Bulbs that like shade

7 Unique Shade-Loving Plants

Gardening is like life in that it isn’t always easy; we encounter situations and settings that pose challenges. A very common garden challenge is finding colorful plants for shaded garden areas. Before I had a shaded yard, I was always a fan of the shade plant section at the garden centers where I used to work. Part of the reason I enjoyed the shade plant section may have been because it was cooler under the shade cloth over the hoop houses, but my preference for staying cool in summer is not the only reason I liked being in that section. Shade-loving perennials and bulbs provide a surprising amount of texture, and color that can really help to brighten up shady garden areas.

My yard is mostly shade due to large mature trees that surround the front and back of the house. Over the past 8 years of living at my house, I have learned a few things about perennials and bulbs that love shade. If you are looking for shade loving perennials or bulbs that do well in full to partial shade check out the list below…

  1. Chocoholic Snakeroot

    I was really excited to see Holland Bulb Farms offering this perennial in their new for 2019 selection. As mentioned in a previous post about my Top 10 New Bulbs and Perennials for 2019 Spring Planting Snakeroot is one of my all-time favorite perennials. I enjoy the common green and white flowering varieties of snakeroot but adore the dark-leafed varieties like Chocoholic Snakeroot. Snakeroot tolerates partial shade to full shade, are deer resistant and are also moisture tolerant. If you have a damp shaded garden corner Chocoholic Snakeroot may be the perennial you were looking for to fill the spot. Chocoholic Snakeroot certainly will fill most spaces as it grows 2-3′ wide and can reach up to 6′ tall in ideal growing conditions. The deep purple leaves not only provide color, but they also provide a nice texture to your shaded garden spots. The leaves are finely dissected and provide a fine texture, that will combine well with more bold leaves such as large hosta leaves. A combination I enjoy together is the Chocoholic Snakeroot with bold bright green and/or yellow hosta like Color Festival Hosta, and .

  2. Bleeding Hearts

    Bleeding Hearts are a nostalgic favorite, they are also an excellent shade perennial! Emerging from the ground in early spring they are one of the earliest perennials to appear. Starting in mid-spring these shade-loving favorites bloom in profusion with pendulous heart-shaped blooms. Being fairly easy to grow is another bonus of the bleeding heart. The main thing to note if you are considering adding bleeding hearts to your shade garden is that they go dormant in the heat of summer. It is best to plant perennials or annuals in front of the bleeding hearts to fill the void they leave when they enter their mid-summer sleep. Bleeding hearts grow about 3′ tall with a similar spread, so it is best to place them in the back of the perennial border or in a location where they have plenty of room to grow.

  3. The Rocket Ligularia

    Ligularia is another shade-loving perennial that needs moist soil in order to grow and thrive. If you have a location that collects water often, such as a low spot in the yard, ligularia will perform well in that setting. The Rocket Ligularia is the most popular ligularia as it has tall spikes of golden yellow flowers that really brighten up a shaded garden area. Not only are the bright yellow flowers stunning in shade the large – bold leaves add texture when the flowers are not in bloom. Combining bold textures of The Rocket Ligularia with fine textures from ferns or snakeroot is a great way to add diversity to your shade garden.

  4. El Nino Hosta

    When it comes to shade gardening, one of the most common perennials people associate with low light settings is the hosta. There is a good reason for that as hosta tolerate heavy shade to part shade and are relatively easy to grow and care for. In addition to how easy it is to grow hosta, according to Almanac.com, there are over 3,000 cultivars of hosta to choose from. With this many cultivars available it often becomes a hobby to collect new hosta varieties to add to your shade garden.

    El Nino Hosta is a variety that has been around for about 20 years and was developed in Holland. El Nino Hosta is appealing in a shade garden because of its large blue heart-shaped leaves that have a fine white edge. This fine white edge really helps to give a clean appearance to this shade-loving perennial. Growing 1-2′ tall with a 2.5-3′ spread only a 3 to 5 El Nino Hosta are needed to fill a small garden bed of 25′ square feet or less. When El Nino Hosta is planted with hostas like White Feather Hosta and Fire & Ice Hosta the combination is sleek and provides a lot of different heights and textures.

  5. Visions Astilbe

    Astilbe is one of the better-known plants for the shade that have showy flowers. Hundreds of cultivars of astilbe are available and they all have similar fine foliage and showy flowers. Some varieties of astilbe bloom earlier than others, grow taller and may tolerate dry conditions better. If you want to add color with flowers to your shade garden planting, astilbe is a great way to attain those results; with so many cultivars you may be confused about which cultivar to start with. Astilbe, similar to snakeroot and ligularia, grow well in the shade, but also require consistent moisture. If astilbe is left unwatered in the heat of summer this often causes the foliage to burn and the plant to become stressed. Visions Astilbe is a popular variety that tolerates dry conditions better than others. Since Visions Astilbe tolerates sun, heat, and drought better than other varieties, it is my top choice for people who have never planted astilbe before. For the biggest impact with Visions Astilbe I suggest planting in groups of 5-7 so that the mid-summer purple/pink blooms plume like can make the biggest impact.

  6. Moonlight Caladium

    Plants with white foliage or blooms are appealing to me for their use in the garden at night. The light colors really stand out against the darkness. This design principle of using light foliage in nighttime gardens also applies to shaded garden areas. Areas with low light can especially benefit from light-colored foliage and blooms for this same reason. Moonlight Caladium is a glowing white and green caladium that looks stunning in dark shaded areas such as under trees and bushes. Caladium bulbs require a great amount of heat to sprout so you will want to plant the bulbs once your soil warms up. Moonlight Caladium is great for container gardening and combines well with the dark foliage of the Dark Leaf Red Begonia.

  7. Guinea Fowl Goatsbeard

    Goatsbeard has similar fine foliage and flower to astilbe, but it requires slightly more sun and tolerates dry conditions much better than astilbe. Traditional Goat’s Beard can grow 4-5′ tall or more making it difficult to fit into some smaller garden spaces. Guinea Fowl Goatsbeard is a dwarf variety that keeps a compact habit maturing at 12-22″. The compact nature and ease of growing make the Guinea Fowl Goatsbeard a must-have addition to your partially shaded garden areas where you need fine texture and bright white blooms.

Planting and planning your shade garden isn’t as difficult as it seems. It may appear that the majority of perennials and bulbs require a healthy amount of sun in order to bloom and grow correctly, but there are a large number of shade-loving perennials and bulbs that will add color and texture to your low light settings. Nearly all hosta, astilbe, caladium which have hundreds of cultivars to choose from tolerate full to partial shade, plants from these groups are a great place to start when planting your shade garden. If your shade garden is filled with hosta already and you want to add some additional texture and blooms try planting goatsbeard, ligularia or snakeroot, they certainly will add a new dimension to your shaded garden areas!

Grow it yourself: plants for shade

• Always water plants in well and provide them with a 5cm (2in) mulch of composted bark, old mushroom compost or, best of all, leafmould.

• Always plant in drifts. To achieve a natural look, it is particularly important to use many plants of a few varieties rather than one of each of a wide selection.

• It may be tempting to fill in between spring woodlanders with evergreen groundcover, but most species that like shade, such as vinca or symphytum, will overcome more desirable plants.

• Although most shady characters are spring flowerers, some groups of plants exploit leaf thinning and leaf fall by flowering in the autumn. The flowers of so-called Japanese anemones, Kirengeshoma and cultivars of Saxifraga fortunei coincide with autumn colour while other herbaceous woodlanders, such as solomon’s seal and lily-of-the-valley, produce their own as foliage turns to gold and russet.

Plants for spring shade

• Primroses are ideal. Primula vulgaris, our native primrose, cannot be bettered, and once you have acquired one plant you can produce many more from seed.

• Wood anemones. Anemone nemerosa ‘Robinsoniana’ has large, azure flowers with grey reverse.

• Snowdrops. Split them and transplant them now to make bigger drifts.

• Omphalodes cappadocica is a charmer, with blue dimpled flowers and long, elegant leaves.

Best for very dry shade

• Epimedium cultivars and species. Epimedium rubrum and Epimedium x versicolor have beautiful, burnished winter foliage.

• Many ferns will thrive in really arid conditions. Polypody and Athyrium have many fascinating cultivars.

• All foxgloves seem able to cope with very dry areas. Most alluring are Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’ and ‘Sutton’s Apricot’.

Best for damp shade

• Primula sieboldii, which spreads in damp ground to produce colonies of bright green leaves, with pretty flowers in a range of colours.

• Pulmonaria cultivars will all excel in damp and heavy ground.

Bulbs For Shade Gardens: How To Grow Flower Bulbs In Shade

When summer sun turns into relentless heat, a cool and shady spot in the garden can be a welcome oasis. If you’re used to gardening with sun-loving flowers, you may be frustrated trying to figure out how to decorate a shady getaway. The secret is in the type of plants you grow. Growing bulbs in shade is no different from growing them in the summer sun, and the same planting rules apply. You can find bulbs for shade gardens that bloom throughout the year, from the earliest spring color to bright accents that last from summer until fall.

Growing Bulbs in Shade

Shade gardens in the yard generally fall into two categories: gardens next to buildings and gardens underneath trees. Each has its own particular set of issues to deal with. Bulbs planted next to buildings may suffer from lack of moisture due to overhanging roofs and patio awnings. These gardens may need extra watering, as nature isn’t as likely to provide all the moisture they need.

Gardens underneath trees pose their own challenges. Tree roots are often very hungry for moisture and nutrients and can take most of this away from smaller bulbs in the area. Extra watering and feeding should be scheduled on a monthly basis. The space underneath a deciduous tree will have varying shade amounts, depending on the time of year. You may get away with planting bulbs that need only partial sun if they bloom very early in the year before leaves fill out, but later plantings should grow flower bulbs in shade without any direct sunlight.

Spring and Summer Bulbs for Shade Gardening

Spring bulbs for shade are generally planted in the fall and allowed to hibernate underground until they sprout in the spring. Most of these flowers are delicate looking, giving a subtle view of things to come later in the year. Some favorites are lily of the valley, English bluebell and snowdrop.

Summer bulbs for shade tend to be larger and showier and can be planted early in the springtime. Tuberous begonias are bright showstoppers that thrive in the shade, while large caladium leaves can be solid green or have a variety of colored stripes and mottled spots in bright reds and yellows.

Bulbs for dry shade can pose additional challenges, as many shady spots don’t have the evaporation rate that sunny places do. Choose bulbs that thrive in dry shade such as lovely little snowdrops, English bluebells and anemone or windflower.

Bulbs for Shade

Bulbs for shade gardens make your shady areas look loads better with refreshing flashes of color given by their flowers. Why put up with a dull and unused shade area of the garden when you can plant some fantastic bulbs to brighten it up.

I’ll help you explore what are collectively referred to as bulbs and which ones are suitable for shade.


  • what bulbs are
  • examples of bulbs that are generally easy to plant
  • when to plant your bulbs for a shade garden
  • tips on fertilization

What are Bulbs?


A bulb is an underground vertical shoot with modified leaves (or thick leaf bases) that store food for an undeveloped plant, for example, Tulips, Bluebells, and Daffodils.


A corm is a vertical underground stem which develops a bud at the tip and roots, for example, Gladiolus.


A rhizome is a horizontal stem of a plant that typically thrives underground, which delivers roots and shoots out of the ground, for example Irises and Lily of the valley.


Occasionally mistaken for a bulb, a tuber is the enlarged or fleshy part of an underground stem which stores nutrients for new plants developing from buds or ‘eyes’, for example Dahlia and Potato.

Easy Bulbs to Plant

Although most bulbs prefer a full blanket of sun that lasts about six to eight hours per day, plant spring bulbs that flourish under shade of deciduous trees.

Early bloomers easily thrive under shady lighting conditions due to the lack of leaves on trees during their development. These are considered some of the best bulbs to plant for impressive results:

  • Tulips
  • Daffodils
  • Crocuses

Some companion selections go nicely together:

  • Tuberous Begonias
  • Crocus Flowers
  • Grape Hyacinths
  • Scillas
  • Snowdrops

Fun-sounding bulbs make great conversation pieces:

  • Green Dragon
  • Jack in the Pulpit
  • Dog’s tooth violet

To add an inviting arrangement, consider foliage bulbs such as the colorful red bursts of Caladiums with their attractive leaves.

When to plant bulbs

When planting your spring flowering bulbs, place them at a depth that is two to three times their height. For the majority of the most common selections such as daffodils and tulips – this is around eight inches deep.

Remember to plant daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth with their root plate pointing downward and the tip of the bulb pointing towards the sky.

Avoid planting bulbs too close to trees with shallow roots – like beech, maple, and dogwood. These will battle your bulbs for water and nutrients, threatening the blooms for the next year.

Adequate Fertilization

When bulbs for shade are planted close to trees and other shrubs, soil fertility is often a consideration as bulbs compete for water and nutrients.

Adequate fertilization is a must for cultivating strong plants. A spring application of balanced fertilizer is suggested with a follow-up of one to two applications throughout the growing season.

Most shade bulbs thrive in well-drained soil, while roots saturated with water will rot. If you live in a location with sandy soil, add organic material in order to slow water traveling through the soil, giving your plants a chance to absorb the liquid.

With little effort bulbs for shade gardens can easily become a wonderland of varying heights, textures, and colors.

  • Fall Bulbs
  • Fall Flower Bulbs
  • Fall Bulbs Allium
  • Fall Bulbs Amaryllis
  • Fall Bulbs Anemone
  • Fall Bulbs Astilbe



Tulips love the sunshine and bring their bountiful colors to gardens in late April and early May in most parts of the country, when the sun is warmer. According to the University of Kentucky, there are more than 100 different kinds of tulips whose bulbs are planted in the fall to get ready for their spectacular sunny showing in spring.


Tulips perform best when the soil is moist and soft. Clay should be amended with peat moss and organic compost. The flowers prefer well-drained sites where the water is not left standing. You can plant tulips in partial shade, though they do best in spots that receive full sunlight for the better part of the day. Ideally, the flowers shouldn’t receive the full brunt of the sun during the hottest part of the day.


The bulbs need to stay cool in the winter, so if you want your tulips to bloom perennially, you should plant them away from the heated base of your house. Plant a variety of tulips together to take advantage of the colorful display each spring. Bulbs should be planted between the first of October and Thanksgiving in holes that are about 5 inches deep to protect them from a hard freeze. Cover with mulch or straw, and keep them watered.


If your tulips can’t avoid the heat of the noonday sun, you can cut back on the amount of water they receive to reduce stress on the flowers. Because the bulbs are susceptible to fungus, mold, rot and wilting, you should plant only healthy bulbs from a reputable garden shop. Inspect bulbs before planting and, discard bulbs that are damaged or spoiled. Reputable sites such as ProFlowers sell high-quality bulbs already in bloom that can be re-planted in the height of the growing season or in the fall after you’ve enjoyed the potted plant.


Flowers and petals should be trimmed once they begin to fade. The remaining foliage should be left to die naturally if you want the bulbs to bloom again the following year. You can add fertilizer when the flowers first bloom. You’ll know when your planting was successful because the flowers will stand tall through the early part of summer. Healthy tulips should be left alone to bloom again the following year. Consider digging up the bulbs and moving them to a sunnier spot with more drainage if you weren’t satisfied with your crop.

Closely-related to Scilla siberica and equally comfortable in dappled shade is Scilla bifolia, which produces several violet-blue star-like flowers on the same stem.

They grow to the same height as S. siberica and like the same sort of conditions, so they are obvious growing companions.

Or you could try Scilla peruviana, a Mediterranean plant also known as the Portuguese squill (so not Peruvian at all), which grows in satisfyingly large clumps and once established produces big multi-flowered heads of star-shaped blue flowers.

Snowdrops will also grow well in partial shade, but they do need some sunshine and they won’t grow well if it’s too dry.

You can plant them as bulbs in autumn but you will have more success if you plant them when they are growing rather than dormant.

That means buying them already potted up and simply transplanting them – but that can be expensive – or waiting until they have flowered and planting them when their leaves are still green next year.

Get your Scilla bulbs in now, though, while the soil is still warm, to give them time to settle in before the dormant period towards the end of November.

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