The Best Perennials for Shade

Shade perennials definitely hold their own when it comes to attracting helpful pollinators. There are a lot of nice flowering perennials that will happily fill in a not so sunny corner of your garden.

They help to serve the important purpose of bringing around the pollinators that are needed for your fruit and veggie garden produce at it’s best.

Shade plants tend to be a little more leafy and a little less flowery but still they can be attractive to pollinators. Smaller flowers can tolerate less direct sun, larger ones cannot. For example an Oriental lily would never do well in a shady environment because it has such a big flower head and it needs the sun to feed it.

Hosta’s for example are one of a hummingbirds favourites. The downward hanging flowers are just what they like!

Full shade is defined as no direct sun and only a tiny bit of broken sun for part of the day, if at all. Part shade is no more than 3 or 4 hours of sun each day.

Below is a list of the best perennials that will do well in a shady environment.

Aconitum
This plant can grow up to 3′ tall. They also have strong stems, probably will not have to stake them

By Fritzflohrreynolds
Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Asarum canadense
AKA: Canadian wild ginger
This is a native plant that’s great for your shade garden. It’s low growing and prefers deep shade with moist soil. It makes flowers but they’re not very showy.

Astilbe
Vertical, lacey, feathery plumes of pink, white, red, or purple flowers bloom early to midsummer. They like morning sun the most and have very long lasting blooms.

Dicentra Alba - Bleeding HeartBleeding Heart (Dicentra)
This plant is a very early bloomer in my area, zone 7/8. It makes dainty long arms swooping out from the plant like a necklace strand, each one with a row of lovely heart shaped flowers. The flower colors range from red to pink to white with lime green to dark green foliage.

Bletilla (Ground Orchid)
This exotic looking flower appears in early spring with flowers in white, purple, and various shades of pink. Its blooms often last up to six weeks. It’s an unusual landscape plant for warmer climates. With the proper protection it can overwintered indoors in a container.

Brunnera (Siberian Bugloss)
This perennial is grown for its striking foliage and graceful sprays of tiny blue flowers, which appear in early to mid spring among a cluster of heart shaped leaves. It’s a hardy, low-maintenance plant that prefers part shade. The ‘Jack Frost’ variety has speckled leaves.

Caladium
(c)2006 Derek Ramsey

Caladium
This plant produces large, long heart-shaped leaves in many splashy colors. They’re tropical so if you live in a cool climate, put them in pots so they can be brought indoors and enjoyed as a houseplant over the winter.

Corydalis
Tubular lightly scented flowers hang above finely cut foliage, blooming in spring. If the season is long enough you may get a bloom in summer and again in fall.

Epimedium
These little plants are also known as fairy wings or bishop’s cap due to the shape of the flowers. Blooms in in early spring. 

Fern
There are so many different types off ferns and they come in so many different appearances. Some are thick and stalky such as an Ostrich fern, some are fine and dainty like a Maidenhair fern. They like moist ground but are also drought tolerant once established.

Foxglove
This plants likes the sun but also tolerates part shade, especially in hot climates. The tall spiked flowers are a common sight in cottage gardens.

Hellebore (Lenten Rose)
They are sometimes called a ‘Winter Rose’. These evergreen plants produce unusual, long-lasting blooms in late winter or very early spring. They don’t like to be moved once established.

Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Grown primarily for its unusual and sometimes ruffled foliage, this perennial’s mounding habit shoots up small flower spikes with teeny flowers in spring to mid-summer. It will tolerate sun, but its best color occurs when it’s planted in the shade.

HostaHosta
This is a very easy plant to grow, it can tolerate the sun but prefers part shade or full shade. It makes tall flower spikes of white or pale purple downward hanging flowers that hummingbirds love. It’s biggest pests are slugs and snails.

Japanese Forest Grass
The cascading waterfall of pale green foliage of this plant creates a bright splash for the shade garden. The stems occasionally turn shades of red and pink in the fall. The plant dies back for the winter. Plant in moist, well-drained soil and it’s very slow-growing. 

Hydrangea
This shrub likes light shade and produces big, round clusters of flowers in shades of pink, blue and white. It’s a very popular shade perennial. Blooms can get huge and you can change the color of the flowers slowly by manipulating the pH level in the soil.

Ligularia
AKA “leopard plant” is an excellent choice for any shade garden, it has eye catching reddish-purple leaves. A bonus is that the deer don’t like eating it.

Lily of the Valley
These delicate bells dangle on short stems and have a strong fragrance. It’s a ground cover that spreads fast and easily. It can become a problem if it is’t controlled or put in a contained area. This is one of my least favourite plants.

Lungwort (Pulmonaria)
This pretty ground cover blooms in early to late spring with small bell shaped flowers and spotted foliage. It looks best in large plantings. Its’ name comes from its historic usage to treat lung ailments.

Paeonia Suffruticosa
By Taken by Fanghong – Own work

Peony
Peonies have showy flowers and a heavenly fragrance, they bloom in early summer Typically they like at least six hours of sun, the peony needs afternoon shade in warmer climates. The large, showy flowers can be shades of yellow, pink and red. They are also available in white. Peonies are extremely long-lived plants; a 75 to 100 year lifespan isn’t uncommon at all.

Soloman’s Seal
This perennial boasts a thick blanket of deep-green leaves that grow on upright red stems. Downward hanging white flowers bloom and dangle from the stems in late spring. 

Spiderwort (Tradescantia)
This plant likes part shade and isn’t a big fan of deeper shade. It features a beautiful flower and can grow up to 2′ tall.

Tiarella (Foamflower)
Lobed foliage with red or purple veins make this plant an interesting one to add to the garden. Dainty little flowers arise on long stems in late spring or early summer.

Toadlily
The intricate flowers (spotted like a toad) are the reason to grow these little gems. They bloom mid summer and into fall. They come in a variety of spotted colors ranging from white to lavender.

Trillium
The triangular shape and three leaves below the blooms of this striking native flower gives the plant its name. It’s hardy, showy and tolerates wet soil.

Viola
These tiny little spring bloomers tolerate some sun, but they prefer part to full shade, especially in the heat of summer. 

 There are many more perennial plants and flowers out there that will love a home in a shady corner of your garden.
Happy planting and have fun!

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