Can you have beautiful flowers even in shady corners of your garden? Do you wish to grow some blossoming perennials in that corner and you don’t know how to choose?
Or maybe your garden has little light altogether, but you don’t want to renounce the company of beautiful blooms? Most people believe that all you can grow in the shade is decorative leaves, but this is not true at all.
There are a lot of flowering plants you can grow in full shade and partial shade, and many of these are perennials. The key is choosing a good shade-loving perennial flowers for your garden, terrace or balcony.
So, if you don’t know where to start, here are 25 amazing shade-loving perennials plants that will fill your shady spots with colorful flowers! The following shade perennials are able to grow in at least part shade, and some can handle full shade.
What “Shade” Really Means When It Comes To A Garden
I’m sure you know that gardeners divide light exposure into three main categories: full Sun, partial shade and full shade.
There are more detailed ones like dappled shade, light shade etc., but these three are the most useful and practical.
But what is the difference between these three?
Deciding Which Exposure Your Garden Has
The Sun exposure may change during the year for some spots of your garden, or the whole garden in fact.
This depends on the length of the day, the orientation of the plot of land, trees you have on the grounds or near it.
The key to understanding these categories is “on most days”.
Not every day… A cloudy day happens even in sunny regions!
So, calculate the hours of direct light on an average day, possibly in spring or autumn (the ideal time would be one of the equinoxes, but we don’t need to be that precise…)
Many plants will be suitable for more than one exposure category, like “partial shade and full shade”, so, you can be flexible with these.
25 Shade-Loving Perennial Flowers That Grow In Full Or Partial Shade
There is a wide variety of perennial flowers that grow in part shade or full shade. These blooming shade-loving perennials will come back year after year to brighten up those dark spot your garden.
1. Periwinkle (Vinca Minor, Vinca Major And Vinca Catharanthus)
My all time favorite shade perennial carpeting and flowering plant for shady areas is periwinkle. It is very, very easy to grow and it will propagate fast and spontaneously.
It grows perfectly well in all light conditions, including full shade. In fact, you will find it growing spontaneously in many woods in temperate regions of the world.
Its flowers are of that distinctive “spinning windmill” shape, of that violet that gives the name to an actual shade of color, but you can also find white or purple varieties, if you prefer. The blooms are regular and bountiful.
Depending on the variety, you can have flowers from spring to autumn and they will turn that barren patch in your garden into a carpet of stars. And when the flowering season is over, you will be left with the foliage, which is evergreen.
2. Plantain Lily (Hosta Spp.)
If we are talking shade, we cannot forget Hosta, or plantain lily, a flowering perennial plant with amazing leaves that grows perfectly well in very shady places.
They are fairly small, and form beautiful clumps of leaves that can be green, bluish green, yellowish green or in combinations of these colors.
But they also produce beautiful, tubular flowers that grow on long stems which can be white, pink, purplish pink, violet or even blue. These plants are easy to grow and perfect under trees, where they give a sense of “lush underbrush”, with an exotic touch.
Do be careful though, because the leaves are a favorite of slugs and snails, which you can keep at bay with coffee grounds or a nice garlic spray.
3. Triplet Lily (Trillium Spp.)
A beautiful perennial flower for shade from North America, Trillium is called triplet lily because they are related to this flower, and their flowers have three white almost triangular petals that also earned it the name “trinity flower”.
To their beauty, you can add the green and thin sepals that grow between the actual petals. They are snowy white with a sugary texture – just gorgeous!
This plant grows very well in full shade, and it propagates with underground rhizomes, which makes it a perfect carpeting plant. It does not grow taller than 18” (45 cm) and it is very hardy, suitable for USDA zones 3 to 9, in fact.
Native of North American woods, triplet lily is perfect to cover ground under trees and in full shade, where it will be an early bloomer in spring, announcing the good season.
4. Foxglove (Digitalis Spp.)
A classic of cottage gardens, foxglove is either biennial or perennial, though it will not live many years. Still, it has iconic, generous flowers, growing on long stem that can be taller than you (they reach 6 feet).
Add long blooms and of course, rich palette, with white, cream, rose, pink purple and sometimes even yellow, orange or red flowers and you can understand why these stunning flowers can turn any spot in your garden into a carnival of colors.
They grow well in any sun condition, from full Sun to full shade. But if you want to have them back year after year, never deadhead the flowers! This seems counterintuitive, I know, but it’s true.
To make them last through cold winters, wait till the Digitalis has produced seeds and the stem is dry, and cut it back to the ground, then cover it with 3 to 5 inches of mulch.
5. Cyclamen (Cyclamen Spp.)
Cyclamen is a shade perennial flower has its natural habitat under trees in forests, where there is lots of shad and little direct light, and it’s one of the few flowering plants that will even grow under conifers.
It is a tuberous plant that will last you many years and it will propagate fairly easily, coming out with its beautiful heart shaped leaves, then the curly stems and – finally – those amazingly original flowers we all know.
So, if you have a shady patch in your garden, especially of covered with pine and for needles, which will stop almost any plant from growing, but you want to turn it into a carpet of flowers, get some hardy cyclamens and you will not be disappointed.
6. Viola (Viola Spp.)
You know pansies? Well, a pansy is actually Viola with large and usually multicolored shade-loving perennial flowers.
But the small Viola, also called “violet” or “violetta” (these don’t have rays on the petals), which gives the name to the color, is a very Hardy plant that can grow perfectly well in the shade.
They are found in wooded areas in all the Northern Hemisphere, and some species are perennial. They will form beautiful shrubs that fill with flowers (that can be violet, but also white, yellow or blue).
Easy to grow and low maintenance, you can let them propagate naturally or simply use cuttings to spread their joyous vibrancy all over your garden.
7. Fairy Wings (Epimedium Spp.)
If you are looking for a small, deciduous shade perennial with very original flowers, then the genus Epimedium has a few species to offer…
The most famous is Epimedium alpinum, but there are many other varieties and the cultivar ‘Amber Queen’, with bright yellow flowers, has just won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
This plant will form clumps that look like small shrubs; the leaves are heart shaped, but what makes them very unique is that the flowers are very original, though small.
In fact, they can be described as “spider shaped”, with four large sepals (that look like tepals) that surround the central part, where the real petals are. The effect is that of a star, a spider or a winged fairy.
8. Hellebore (Helleborus Spp.)
This beautiful, flowering perennial is also known as “winter rose” because it is one of the very few flowers that will actually blossom in this season – and, of course, they grow perfectly well in full shade.
It has large, five petaled flowers that open at the end of leafed stems and they can be of the most amazing colors!
The most common are white to green, but you can find varieties that are pink, burgundy, yellow, purple and variegated, but maybe the most striking one is the cultivar ‘Onyx Odyssey’ which is as close to black as you can get with flowers.
Original, very hardy, beautiful and undemanding, these plants can turn a forlorn patch of dark land into a winter garden in no time at all.
9. Toad Lily (Tricyrtis Hirta)
Do you think that flowering perennial plants that grow in the shade are boring? Well, think again. Look at the toad lily, an amazing cousin of the more popular common Lily that comes from Japan, and you will be just stunned by the intricate, surreal, almost “alien” look of its white and purple flowers.
In fact, this weird plants’ flowers are almost impossible to describe, but it also has large and lush elliptic leaves and because its natural habitat are shady cliffs, it will grow very well even where there is little light.
10. Ground Orchid (Bletilla Striata)
If you are still worried about growing amazing flowering plants in shade or partial shade, well, then how about an orchid?
Yes, the most famous of all exotic flowers can even grow in full soil and in partial shade! It is even easy to grow as it has tubers, which makes it a hassle-free flower to plant. And each tuber will likely produce more and more shoots as years go by.
This stunning flower from Asia has the typical long, glossy and fleshy leaves of orchids and stems with many, magenta colored flowers and a long tubular labellum (the central petal of orchids) similar to that of the world famous Cattleya orchid.
11. Indian Pink (Spigelia Marilandica)
If you are after a plant that would look great among ferns and underbrush in a shady area, maybe under trees, then there’s a lesser known shade perennial that’s good for you: Indian pink. This plant too will form clumps that look a bit like low bushes.
It has large dark green elliptical leaves with a point at the end and it has lots of flaming red, elongated flowers that open like a star at the end, revealing a yellow color inside.
This shade lover plant can bring warmth and color to dimly lit places, and it is very easy to grow.
12. Bleeding Heart (Dicentria Eximia)
If your garden lacks sunlight, it does not need to lack romance! A flowering perennial with heart shaped, usually red flowers grouped in beautiful inflorescences that hang on top of very interesting, lace like tripinnate leaves is bleeding heart.
And yes, this grows better in partly shaded positions.
The flowers look like hearts that open at the bottom (hence the name), and, if you don’t like red, it is also available with white or pink flowers. In any case, romance will be on the menu.
13. Purple Firespike (Odontonema Callistachyum)
Does that shady spot under your old tree needs plumes of vibrant magenta? Then have a look at purple firespike, a lesser known plant that grows well without too much light.
It forms large bushes, so it can also be used for hedges or borders if you want. Virtually pest free and easy to grow, this plant can grow to be 4 feet tall (1.2 meters).
And on the top of the branches bearing large, ribbed and dark leaves the big surprise! There you will find spikes of long flowers of a bright magenta purple color, whether you grow it in part shade or full shade!
14. Lungwort (Pulmonaria Spp.)
You should not let the name of this plant put you off. In fact, in spite of it, it is a beautiful flowering perennial you can grow even if your garden is not brightly lit.
The weird name comes from dots on the leaves, which are long, pointed and slightly fuzzy and have bright spots on them.
The flowers though… They are beautiful, with five petals, a sweet cup shape and they can be pink, white or blue. It is perfect for low borders (it is only 1 foot tall), flower beds in part shade or even as a carpeting plant.
15. Big Root Geranium (Geranium Machrorrhizum)
I know, geraniums are famous for loving sunlight… But big root geranium does not mind some shade (but it will not grow in full shade).
Technically, it likes “open shade”, which means that it does not get direct sunlight, but the place is bright, not dark.
This will fit many places on balconies and in gardens, so, if you fancy pink or white geraniums with long pistils in pots or even in full soil, you now know you do have a choice!
16. Coral Bells (Heuchera Spp.)
That shady spot in your garden will look much better if you plant coral bells, a North American shade perennial with large, ornamental leaves that can be green, lime green, burgundy, brown red, bright red or purplish, but also variegated.
These alone will form clumps of color in the shade of trees or your fence, but then, coral bells will also give you beautiful, showy flowers.
They will come on long stems, that rise proud from the lush foliage, about two dozen for each stem, and each plant will have many stems.
The flowers are usually red, but sometimes even purple pink or white, and they will be with you from spring to summer.
17. Primrose (Primula Spp.)
There are at least 425 species of perennials we all know perfectly well for their beautiful early spring flowers that grow well where light is scarce: the humble but generous primrose!
You can choose a small variety (the smallest is only 3 inches tall) or even large ones… The biggest is the giant Himalayan cowslip (Primula florindae) and it can grow to up to 4 feet in height!
Primrose plants are usually very hardy, which means that they will survive even cold winters, they have basically no needs, apart from decently humid soil and a lovely spot, even in the shade, to call home.
There, they will propagate naturally and every year they will regale you with beautiful blossoms of all colors. In fact, primroses can be white, lime yellow, ochre, bright yellow, pink, orange, red, violet, blue or even purple!
18. Spurge (Euphorbia Amygdaloides Var. Robbiae)
This variety of spurge is a favorite with professional gardeners who need to brighten up a shady spot.
Why? To start with, it is easy to grow; it will propagate very fast and it is very low maintenance. It can resist drought and it blooms for very long times.
Most varieties of spurge like sunny places, but Euphorboa amygdaloides var. robbiae lives very well even in full shade.
The soil needs to be well drained, and you will get beautiful rich foliage and very original flowers, lime green to yellowish in color, that look like many satellite dishes growing on a long stem, up to 20” (50 cm) tall from April to June every year
19. False Goat’s Beard (Astible Spp.)
To fill in some empty space in the underbrush, where light is scarce and where you want a flame of color, no plant is better than Astible ardensii.
The inflorescences of this perennial look like flames, or colorful plumes, that come on stems rising from a rich, temperate wood-like foliage.
There are actually a few species, varieties and hybrids you can choose from, so, you are not limited to red when it comes to the lush and generous flowers of this perennial: you can choose from white, rose, pink, yellow, purple and many shades of red in fact!
These shade-loving flowering perennials, native of North America, will form large clumps and according to the species, their inflorescences can be as low as 12” (30 cm), but some can reach almost 4 feet (120 cm).
So, even for a large space that looks dull, false goat’s beard can solve the problem with its vibrant colors and sturdy vitality.
20. Foamflower (Tiarella Cordifolia)
But maybe bright glaring colors and a strong presence is not what you were thinking for that poorly lit corner of your terrace or garden?
Then Foamflower will offer a great alternative for you. If you are looking for an elegant, unassuming look, something to frame an experience within your garden rather than catch all the attention, this delicate perennial offers just that.
Foamflower is good if you are looking for the romantic, “olde worlde” look, for example of a cottage garden. It almost looks wild, native of prairies and highland pastures, but it adds the texture of lace to any spot in your garden.
The flowers come in spikes above the leaves, and they are small, but plenty. Even their color shouts out “purity and romance”, as they are white with a touch of pink.
21. Aconite (Aconitum Spp.)
Perfect for shady, woody areas, many species of Aconitum give you a wide choice of perennials to plant in your garden. A bit like foamflower, aconite can look wild, native of temperate areas and cottage garden friendly.
In fact, it comes from mountains all over the Northern Hemisphere and you have a whopping 250 species to choose from.
With long stems bearing flowers that look a bit like the hoods of monks, usually of a deep purple color, aconite can be grown fairly easily, as it acclimatized and naturalists without problems. It also propagates well and has basically no special requirements at all.
It only has one tiny little drawback: it contains aconitine, which is a very strong neurotoxin, actually, a lethal one; so, grow it, enjoy it, look at it, even love it… But don’t eat it!
22. Dead Nettle (Lamium Spp.)
Here is another beautiful blooming shade perennial you can choose from: dead nettle! The name is a bit odd, I must admit, but this plant is actually very pretty, with pink-purplish flowers that come in great numbers and look a bit like pouting lips, or the mouth of Homer Simpson, to give you the idea.
They are of a bright and deep magenta color, and come on top of small green leaves that will betray this plant’s relation to the common nettle… But they won’t sting you.
This plant comes from Europe, Asia and North Africa bit it has become naturalized all over the world, where you can now find it growing along local wild flowers.
This tells you a thing through: it propagates very fast and can find almost any place suitable to cover with its beautiful flowers.
In fact, it is a perfect carpeting plant for large patches even where sunlight doesn’t get through very well.
23. Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera Macrophylla)
How about turning that poorly lit spot into a romantic, fairy tale sky of the most joyous and peaceful light blue with Siberian bugloss?
Also known as great forget-me-not, as it is related to this famous plant, and, to be honest, the flowers look very similar. With five rounder petals, the flowers of Brunnara macrophylla are small and they come in groups that look like constellations…
It’s a very easy plant to grow, and it is excellent as groundcover; it is only 12 to 18 inches tall (30 to 45 cm), but it will bloom for up to ten weeks starting in mid spring – every year without fail.
24. Corydalis (Corydalis Spp.)
No dimly lit spot in a garden will ever look the same if you plant any of the 357 species of Corydalis!
Yes, because this plant likes fresh places and it fills the, with very beautiful flowers. In the wild, it lives on mountains in Europe, North America and North Africa, but the most famous varieties come from China.
This small plant will have a few, low lying leaves and then,when it is time to blossom, it will produce a stem with many tubular to bell shaped pink to magenta flowers all facing the same way, a bit like a small brass orchestra of colorful trumpets playing together.
This plant too is very easy to grow and it will either self seed or keep going as a shade perennial flowering plant in your garden, and it can also be naturalized very easily.
25. Hydrangea (Hydrangea Spp.)
We could not but close our list with the “queen of all gardens in partial shade”, the big perennial hydrangea.
This plant has become very popular in big stately gardens and then found its way into public gardens all over the world because it grows fast, it produces a lot – but really a lot – of flowers, it is easy to grow with little light (just a few hours in the morning will do) and because it is stunning, of course.
Hydrangeas will quickly grow into bushes that can even be quite big, a good 15 feet tall (4.5 meters) with some species…
This makes it perfect for wide spaces under tall trees, where you can have either a romantic look or bold and large splashes of color.
In fact, if you choose a pastel shade of the petals of this plant, you will get that perfect dreamy effect you find in period drama.
But hydrangea flowers are not only cream, rose, light blue and whitish… No…
There are some with vibrant blue, shocking pink and crimson red varieties that will fill large swathes of your garden with energy! The choice is yours…
Flowers In Shade, And Forever And Ever And Ever…
Well, the choice of flowering perennials you can grow in partial shade or even full shade is big, isn’t it?
By now I am sure you realize that the fact that flowers only blossom in the Sun is just a myth. Many forests are full of flowers in Nature, and there’s no reason why you can’t have them in your garden, on your balcony or terrace as well!
What’s more, you have a wide range of sizes to choose from, from small primroses to large hydrangeas.
But you also have a very wide range of shapes, from the classical start shaped flowers of the Siberian bugloss to the originally shaped bleeding heart and the exotic ground orchid.
And how about the colors? If shade is a synonym of “dull” this article must have proved to you that with perennials, you can add all the colors of the rainbow to your garden, even in dimly lit places.
So, next time you look at that troublesome dark spot under the trees, think again, use your imagination, and fill it with one (or more) of the amazing plants in this list !
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.