover, these perennials brighten any corner of the garden. Foliage color ranges from chartreuse to bronze to purple to purple-black. Some varieties produce small, airy flowers in spring and summer. They prefer shade or morning sun and afternoon shade. Once established, it can be drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Photo: Lori W. Glenn
  • Estimate the life of the Zoya: Petunia The prosecution.
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: acidic

Petunias are reliable garden plants, adding color to flower beds, containers, hanging baskets, paths and even ground cover. Trailing varieties make a delightful ground cover or spillover in the container garden. Petunias love sun, but during the heat of summer they need afternoon shade. Keep them moist but not soggy, and water potted petunias frequently so they don't dry out.

Ruby Caponetto; Produced by Mark Thompson
  • Estimate the life of the Zoya: Alocasia spp. And Colocasia spp.
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Acidic, neutral

The elephant ear makes a stunning centerpiece in a large planter or flower bed. Some varieties prefer partial shade or filtered sunlight. The colorful foliage comes in many colors and combinations such as variegated olive, dark olive and deep purple, and pairs well with other tropical plants. Give them moist soil and plenty of water.

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