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12 of the best perennials for shade

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If you have a shaded area in your garden you might think that’s the end of it, that you won’t be able to grow anything well. We often think that having a shaded garden means the end of beautiful flowers and colourful blooms but that’s not true.

You can brighten up an otherwise sheltered area in your garden with colourful shade plants that will come back year after year.

The 12 best perennials for shade help you to add interest to any point in your garden and we have a good selection to consider which is made up of some of our favourite perennials.

Below are our top 12 picks for the best perennials for shade

1. Tricyrtis formosana (Toad Lily)

Tricyrtis formosana

Toad lilies are very easy to grow and they have unique flowers that look somewhat like tropical passion flowers. They bear white flowers, some varieties produce large lavender flowers and in addition to the six or so exterior pedals along the perimeter, you will see a very large statement that sticks up and fans out like a claw on top much the same as mentioned as a passion flower. They are very easy to grow especially in shaded areas and many liken them to orchids.

2. Hosta

shade loving plants for containers

Hostas are one of the easiest shade-loving perennials to grow and you can find almost any type of variety you want ranging from miniatures that remained just under 10 or so centimetres to fill a small space 2 large plants that sprawl upwards of two or more to fill a large space. You can also find leaves that are chartreuse, green, white, gold, or blue, some are even variegated.

These are very fragrant so they will not only add colour appeal but sent to your garden. they’re a great way to fill a space with colour if nearby plants go dormant early and they work well when grown in pots making them perfect for patio areas but watch out for slugs as they do take a liking for them.

3. Geranium macrorrhizum (Bigroot geranium)

Bigroot geranium is one of the strongest plants out there and it will grow really well in a shaded area. It is quite tolerant of drought and heat so if you go away for holiday trips during the summer you won’t have to worry about your plant wilting and dying in your absence.

If you have a problem with deer or rabbits munching around your garden and eating everything you grow, don’t worry, they typically walk right by the big root geranium in search of something that’s tastier. These are shade-loving perennials that produce white or pink flowers and some have scented foliage that smells like a forest. They grow just shy of 1 m in height depending on the variety you choose. If you really want to add more than one perennial to your shaded area to make it more interesting, plant it in front of a Toad Lily.

4. Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding heart)

Bleeding heart

Old-fashioned bleeding heart or dicentra spectabilis is a beautiful shade loving plant that blooms at the end of spring or the beginning of Summer. The flowers are tiny little heart-shaped flowers that are white or pink and they hang off the stems.

There’s rich green foliage and through the foliage you will see a large arching stems with multiple tiny flowers drooping off them all at once. By the middle of summer the plant usually goes into dormancy and loses its foliage. You really can’t go wrong by mixing and matching this over slightly smaller plants but make sure you do put it in the shade because it will often sunburn.

5. Pulmonaria officinalis (Lungwort)

Pulmonaria officinalis

Pulmonaria officinalis also known as Lungwort does have a slightly disconcerting name but don’t let it put you off because it is a beautiful shade plant and gets its name because of the lung shaped spots that cover the foliage. It has variegated foliage all season long but when the flower shows up in Spring you get clusters of blue, pink, or white.

6. Athyrium niponicum (Japanese Painted Fern)

Athyrium niponicum - Japanese painted fern - one of the most stunning shade tolerant ferns

The Japanese painted Fern is called such because as the leaves grow they look like they were brushed with paint near the tips. The fronds grow quite liberally and are often dappled with green, burgundy, and silver.

This is a very low-maintenance plant that is resistant to deer and rabbit so if you have a problem with those animals in your area, rest assured they won’t eat this. It’s very low growing and slow growing so it won’t quickly overtaking area. At best it reaches around 30cm so it’s perfect for smaller garden corners. 

7. Astilbe

Astilbe - great for shade and wet soils

If you want more detailed blooms, this plant has feathery flowers in the early summer that grow up and fan out. It’s a very strong perennial and the flowers come in all manner of colours ranging from white to Pink to Lavender all the way to burgundy.

As it grows you’ll get more than one colour what time is well. The foliage is finely cut and near the end of its growing season gets flushed with bronze. It does need very moist soil so if you have an area of your shaded garden that doesn’t drain well this might be the perfect plant to grow where other plants might fail.

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8. Asarum europaeum (Wild Ginger)

Wild Ginger is an incredibly tough plant that produces heart-shaped leaves that grow fuzzy as the growing season continues. It will manifest from the beginning of Spring all the way through Autumn.

This is yet another plant that’s very rarely eaten by deer or rabbits. It grows in a small clump so don’t expect it to spread much and it reaches a full size of about 15 cm. It’s another slow grower so you don’t have to worry about this one taking over your garden either.

9. Lamium (Dead nettle)

Yet another plant with an unfortunate, deadnettle shows up in the middle of spring and it produces clusters of white or pink flowers. It’s a delightful perennial ideal for shaded areas because it will bloom all summer long with stunning flowers and when it’s not blooming, the colour doesn’t end there.

The foliage is infused with silver up the middle of the otherwise hunter green so it actually brightens Shady parts of your yard very easily. Most of the time deadnettle doesn’t grow larger than 20 centimetres so it’s great for a smaller, shorter area. It grows very well under a colony of other flowers or taller plants.

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10. Hellebore (Christmas Rose)


Sometimes referred to as the Christmas Rose, this is a bloomer that will manifest quite early on. Winter or the beginning of Spring you can enjoy beautiful flowers in a variety of colours ranging from white, green, pink, or burgundy.

It will be a little delicate when you first grow it but after it gets established it becomes quite resistant to rabbits and deer. It reaches no more than 30 cm in size once it’s established which makes it perfect for smaller areas. There are different strains some of which have double-flowered blooms and others have single blooms but in a collection of colours. 

11. Brunnera

Brunnera perennial plant

This plant has sky blue flowers that bloom in the spring time but the rest of the season it has leaves that are going to be much more appealing to the eye.

They are robustly texture with hints of cream and yellow along the perimeters creating a lot of geometric shapes within a single leaf. It is a short-lived plant so it won’t bloom for a very long time but it does self-seed so it will remain in your garden year after year. If you have a problem with you or rabbits, this is somewhat resistant to so you don’t have to worry about them eating your plant.

12. Dicentra Luxuriant (Fern Leaf bleeding heart)

Fern Leaf bleeding great all year round. Between spring and Autumn, the shade plant will flower on and off with delicate, small flowers. The clusters of flowers come in white, pink, or red and assuming you give them enough moisture especially during the warmer summer months you can expect them to continue to produce flowers all season. This is a larger plant though and it can grow just shy of one meter in height and spread.

You can mix and match any of these perennials for shade and some are more tolerant of different soil conditions or light exposure than others. With so many great options it’s easy to add different stages of appeal at various heights and of course colour all season long. Find what works best for your space, the structure of your yard, and any containers you might have.

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Last update on 2022-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for specifying the groups of flowers and shrubs to suit town,shaded patios, and even patios with no soil and only containers. (My case)
    Really helpful.

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