What Can I Plant in the Shade? - 7 Easy Care Shade-Loving Perennials for Your Garden

What Can I Plant in the Shade? - 7 Easy Care Shade-Loving Perennials for Your Garden

At my previous home, we had shade. Lots of shade. And part shade. The lot was filled with beautiful old growth oaks and tulip poplars. The area around the house was cleared but as the trees continued to grow, the shade increased.

While I loved the coolness in the summer, gardening in the shade can be tricky. I was always looking for plants that did well under those conditions. I am especially fond of perennials because they come back every year. Many also spread or grow large enough to be dug up and divided, giving me more value for my money.

Read on to find out about the shade loving plants that worked well for me.

NOTE: Please pay attention to the hardiness zones so you can be sure that these plants will be perennial for you, too.

 #1 Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Hearts

Hardiness Zone: Zone 4-8

Light Requirements: Half-Sun to Full Shade

Bloom Time: Late Spring to Early Summer

Mature Plant Size: 24-36” tall 24-30” wide

I love to see these arrive in the spring and set their unique flowers. This is one of the few plants that I have planted only for their flowers but they're worth it.

 #2 Vinca

Vinca ( Periwinkle )


Hardiness Zone: Zone 4-9

Light Requirements: Full Sun-Part Shade

Bloom Time: Late Spring to Early Summer

Mature Plant Size: 4-6” tall/ up to 18” wide

Another of my spring favorites, I plant these not only for their beautiful flowers but for their dark green foliage that works as a great ground cover. These plants are one of the few that I can get to grow in dry shade under our old-growth trees.

#3 Hosta



Hardiness Zone: Zone 3-9

Light Requirements: Half Sun-Full Shade

Bloom Time: Varies

Mature Plant Size: Varies

Hostas are incredibly versatile. The colors of the foliage and sizes of the plants are endless. I love them in shady borders and as a backdrop to annuals. They are extremely easy to divide so when I buy them I look for very full plants that I can divide immediately.

#4 Coral Bells

Heuchera Coral Bells

Hardiness Zone: Zone 4-9

Light Requirements: Sun-Shade

Bloom Time: Mid-spring to early summer

Mature Plant Size: Average Size10-12” tall 18-24” wide

I love this plant mainly for its foliage. There are tons of varieties and colors. Some varieties do well in sun, others fare better in shade. Be sure to check varieties and tags before you buy. The sprays of tiny flowers in spring are a bonus. You are really buying this plant for the foliage.

#5 Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley 

Hardiness Zone: Zone 2-8

Light Requirements: Half Sun-Full Shade

Bloom Time: Early to Late Spring

Mature Plant Size: 6-8” tall 12-18” wide

Lilly of the valley is a plant that spreads and spreads. I moved a few that had been planted in a small bed by near the house by the previous owner to an area under some very large trees. Every spring there are more and lilies filling in the area without my needing to do anything. The white flowers are beautiful to see in spring and the dark green foliage lasts all season long.

#6 Astilbe

Pink Astilbe

Hardiness Zone: Zone 3-9

Light Requirements: Part Sun-Full Shade

Bloom Time: Spring-Summer

Mature Plant Size: 6"-5 feet tall 6-24"” wide

Astilbe's beautiful blooms in many colors. From white to dark pink they provide a beautiful focal point in the shade. And the fern-like foliage contributes additional interest to the landscape throughout the growing season. Be sure to plant in well-drained soil and make sure they receive enough moisture throughout dry periods. 

7. Ferns


Hardiness Zone: There are ferns varieties that do well in most of the US. Check with your local extension office or garden center for the varieties that will do well in your area.

Light Requirements: Part Shade - Shade

Bloom Time: N/A

Mature Plant Size: Varies depending on variety.

Plant ferns in moist soil with lots of organic matter.  They can provide a beautiful backdrop for flowering shade plants. Or stand on their own in lovely waves showing off their lacy appearance.

Hopefully I've given you the inspiration to add some of these beauties to the shady areas of your garden.

What are your favorite plants for shade? Comment below and let me know why you like them.

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