10 Easy Perennials for Shade
Many gardeners believe that a shady yard is a liability. It’s easy to understand why. From roses to dahlias, peonies to petunias, all the showiest annuals and perennials require full sun to bloom well.
These sun-loving plants can get by on their flashy flowers alone. Plants that prefer the shade are more multifaceted. Many have beautiful flowers, but their leaves are also a prime attraction. Being able to play with different foliage shapes, colors and textures gives you endless opportunities for creativity and adds a whole new dimension of interest to your garden.
So Many Great Plants to Choose From
Getting to know new plants is part of what makes gardening so fun. To expand your horizons, here are ten easy-care perennials that thrive in the shade. Mix and match them to create your own unique display of flowers and foliage. When gardening friends come to visit, they will be wishing their yard was as shady as yours!
Astilbe. These carefree plants have glossy, fern-like foliage and fuzzy flower plumes. Colors range from white and pale pink through purple, coral, rose, and red. Depending on the variety, flower spikes can reach from 12” to 48” tall. Flowers are long-lasting and good for cutting. Bloom time varies, from early through late summer.
Hosta. Every shade garden needs hostas. These long-lived perennials are grown for their striking foliage. The leaves may be solid or variegated, rounded or lance-like. Colors can be solid or variegated, in colors that include cream, gold, lime, emerald and teal. Heights range from 6” to 36.”
Heuchera. Commonly known as coral bells, these mounding, well-behaved perennials have highly ornamental foliage. The maple-like leaves can be silver, chartreuse, salmon, ochre or maroon, and are often variegated. Tiny flowers on wiry stems bloom in midsummer and attract hummingbirds.
Dicentra. Another must-have plant for shade gardens. Commonly known as bleeding heart for its distinctive white, pink or red flowers. Dicentra spectabilis (shown here) blooms prolifically in late spring and then dies back to the ground. Other types retain their foliage all season long and flower from early through midsummer.
Ferns. Ferns add natural grace and texture to shady gardens and landscapes. Once established, these rugged perennials require little to no attention and will live for many years. Choices range from 6” tall maidenhair ferns to chest-high ostrich ferns.
Hellebores. These plants have leathery, semi-evergreen leaves and stunning, rose-like flowers in early spring. They will grow in moist or dry soil and live for many years. Blossoms are long-lasting on the plant and in a vase. Flowers bloom in shades of cream, pink, burgundy and black.
Alchemilla. Also known as Lady’s mantle, this broadly mounding perennial has pleated, grey-green leaves with a slightly fuzzy texture. The large, chartreuse flower clusters that appear in early summer are an excellent filler for cut flower arrangements.
Perennial Geraniums. These rugged, long-lived perennials have maple-like leaves and delicate, 5-petaled flowers that can be white, pink or purple. Flowering starts in early summer and continues to frost. Commonly known as cranesbills, perennial geraniums attract bees and other pollinators and are rarely bothered by deer or rabbits.
Aruncus. These stately plants have a shrub-like habit and easy elegance. They produce foot-long sprays of creamy white flowers in early summer. The blossoms are a wonderful addition to flower arrangements and look pretty even after they fade. The plant’s lush, emerald green foliage stays attractive all season long. Commonly known as goatsbeard.
Pulmonaria. These low-growing perennials have lance-shaped leaves with a fuzzy texture and wonderful silvery markings. Clusters of blue, pink and purple flowers appear in late spring. Commonly known as lungwort, pulmonaria is an elegant ground cover and it’s rarely bothered by deer.
Tips for Gardening in the Shade
If you are new to shade gardening, here are a few things to keep in mind. Shade-loving plants require just 4 to 6 hours of light per day. In fact, too much sun may damage their foliage. For best results, grow them under the dappled light of shade trees, or in a spot that gets only morning or afternoon sun.
Most shade plants grow best in loamy soil that is rich in organic matter. They usually prefer relatively cool soil that retains some moisture throughout the growing season. Mulching around plants and along pathways helps to encourage these growing conditions. If possible, apply several inches of shredded leaves or compost each spring.
To learn more about gardening in the shade, you may be interested in reading: Design Tips for Shady Gardens, Best Ground Covers for Shade, and How Sunlight Affects Plants. Click HERE to shop our perennials for shade.