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The Top 5 Shade-Loving Plants for Your Garden

It’s easy to grow pretty plants in those sunny spots outdoors, but what about the shadier areas in your garden? These five shade-loving plants don’t need a lot of sunlight, but they certainly shine brightly just the same.

Use this list of shade-loving plants to aid in your garden planning this year!

Pink Astilbe are shade-loving plants for the garden

Pink astilbe photo via Glenn Kraeck/Flickr Creative Commons

1. Astilbe

This graceful perennial has an old-fashioned look, and thrives in partial sun or shady spots, where the soil is moist and rich. Astilbe’s tall feathery plumes bloom in spring and summer in pink, purple, white or red. The blossoms make lovely cut flowers in your home, but look nice even left to dry out on the stem. Depending on the type, astilbes can grow anywhere from 1 to 6 feet tall. Zones 4 to 8.

Coleus is a shade-lover for the garden

Coleus photo via Teresa O’Connor

2. Coleus

Available in a rainbow of colors and patterns, coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) is grown for its fabulous foliage, rather than the insignificant flowers. Combine several different coleus plants with wildly contrasting colors for a dramatic effect in containers and garden beds. This attractive perennial is only hardy to Zone 11, so it is typically grown as an annual in cold climates. Coleus makes an pretty, low-maintenance houseplant during the winter.

I like to grow mine on a patio, where the coleus pots receive plenty of dappled Southern California light. Newer varieties have greater tolerance for full sun, but too much harsh sun will fry these plants.

heuchera-carmel is a shade-loving plant

 Coral Bells ‘Caramel’ by rosehillgardens_WI/Flickr Creative Commons

3. Coral Bells

It’s hard not to love coral bells (Heuchera). The tiny flowers that bloom on this perennial in late-spring and early-summer are insignificant, but the foliage more than makes up for it.

From warm-orange ‘Caramel’ to nearly black ‘Obsidian,’ the leaves come in many wonderful colors. The young foliage on ‘Peach Flambe’ starts out peachy yellow, turns redder over time and ends up almost plum by late fall. Plant this pretty foliage plant under deciduous trees or in semi-shady areas, where you want more color than just plain green. Zones 4 to 9.

impatiens wallerina grow well in shade

Impatiens photo via Nemo’s Great Uncle/Flickr Creative Commons

4. Impatiens

This highly popular flowering annual (Impatiens wallerana) thrives in the partial-shade garden. From singles to doubles and semi doubles, impatiens flowers come in a wide variety of shapes and colors from pink to orange and red.

Easily found at local garden centers, impatiens look great planted in bunches in garden beds, hanging baskets, window boxes or along walkways. These easy annuals grow best in moist, rich soil that drains well.

Please note: Do proceed with caution when planting Impatiens wallerana, as these plants are showing signs of downy mildew disease in some parts of the U.S.

Polka dot plants are shade-loving annuals with a whimsical looks

Polka dot plant photo via Kimmunism/Flickr Creative Commons

5. Polka dot plant

Also known as freckle face plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya is an attractive annual, famous for its freckles and splotches on white, red, green and pink leaves.

This plant thrives in rich, well-drained soil in partial sun with plenty of humidity. Indoors, this houseplant benefits from regular mists from a spray bottle to increase the air moisture. Polka dot plant adds a whimsical touch to garden beds and containers, but the deer usually won’t touch it. I have mine growing alongside coleus in pots on my back porch.

Polka dot plant, impatiens and coleus are just some of the interesting plants you can grow in your shaded outdoor areas. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at the number of shade-loving plants available to enhance your gardens.

Did you know you can also grow some vegetables in shade?

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37 Comments

CdnGardener

Add Hostas and Lamiums to this list. So many different sizes, leaf colours, leaf variegations and leaf shapes. Silver Lamium and yellow leaves of Sum & Substance or Guacamole Hosta brighten the shadiest gardens,

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Teresa O'Connor

Absolutely! I love those plants, and think they would add nice color to the dark spaces. Thanks for your comment.

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Jane R

Impatiens wallerana are no longer an option. They have a fungus that kills them by the middle of the summer. surprised you recommended them as this has been happening for the last three to four years. Unfortunately nurseries are still selling them which they shouldn’t be.

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Teresa O'Connor

Jane, the downy mildew outbreak has affected impatiens in some regions of the country. Dryer regions seem to be suffering less. Fortunately, there are other shade-loving plants to consider.

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Mary

Never had a problem with Impatients, suprised to hear this. Will continue in Michigan.

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Teresa O'Connor

I’ve never had a problem either, Mary. But it appears to be a growing problem in certain regions.

Lorraine measor

I could not buy them where I live……so very disappointing!

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Teresa O'Connor

Check this list for other great shade-loving plants, Lorraine. There are a surprising number of good ones, especially in the comment section.

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Kristen

I plant these every year never had a problem. I hear this every year as well . Not true.

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Teresa O'Connor

Hi Kristen: this must be a regional problem. Glad you can still grow them!

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Sally

I planted impatience early last season and they looked terrible by mid summer. They just didn’t grow. Ended up looking like they had just been planted. I took very good care of them and was very disappointed.

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Jennie

No wonder mine rotted off in the flower beds the past few years…..

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Carp

Add ASTRANTIA..is beautiful!!!!

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Carp

Add, Hosta- or August Lily-

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Jennifer Martin

You also need to add Solomon’s seal for the places you need tall plants. It requires very little care and no staking. There are also variegated varieties.

Other shade favourites are evening primrose and sweet woodruff. Another plus about all of these plants is not only are they shade friendly, hardy and require little staking, they are all walnut tree resistant!

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Teresa O'Connor

Yes, these are all good. There are many shade-loving plants that belong on this list, and that’s a good thing.

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Darla L

I was surprised about the Impatiens as well and also am surprised about nurseries continuing to sell them. I love the Astible-though they are not really known as a ‘shade plant’ I find white petunias grow very nicely in shade that does get soft light and they don’t get the ‘wilty’ petals that they often do in the sun-extra bonus they have a large amount of white and really glow in the moonlight!

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Rick Swift

If you’re in the right zone( 7 and up), caladiums are shade loving plants and are a beautiful addition to any garden. Go to classiccaladiums.com and see for yourself.

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Ann Verner

Don’t forget ferns and Lenten roses.

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Teresa O'Connor

Adore Lenten roses! Seems like I need to write another shade-loving plants article for all these good suggestions.

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Judy Turpin

Other shade loving varieties not listed here are; Toad Lily’s, Bleeding Hearts, available in white, pink and red. Turtleheads, white or purple, Brunneria, one of my favourites, Coral Bells, and Yellow Archangel. I also have a shade loving Geum. Also doing well in my shade garden are Hyssop, Bell Flower and a Leucanthemum Daisy.

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Teresa O'Connor

Yes, there are many shade loving plants we could have included. By the way, Judy, the scientific name for coral bells is Heuchera. These plants are listed above, and I love them too.

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Judith Linda Moore

Daughter now has a small flock of chickens and we are wondering if using their droppings as fertilizer will be ok for most all shade flowers as well as out in the sunshine? Lake County, Michigan

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Jim Hilsenkopf

My Dad was a commercial chicken farmer and I know that chicken manure must be well composted before applying it to plants. It is way to “hot” to use when it is fresh and will burn your garden otherwise.

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Teresa O'Connor

I agree, Jim. I recommend only using well aged or composted manure in the garden. Water very well after applying.

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Julie

Great article, just bought a house with a very shady but lovely side yard. Maybe I can make it a bit prettier.

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suki

Disappointed that you didn’t mention some shade plants that deserve more attention. What about painted ferns, ligularia, bleeding hearts, hakonechloa grass, and some really special hostas (there’s many)? The impatiens and coleus (coleus – which I love, but come on, it’s an annual) should have been replaced with some perennial suggestions.

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kim crosby

I need some ideas on plants for my partial shaded flower beds. Thanks for your help

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Janet Shultz-Carpenter

Japanese Fern have become one of my favorites. Also love Hosta & Impatiens & Coral Bells…..

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lori

There has been problems getting these for 2 years here on Vancouver Island. But they are now available again. Hopefully the fungus problem has been corrected.

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Heather

Yup sounds like you need to write one HUGE article of all the awesome shade loving plants. 🙂
And maybe ones that do well in low light office environments. 🙂

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Carol Dulgar

You know, you are kind enough to share this great information with us. However, I am surprised at several of the responses from snippy, know-it-all gardeners. As I read thru the comments, I was amazed at how ungrateful people are. Is it just gardeners? I guess, in a way, this is supposed to be a compliment to Craftsy. I am so glad I discovered your blog. It is great to have the pictures with the names. Often I have to take a plant to a nursery for identification. Thanks to the internet, I can usually type in the names and find a picture. We are so blessed!

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Pamela

Yes, Carol! I think you said something that really needed to be said!! Many thanks to Teresa.

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Hadwin

I like it’s shades. Thanks for sharing this.

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Barb

Hello, its pleasant article on the topic of media print, we all know media is a enormous source of data.

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