Colorful shade loving plants

When you live in the state of Florida, the heat and the humidity can be brutal. Because of this, the plants that you will be able to grow in this area of the country may be limited. With that being said, the shade is an excellent option for plants that do not need direct sunlight, but they can handle a bit of indirect heat.

In this guide, I am going to talk about the different flowers that I helped my friend who lives in Tampa, Florida, plant under her trees. They made the yard look amazingly colorful and bright, and most of these plants do not require a lot of care.

1. Pinwheel Jasmine

The pinwheel jasmine is a lovely plant that has dark green foliage and white blooms that will look great in any space. They can grow to be between three and five feet tall as well as across. This plant prefers partial shade, which is why it works well in this state.

2. Butterfly Iris

If you are looking for a plant that attracts butterflies, then the butterfly iris is going to be an ideal option. This is a plant that does not require a lot of water, and it will grow in full sun to partial shade. This plant will grow to be about two feet tall.

3. Indian Hawthorne

As a plant that does well in zones eight through 11, it’s ideal for growing in Florida. It will grow well in full sun as well as afternoon shade. These plants prefer moist soil that’s relatively porous. They are also drought-tolerant plants that can grow to be five feet tall.

4. Areca Palm

A mature areca palm can grow to be up to 30 feet tall. It prefers to grow in slightly acidic soil and indirect sunlight. It produces pale yellow flowers, and it does not need a lot of water to grow. This plant also likes high humidity, so it is a great choice to grow in Florida. If you would like to learn more about growing Areca, see the growing guide I wrote here.

5. Tibouchina (urvilleana)

Also known as the princess flower, this is a tropical plant that produces purple flowers. With full sun, acidic soil, and regular watering, this plant can grow to be 20 feet tall. It can also grow in partial shade and high humidity, which makes it perfect for growing in Florida.

6. Variegated Ginger

This plant does not like to grow in colder climates. It can grow to be 10 feet tall in the right environment, which makes it ideal for Florida. It requires a good amount of water during the growing season; it will also grow in full sun or partial shade.

7. Pentas

This is a plant that is known for its brightly colored blooms and for attracting pollinators. It grows best in full sun and well-drained soil, but overall the plant requires very little to maintain. In fact, it will even bloom during the hottest time of the year in zones 10 and 11.

8. Croton

This is a plant that grows well in rich soil and direct sunlight for a few hours a day. Because of this, a shady location in Florida is going to be ideal, but it will need frequent watering during the growing season. It prefers temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and it will do well with a bit of humidity. If you want to learn more about growing Crotons, check out the growing guide that I wrote.

9. Caladium

This plant will thrive in high humidity areas; in fact, humidity and temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit is necessary for it to grow. It will need a lot of light, but not direct sunlight, so growing it in the shade or indoors is recommended, especially during the hot summer months in Florida.

10. Foxtail Fern

Grown in zones nine to 11, this is a plant that can grow to be two feet in height. It is a drought-tolerant plant that will do well in high heat areas that is very low maintenance. Too much water could cause the plant to have issues with rot and fungus.

11. Jacobinia Pink

This shrub, which can grow to be five feet tall, has white and pink flowers. It likes to grow in tropical areas, which makes Florida, especially southern Florida ideal. It will do well in partial shade, which means that you should plant it where it avoids the scorching afternoon sun.

12. Persian Shield

The Persian shield is a plant that likes to grow in high humidity, so it is often only found outdoors in zone 10. It can handle full sun, but it tends to grow the best in partial shade that avoids the afternoon sun. It will require a lot of water to help keep the humidity around the plant up. If you want to learn more about growing Persian Shield, check out the growing guide that I wrote.

13. Bromeliads

Bromeliads are a plant that will grow best in humid, moist conditions. Make sure that the plant has enough drainage, and that it is not getting direct sunlight for the majority of the day. They prefer at least 60% humidity, which is why Florida is ideal for growing them.

14. Saw Palmetto

This is a drought-tolerant plant that will grow in any type of lighting from full sun to full shade. It does well in wet areas of the country because it needs a lot of moisture to grow. It does well in high humidity, like what you find in Florida, as well.

15. Peace lily

This bright white lily is one example of a lily that is capable of growing in the shade, though they will bloom less in complete shade. Peace lily are drought-tolerant plants, so they will not require a lot of water. In fact, overwatering peace lily can cause the plant to die.

16. Cordyline

Cordyline’s are super easy to grow, they have leathery leaves that look fantastic all summer long. You can find Cordyline in red and pink. They are drought-tolerant, but don’t let them dry out too much. Grow them in well-drained soil in light shade or full sun.

17. Peperomia

Peperomia plants are often called radiator plants or rubber plants. They can be grown inside as a houseplant or out in the garden. They can provide beautiful green foliage. Peperomia plants are a perfect Florida shade plant as they thrive in full shade. If you would like more information on this plant, see the guide I wrote about growing Peperomia here.

18. Alocasia Odora

Alocasia Odora often called elephant ears for their dramatic green foliage. They grow to be around 4-8 feet tall. Plant them in your shade garden. They thrive in moist to wet soil.

19. Aztec Grass

The Aztec grass plant looks similar to a Spider plant. Aztec grass can grow to be 12″ to 18″ tall. In Florida, it can thrive in part shade. Aztec grass looks stunning when planted along a path or walkway.

20. Firespike

Firespike grows to be 4 to 6 feet tall. They grow beautiful red tubular flowers. Firespike can grow in shade in Florida year-round, but for maximum blooms, you may want to plant these in full Sun. Firespike is drought-tolerant.

21. Cat Palm

A Cat palm is very similar to an Areca Palm. Planting them in the shade is best, which will require less watering. This palm grow to be 6-8 feet tall.

22. Dwarf Azalea

Dwarf Azalea can bloom at different times throughout the year. It’s a small shrub that can grow in shade. When planting Azalea make sure your soil has the proper PH level (preferably a pH of 5.5 or less).

23. Chenille Plant

The Chenille Plant can be grown outdoors in the garden or in a container. In Florida, it blooms on and off all year. This plant prefers part sun to part shade.

24. Heliconia Plant

This exotic plant looks amazing in Florida gardens. They blossom in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. They thrive in zone 10b as these plants prefer warm weather.

25. Oyster Plant

The oyster plant is an excellent choice for a groundcover. They have beautiful green leaves and the back of the leaves are purple. The oyster plant can thrive in different light conditions but does best in part shade to partial sun.

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Popular Garden Ideas

Popular Garden Ideas

Shade Landscapingfor South Florida

Shade landscaping can be a challenge, yet it can bring out the colors and textures of many beautiful plants too tender for full-out Florida sun.

People often think there’s nothing pretty or colorful to plant in shade – but they’re wrong.

Yes, deep dark shade is a tough place to grow anything, but part shade – with a bit of morning or late day sun, or dappled sunlight through trees – or bright full shade can be landscaped very successfully…if you use the right plants.

(Need more info on types of shade? See Plant Light Requirements.)

A lush landscape in shade often features white or light colors that are visible after sundown.

Here are collections of plants that thrive in a part shade situation. Feel free to mix and match or add other plants you like to customize your design.

Collection #1

1. Pinwheel jasmine – accent

2. Tibouchina grandifolia-accent

3. Blackberry iris – accent

4. Variegated ginger – accent

5. Indian hawthorne – border, foundation

6. Pentas – border, foundation

7. Areca palm

8. Croton – accent

9. Viburnum suspensum – hedge

Next (Collection #2)

Back to Landscape in a Box

Return to HOME from Shade Landscaping

Here Are Some Shady Characters That Will Thrive in Your Florida Garden Without Full Sunlight

We all want it; we all seek it out in parking lots and parks after a walk or when talking with friends. To us who lack chlorophyll, shade is, well, a cooler place to sit or stand.

To plants, not all shade is the same.

When my co-master gardener friend asked me to give a Shade Gardening presentation because she was unable to, I agreed. She had already done most of the work, so I figured it would be a breeze: just show the Power Point slides and read the frames.

I had done pretty well choosing plants for my shade garden and felt confident talking about them; but I never considered how many different definitions of shade existed until I agreed to help my friend.

Some common terms are: part shade, light shade, deep shade, dense shade, full shade, part sun, filtered shade, dappled shade, semi-shade, medium shade — and on and on it goes,
depending on the book you are reading or the garden center you visit. Very confusing!

Let’s use the definitions in Pamela Crawford’s book “Easy Gardens for South Florida.” Pinellas County is considered Central Florida and USDA Hardiness Zone 9b. However, many plants from zones 9a and 10 do well here, too. It helps to understand site conditions when planning a shade garden. If you have one or more large trees, consider yourself fortunate.

FULL SUN – Sun is necessary for any plant growth and the definition is pretty consistent wherever you are. Full Sun usually means 6 hours of direct sun a day.

MIXED LIGHT – Gets both direct sun and full shade, usually near buildings. The change in light depends on the movement of the sun during the day and from winter to summer. Remember that winter sun is different from summer sun. Plants growing in mixed light
need to be adaptable. Some of the plants that do well in mixed light are:

  • Blue Daze; Evolvulus glomeratus; perennial groundcover
  • Croton; Codiaeum variegatum (Petra); shrub
  • Cocoplum; Chrysoblanus icaco; large shrub; prostrate cultivar sometimes available

LIGHT SHADE – Go outside and look up. Pretend you are the plant; that’s right, lie down on the grass and look up. (Those who can’t get down or back up can stand or sit.) If
your tree blocks only 20-30 percent of light, you have light shade. That’s good for some plants and not terrible for St. Augustine grass. Some plants that do well here are:

  • Xanadu; Philodendron xanadu; shrub (also grows in dense shade)
  • Ti Plants; Cordyline spp.; shrub, red, burgundy, variegated
  • Shrimp Plant; Justicia brandegeana; Pachystachys lutea; shrubs, colors vary. (also grows in medium shade).

MEDIUM SHADE – You know the drill: Lie down, stand, sit, look up. About 50 percent of the sky is visible, and St. Augustine grass is thin. You could grow:

  • Caricature Plant; Graptophyllum pictum; multicolored leaves; large shrub
  • Angelwing Begonia; Begonia flamingo; pink flowering shrub
  • Perfection Bromeliads; Neoregelia spp. ‘perfection’; colorful groundcover

DENSE SHADE – Less than 30 percent of the sky is visible. The list of plants that do well here is shorter but interesting. Many ferns will grow here and other plants as well.

  • Cast Iron Plant; Aspidistra elatior; groundcover
  • Variegated Arboricola; Schefflera arboricola ‘Trinette’; shrub
  • Lady Palm; Rhapis excelsa; average to large size specimen palm – leaves turn yellow in too much light

OK, you can get up now. I bet you think you are ready to head out to your local garden center
and buy, buy, buy. Not so quick. In order to really assess your shade, you need to take pictures throughout the day and at different times of the day. It’s best to do this on a sunny day.

Start your research at 8 a.m. and focus on the area that you plan to do or re-do. Then photograph that area at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. When you look at your photos, ask yourself what influence does the movement of the sun have on the intensity of light in your space? One thing you might notice is that the sun doesn’t stay in one spot for more than 30-45 minutes. Therefore what you plant must be able to take different doses of sun throughout the day.

I will write more about gardening with shade in my next installments, but if you think you are ready to shop, then go with my blessing. Now that you are one with your garden, or maybe just on speaking terms, you will be able to make an informed decision about what plants to install. Please remember to ask many, many zone-specific questions, and if you
aren’t satisfied with the answers you get, walk away and shop someplace else.

But if you can wait a few days, I want you to visit this website, www.watermatters.org and
order “The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design.” This free guide is a full-color bound 110-page book of Design Scenarios and Plant Lists with cultural information for each plant. Did I tell you the guide is FREE?

Please feel free to comment about your shade gardening experiences. I would love to read them.

The next installment on Shade Gardening will cover some design and maintenance considerations for gardening in the shade. Happy gardening!

10 Best Shade-Loving Plants

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A lot of gardeners hate the word “shade”. It keeps them awake at night wondering how to get anything to bloom or grow. For so long we have been conditioned to believe that pretty things only grow in the bright sunshine. It just isn’t true! Some of the most beautiful and enduring gardens in the world thrive in partial to deep shady conditions, and yours can too. The secret is easy… simply choose the right plants for shade! Here are TGG’s picks for 7 gorgeous shade loving plants that any gardener can grow!

Golden Japanese Forest Grass

This shade loving plant is a grass that is amazing as a ground cover or a focal point in the shady garden. Be aware, if planted in the sun, some varieties can be a bit invasive. Look for the name “Aureola” or “Golden”. Loves moist soil and is deer resistant, looks ah-mazing planted with blue-green hostas. Grows to about 18 inches by 18 inches. Photo by ‘Monrovia‘.

Sweet Woodruff

An old fashioned favorite, it is a tough, drought resistant, fast spreading ground cover. If you have a shady, difficult spot to cover, and you want it to look carpeted with fresh green topped with delicate white flowers in May and June… well, this is the shade loving plant for you. And let’s face it, aren’t we used to having plants in the shade that just don’t thrive and spread? Fill in those areas quickly with Sweet Woodruff! Oh, and they smell great! Photo by ‘White Flower Farm‘.

Lenten Rose, Hellebore

We love Lenten Rose for a couple of reasons… First off, it’s pretty much evergreen down to zone 5. Second, the blooms are incredibly exquisite in shape, form and color. Third, they bloom in late winter and early spring! They are a low grower, around 12 inches tall, and are rabbit resistant. They come in pinks, reds, whites, greens, black and even a yellow! GORGEOUS! Photo by ‘Bluestone Perennials‘.

Wild Ginger

Gorgeous foliage shade loving plant that varies from variety to variety from glossy, almost round leaves, to textured longer leaves marked with white or silver. They love rich, moist soil and are evergreen in most climates. And they do bloom, but the flowers are inconspicuous, these plants are known for their foliage. Spreading slowly, they are long lived. Fun fact : This plant was collected by Lewis and Clark as a native plant of the West worth noticing! Photo by ‘White Flower Farm‘.

Endless Summer Hydrangea

Ok, now you need something bigger? A shrub, perhaps? We all know about Hydrangeas, but this is a breakthrough above and beyond the ordinary. Endless Summer Hydrangeas can now be grown even in the northern states, and get this… they bloom ALL SUMMER! And just look at that bloom! Partial to dappled shade is best for these shade loving plants, afternoon shade in the South. Love. This. Plant. Three to five feet high and as wide, this shade loving shrub doesn’t sacrifice bloom size either, with 8-10 inch blooms! Either color works for me! Photo by ‘Wayside Gardens‘.

Coral Bells

Another variety grown mostly for their foliage, Coral Bells do have stalks of pink or white flowers that appear in summer over low growing foliage. Their leaves can be red, silver, purple, green or bronze. Give afternoon shade in warm climates, especially for the more vividly colored leaves. Keep moist for the best plant health. Grows 12-24 inches tall and wide. Photo by ‘White Flower Farm‘.

Autumn Fern

Ferns can seem pretty boring in the shade garden world, but this variety of Autumn Fern (Brilliance) is freakin’ cool. It is an evergreen fern with fronds 2 feet long, and changes color with the temperatures of the season! Coppery in spring, deep green in summer and fiery orange in fall, this plant thrives in even deep shade. It can be planted under trees, and once established after the first year, can get by on neglect. This may be the perfect shade loving plant! Photo by ‘Wayside Gardens‘.

So, do you have a favorite shade plant? Photo by ‘HGTV‘.

Did you enjoy reading about our favorite shade loving plants? Then try our posts on Perennials for Shade that Bloom All Summer and Hanging Baskets : Secrets the Pros Use!

Image Credits: Wayside, Monrovia, White Flower Farm, Bluestone, White Flower Farm, Wayside Gardens, White Flower Farm, HGTV Gardens


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Yard and Garden: Shade Loving Plants

AMES, Iowa – Gardening in the shade is cool and calming. When the right palette of plants is used, it can be successful as well. Hostas aren’t the only perennials that thrive in shady conditions.

Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists on the proper way to plant perennials, wildflowers and groundcovers in shady locations. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or [email protected]

What are some good perennials for shady locations?

What are some good native woodland wildflowers for a shady site?

When selecting plants for the shade garden, one group of plants that is sometimes overlooked is native woodland wildflowers. Since they are native to the state, woodland wildflowers are well adapted to the area. They are easy to grow and perform well when given a favorable environment.

Native woodland wildflowers that make good additions to the home landscape include wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus), Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense), Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia), false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), May apple (Podophyllum peltatum), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), trillium (Trillium spp.), large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora), and others.

Obtaining plants is easy. Woodland wildflowers are available at garden centers and mail-order nurseries. Do not remove plants from natural woodland areas.

What are some good groundcovers for shade?

Variegated bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’) and lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) are two other shade-tolerant groundcovers. Unfortunately, both plants spread rapidly and may become invasive. These aggressive spreaders should not be planted with other perennials as they quickly crowd out neighboring plants. Variegated bishop’s weed and lily-of-the-valley should be planted only in areas where they can be confined (for example, between a building and sidewalk) or allowed to spread freely.

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