Shade plants: 16 shade-loving plants for your garden

Frederike
Frederike
Frederike
Frederike

I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

Are you working with dark corners and shady garden beds? Shady spots need not be left empty or ugly, there are plenty of annuals and perennials that love the shade and will liven up even the darkest of corners.

A shade loving plant blooms in purple flowers at the base of a tree
Under trees are an especially shady spot, they usually only experience a few hours of sunlight [Photo: Mr.Yotsaran/ Shutterstock.com]

Though plants are often associated with sunshine, many prefer shady areas with limited sun exposure. If your garden lies in an area with limited sunlight, there are plenty of shade plants that can still add some green to your garden. Here, we list 16 great plants that are best suited for shady places, divided between annuals and perennials.

Shade-loving plants: the 8 best annual species for your garden

These eight shade-loving annuals have colourful blossoms and leaves that will transform even the most gloomy of garden beds.

1. Coleus

It is not hard to see why coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) has the nickname “painted nettle”. Its colourful leaves can be found in a rich range of hues: light green to red to a deep purple – all in one leaf! Coleus’ vibrant hues will make any shady spot instantly pop. Despite its dramatic appearance, coleus is very low maintenance. In sunny places, the painted nettle’s vulnerable leaves burn easily, which is why coleus should always be planted in at least semi-shade. Painted nettles thrive in shady spots, but do keep in mind: the darker the location, the less bright their leaves.

2. Pansy

The garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) is especially beautiful in spring, due to its large flowers, which range from snow-white to yellow to bright violet. Its easy-going nature also makes the pansy a gardener’s favourite – it does need not much attention, as long as it has been planted in the right spot. Pansies prefer slight shade, when exposed to too much sun, they quickly wither.

A pansy flower is pictured up close.
A pansy is a classic addition to the garden [Photo: Ken Kojima/ Shutterstock.com]

3. Lobelia

The lobelia (Lobelia erinus), also known as edging or trailing lobelia, has become a beloved balcony flower in recent years. Though this shade plant will bloom most in sunny locations, it grows best in shady areas. From May to October, lobelia blooms with an abundance of deep “true blue” and sometimes white flowers. This shade-tolerant plant looks wonderful when potted in hanging baskets or grown next to taller plants.

A sea of lobelia flowers bloom in violet.
From May until September, the lobelia has countless flowers [Photo: RukiMedia/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Especially in shady locations, it is important to provide your plants with enough nutrients to help them develop flowers. You can establish optimal conditions already when planting by using high-quality organic soil, such as our peat-free Plantura Organic Flower Compost

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4. Jasmine nightshade

Although its name suggests a connection to jasmine, the jasmine nightshade (Solanum laxum), also known as potato vine, is a close relative of the potato. Similar to the jasmine plant, however, jasmine nightshade blooms with large white flowers. Like most nightshade plants, jasmine nightshade likes to be warm and protected. This does not mean that it enjoys being in direct sun though. Jasmine nightshade manages best in moderate shade but does not tolerate frost. To adjust for cold temperature either move your nightshade inside during winter or plant it as an annual. Besides light or temperature, jasmine nightshades are resilient and easy to maintain. Provide the plant with a climbing aid and prune it regularly, so that it does not completely devour your garden; this plant can develop up to 10m long tendrils!

 The white flowers of the jasmine nightshade bloom on a branch.
Jasmine nightshade is a close relative of the potato [Photo: Frederic Hodiesne/ Shutterstock.com]

5. Browallia americana

Because of its relative obscurity, Browallia americana is mainly known by its Latin name. But in homage to its tropical origins, it is sometimes referred to as the Jamaican forget-me-not or simply the amethyst flower. The light purple flowers of this plant look similar to those of the traditional forget-me-not, and first appear in July, blooming until the first frost. Thanks to its ability to thrive in shady places, the Browallia americana is a great plant to grow in areas with less sunlight.

A browallia blooms in a deep violet hue.
The violet flowers of the browallia will bloom until first frost [Photo: alybaba/ Shutterstock.com]

6. Polka dot plant

If you are looking for a subtle, monochromatic plant, look away! The leaves of the polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) are vibrantly white or pink and covered in dots. Due to its intense colouring and bold leaf pattern, the polka dot plant has become a beloved houseplant. Polka dot plants can also work just as well outdoors: they are relatively low maintenance and resilient, though they do not tolerate colder temperatures. Polka dot plants are best suited outside as a potted plant that can be brought inside whenever necessary. The polka dot plant prefers semi-shady to shady locations, similar to the other annuals. Its vibrant leaves will easily burn in direct light but fade when not exposed to enough light.

A close-up photo of a pink polka dot plot
The polka dot plant stuns with its colours and pattern [Photo: Salamatdoh/ Shutterstock.com]

7.Busy Lizzie

Those who are looking for trailing and blooming shade plants, will certainly enjoy busy Lizzie, otherwise known as impatiens (Impatiens walleriana). This resilient plant blooms in increasingly large amounts from May to October. In light shade, the already intense colours of the impatiens will deepen. Keep in mind that the plant does not tolerate blazing sun. Direct sunlight will burn the sensitive leaves.

A potted busy Lizzie blooms in a magenta.
The busy Lizzie’s vibrant colours make this plant truly beautiful [Photo: Muangsatun/ Shutterstock.com]

8. Fuchsia

Fuchsia is perhaps the queen of shadow-loving plants and a favourite balcony plant. From the small Fuchsia procumbens, which feels most at home in rock gardens, to the Fuchsia excorticata, which grows into a magnificent tree, almost ten metres high, this shade-loving flower differs greatly in appearance depending on the species. All varieties, however, have the graceful bellflowers that characterise fuchsia. Fuchsia flowers are often two-toned, have a diverse range of hues and can appear by the hundreds on each branch. Contrary to common belief, fuchsias are not strictly shade plants. Certain fuchsia varieties tolerate sunlight as long as their environment and care are adapted to it. As a rule of thumb, the best place for fuchsia is in the shade.

Fuchsia flowers on a branch.
Fuchsia can be found in countless varieties [Photo: JONG 16899/ Shutterstock.com]

Shade-loving plants: the 8 best perennial species for your garden

Want to brighten up your shady garden with colourful plants, but don’t want to have to replant every year? Here are eight shade-loving perennials that will definitely meet your needs!

1. Alumroot

Tiny bell blossoms in white, pink, or red make alumroot (Heuchera) a true beauty. Alumroot, also known as coral bell, is a striking plant, in bloom or not. Its bright, lobed foliage ranges from green to red to violet and often bears dramatic patterns. Alumroot’s leaves will tell you where to plant this perennial: yellow and green-leaved varieties prefer shade or semi-shade, while red-leaved varieties thrive in sunny spots, where their colour usually intensifies. However, even yellow and green-leaved varieties should not be left in full shade, without any light they will not be able to produce flowers. Alumroot grows best in moderately shady to sunny areas.

Multple alumroot leaves are photographed up close. 
Alumroot is known especially for its striking purple foliage [Photo: DedMityay/ Shutterstock.com]

2. Hosta

The hostas (Hosta) stunning leaves are even more beautiful than its hanging bellflowers. And they come in an enormous variety of shapes, colours, and patterns: ribbed,elongated, heart-shaped, cream white, steel blue, all shades of green, and a range of patterns and colours are up for grabs. The sheer variety makes hosta extremely versatile. They make a great feature in Japanese-inspired gardens or shady patches, as well as in pots. This shade plant is extremely resistant, as long as it is not exposed to direct sun.

Hosta leaves are pictured up close in a garden.
The hosta’s leaves make it especially striking [Photo: Leene/ Shutterstock.com]

3. Lungwort

Looking for beautiful ground cover? Lungwort (Pulmonaria) will stun with beautiful flowers and decorative leaves. With a maximum height of 30 centimetres, this petite plant is the perfect match for shady garden beds. Lungwort thrives under deciduous trees or shrubs, where it can receive enough light for flowers during early spring while being protected from sunlight in the summer. Lungwort can survive in permanent shade, though it may not flower as well. Its buds are among the first to bloom from March to May, its bell-shaped flowers can be red, violet, blue, and sometimes white. Some varieties even have colour-changing flowers! Even after flowering, lungwort provides beautiful, white-spotted and silvery leaves.

A lungwort flower is in full bloom. 
Some varieties of lungwort flower change colour during the season [Photo: EQRoy/ Shutterstock.com]

4. Helleborus

Helleborus is widespread in Europe and Asia. It has 15 to 25 species as well as countless varieties and cultivars. Gardeners adore this genus for its early flowering; the first to bloom is the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), which, fittingly, flowers around Christmas. The Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis hybrids) and dungwort (Helleborus foetidus) follow, flowering between February and April, though, be warned, the dungwort exudes a slightly unpleasant smell. Almost every Helleborus species is characterized by dark green foliage and beautiful flowers. This plant prefers shade, making it the perfect spring flower, suitable for shade gardens.

A bunch of helleborus are in bloom.
Hellebore is known for its large colourful blooms [Photo: nnattalli/ Shutterstock.com]

5. Astilbe

With bright, feather-like flower panicles from June to September, hardly any other perennial shrub blooms as impressively as the Astilbe, otherwise known as the false goat’s beard. Depending on the variety, they can reach heights of between 10 and 100 centimetres. Astilbe flowers range from white to carmine red and violet. When left unpruned, astilbe flowers develop beautiful fruit clusters during winter.

A group of astilbe flowers bloom.
From June to September, astilbe blooms in rich colours [Photo: OlgaOtto/ Shutterstock.com]

6. Foamflowers

These plants live up to their name. Garden beds with foamflowers (Tiarella) sway like ocean waves. Found in white or pale pink, countless small flowers form grape-like bunches around a thin stalk from May to August. Foamflowers grow quickly, but are unlikely to grow above 30 centimetres. These perennials thrive in shade and are extremely easy to care for. They tend to spread quickly and work well as decorative ground cover under bushes and trees.

A bed of foamflowers bloom.
A garden bed of foamflowers can transform a garden into a sea of flowers [Photo: Ken Schulze/ Shutterstock.com]

7. White trillium

White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) form beautiful white flowers and up to ten-centimetre-long leaves. While other members of the Trillium genus are considerably smaller than white trillium, all of them have three-petalled flowers and matching bracts (flowers found underneath leaves) that emerge almost horizontally. White trillium flowers under shade, and is particularly fond of neighbouring deciduous trees. White trillium couldn’t require less maintenance. Once grown, it needs little attention and is very hardy. However, this easy going shade plant does not tolerate drought, so do water it on hot summer days.

8. Bleeding heart

The Asian bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is easy to maintain, romantic, and extravagant. As the name suggests, its flowers are heart-shaped and can be found in pink or white. Its overhanging shoots arch under the weight of almost a dozen flowers. But these stems only add to its dreamy façade. Despite their dramatic appearance, bleeding hearts are robust and easy to maintain. In shady, sheltered places, this perennial needs to be fertilised about every two years and watered only on very hot days. It won’t need anything else.

Five bleeding heart flowers bloom on a branch. 
The flowers of the bleeding heart are unmistakable [Photo: Tatyana Mi/ Shutterstock.com]

Does your garden get a little sunshine? Read about perennials for partial shade in our special article here.

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