Your Year Around Flower and Garden Guide

Shady Perennials

Color your world with tender and hardy shade perennials

Even a dark, shady area of your property can look cheerful and vibrant when you plant a shade perennial garden.

For example, one shade-loving plant, hostas is probably one of the most popular hardy perennials.

There are over one hundred different varieties of hostas that bloom with broad leaves, narrow leaves, variegated leaves, green leaves and many with distinctive flowers as well. The hosta is so well loved that there is even an International Hosta Society. Because they thrive in a cooler, darker environment than many other hardy perennials, hostas are always an excellent choice for a shade perennial garden.

Many plants in a shade perennial garden will thrive with only four hours of sunlight each day; some plants, like ferns, require even less. Still, when developing your perennial garden plan, there are other requirements that are just as important as the number of hours of sunlight a shade perennial garden receives.

One important consideration is the time of day the sun falls on your plants. For instance, two hours of intense afternoon sun may more quickly damage a shade perennial garden than six hours of morning sun. Because afternoon sunlight is typically more intense, plants can't absorb moisture from the earth as quickly as it evaporates in the heat of the day.

What Is a Shady Location?

Part shade to full shade, part sun to part shade, deep shade…

Choosing plants for a shade perennial garden can be confusing. Heavily forested locations are examples of densely shaded areas as are areas where structures are place in close proximity to each other. A densely shaded perennial garden might be composed of ferns and different types of mosses.

The north side of your home might be a full shade area, especially if there is a lot of lawn surrounding it. Full shade usually means the area receives little direct sun, but still gets lots of light. Hostas, Lilies-of-the-Valley, and Bleeding Hearts are hardy perennials that enjoy full shade in a perennial garden.

Moderate or part shade means that a plant will thrive in four hours of sunlight, but can tolerate more if need be. The columbine is a perennial that will grow in part shade. Conversely, part sun or light shade means that a plant can tolerate a minimum of four hours of sun, but will be more successful if a sunnier location.

Other popular shady perennials include:

  • Astilbe
  • Fox Glove
  • English Ivy
  • Lady's Mantle
  • Lamium
  • Lungwort
  • Lupines
  • Snow on the Mountain
  • Spiderwort
  • Periwinkle

Of course, when choosing a shady perennial, as well as location within your garden choose according to both your hardiness zone and the growing conditions of your area. Yet, often when "nothing grows there", the reason is because "there" doesn't get enough sunlight. If you have a barren, shady area on your property, consider brightening the spot by adding a shade perennial garden to your garden plan.

More about perennials:

Check Plants A to Z for information on how to grow all of your favorite cultivars!