Zone 5 perennials shade

When the garden catalogs come out and the nurseries start stocking plants, gardeners start thinking about how to get the most bloom for their buck. That can be a really tough job when you have a shade garden that needs some color. You don’t have to have an all foliage garden just because your garden is shaded, and you don’t have to settle for just a few weeks of bloom. Check out these perennials for shade the bloom all summer!

Perennials For Shade That Bloom All Summer!

Geranium – Perfect Flower for Shade Gardens!

This is not your typical annual geranium that fills window boxes everywhere… in truth, those are Pelargoniums. True geraniums are a perennial that does well in partial shade, and blooms pink or blue all summer. In addition, many varieties’ foliage turns bronze or red in the fall. We love Geranium “Rozanne”. You can get “Rozanne” at Burpee. Its blooms are big and blue, and the plant grows to 20 inches. The common name for this perennial flower for shade is “Cranesbill”.

Astilbe – Shade Perennials That Are Repeat Bloomers

One of our favorite summer blooming perennials for shade is Astilbe. Astilbe have foliage that is glossy and attractive, and bloom from late spring into summer. If you cut them back after blooming, they can bloom again. In pinks, purples and whites, they are a fluffy spire that can brighten any shady spot. They grow 18 inches wide and 18-24 inches tall, and are hardy to zone 4. Common name “Meadowsweet”. These plants are tough, but cannot handle drought. Keep soil moist and fertilize yearly for best bloom. The “Younique” collection of Astilbe from ‘Burpee‘ are compact growing varieties with beautiful colors. They are also deer and rabbit resistant.

Heuchera – Coral Bells

Heuchera is a hardy perennial rich in foliage color, but that also offers spires of white, pink or red flowers throughout the summer. Massed in a group, these flowers can glow in the shade! And when not in bloom, the foliage is stunning. We like Heuchera “Paris” from ‘Burpee‘. Photo by Barnes Nursery UK.


This pretty summer bloomer is a relative of coral bells, and has gorgeous cut foliage as well. Heucherella is great in the South, as it is very heat and humidity resistant. We like “Pink Fizz“. Hardy in zones 4-9, this one is deer resistant too! Photo by ‘NHHostas’.

Spiderwort – Perennials Flowers for Shade or Sun

Known for growing in almost any conditions, Spiderwort has strap like foliage and interesting flowers of white, pink or purple all summer. These summer blooming flowers for shade are drought resistant and deer resistant. Because their blossoms are small in size, plant in groups for best effect. Hardy to zone 4.

This variety has bright green leaves and is called “Sweet Kate”. Great for brightening up a shady garden!

Hardy Fuchsias – Part Shade Perennials That Bloom All Summer

There are several cultivars of hardy Fuchsias, which are just as beautiful as the basket variety, but usually larger and more up right. The most common variety grown in the Pacific NW is Fuchsia Magellanica. This Fuchsia is a shrub like plant covered with tubular blooms that hummingbirds LOVE, and blooms spring to first frost. Growing 6-10 feet high and as wide, it’s winter hardy down to zone 6, though it might die back during the coldest months. It will come alive again in spring! You can find a beautiful variety valued “Grand Cape Horn” at ‘White Flower Farm‘.

Campanula (Bellflower) – Blue & Purple Perennial Flowers for Shade

Campanula has many different varieties, and are blue or white belled flowers in sizes from dwarf to several feet tall. They love partial shade and moderately moist soil, and will bloom June through frost. Our fav is Siberian Campanula. It has a wonderful deep blue color with a white eye, and is very floriferous. This perennial flower for shade is hardy to zone 3. Find “Campanula” at White Flower Farm.

Corydalis lutea – Yellow Summer Blooming Flowers for Shade

If you love bleeding heart in your spring garden, try “Yellow Fumitory”. This ferny plant has little yellow flowers from April through frost! Perfect for a woodland or cottage garden, this shade perennial flowers all summer, is hardy to zone 3, and prefers a cool spot on your garden away from afternoon sun. It is deer resistant and grows 8-18 inches tall. Photo by ‘Rotary Botanical Gardens‘.

Impatiens – Annuals and Perennials for Shade That Bloom All Summer

No conversation about long blooming shade plants would be complete without talking about Impatiens. If you are looking for shade plants that bloom all summer, look no farther. While these are annuals and die back each winter, they perform better than any other flowering shade plant. So we just had to include them! Of course if you live in zone 9 or above, these can be grown as perennials.

There are two types, the one we are talking about is the bedding Impatiens, which are the kind you find in every nursery in six packs and lots of colors. They are tender, so be sure not to plant them too early…Wait until the soil starts to warm. Planting them when it’s still cold can stunt them. Also, they need moisture and are heavy feeders. Cut them back by a third if they start to get leggy, and give them a dose of liquid fertilizer. My favorite are white Impatiens, but they come in many colors, from neon brights to pastels. They, much like petunias and marigolds, have gotten a bad wrap by gardening snobs as being cliche, and boring. Any plant can be boring if you don’t use it properly. So use them the way they shine…in large drifts of all one color..and watch those snobs eat their words! You can find impatiens in packs of 3 plants at Burpee, in every color from deep red to apricot to pure white!

So don’t use your shady garden as an excuse not to have flowers in bloom all summer long. Pick one, two or all of these and create a garden with perennials for shade that bloom all summer! We think you will also love our posts on Showy Shade Gardens and How to Plant Fantastic Flower Beds!

Image Credits: NHHostas, Rotary Botanical Garden

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Zone 5 Shade Loving Plants – Choosing Zone 5 Shade Plants

Shady garden situations are one of the most challenging in which to plant. In zone 5, your challenges go up to include frigid winters. Therefore, any plants chosen for shady areas must also tolerate temperatures well below zero. However, there are plenty of options for shade plants in zone 5. Select from perennials, evergreen shrubs or deciduous trees. There are surely some plants that will suit any garden needs.

Perennial Zone 5 Shade Loving Plants

Planting conditions vary from garden to garden, but when you have both shade and freezing winter temperatures to contend with, your plant options begin to look a little slim. Your local extension office can be of great help in providing you with plants that are hardy in zone 5 and that thrive in shade. Remember to consider the other site conditions when choosing zone 5 shade plants, such as drainage, soil type and average moisture as you make your selections of shade plants for zone 5.

Most perennials have a “here today, gone tomorrow” nature because they die back in winter and arise in spring. This aspect makes them especially hardy because no tender green parts are exposed during winter. As long as the soil is mulched, providing a thick blanket to protect roots, a remarkable

number of perennials survive cold regions like zone 5. Perennials also come in a wide range of colors, sizes and site preferences.

One of the classic shade perennials that is tolerant to zone 4 is the hosta. These large leaved beauties come in many leaf colors and sizes. Helleboresare another plant with shady impact. They survive zone 5 harsh winters and are one of the earliest bloomers with prolific flowers and attractively lobed leaves. Some other perennial shade plants for zone 5 are:

  • Lily of the Valley
  • Astilbe
  • Huechera
  • Red Trillium
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bugleweed
  • Foxglove
  • Brunnera
  • Lungwort
  • Bergenia
  • Lady’s Mantle
  • Candytuft
  • Asian Lily

Woody Zone 5 Shade Loving Plants

A shade garden benefits from the dimension that trees and shrubs can provide. Whether the plant is evergreen or deciduous, larger plants trace the path the eye sketches when entering the shady garden. Many of the options for shade plants in zone 5 will even flower and fruit, further adding interest to a low light area.

The fine foliage of barberryis decorated with deeply red berries in fall and many dogwoodsproduce their ornamental flower-like bracts followed by cheery bird attracting fruits. Evergreen specimens such as Green Velvet boxwood, Aurea Compact hemlock and Dwarf Bright Gold yew provide year around texture and color. Seasonal change is evident in Tiger Eye sumac and Dwarf European viburnum. Other shade plants for zone 5 might be:

  • Taunton Yew
  • Summersweet
  • Snowberry
  • Bush Honeysuckle
  • Annabelle Hydrangea
  • Northern Lights Azalea
  • Highbush Cranberry
  • Nannyberry
  • Witch Alder

Choosing Zone 5 Shade Plants

Planning is important when designing any garden space. Just randomly throwing together a bunch of shade tolerant plants does not make an appealing design. Evaluate the space and its conditions before choosing your selections. For instance, many areas get half a day of sunlight, making them partial shade locations. Virginia bluebells will thrive in such a situation but only if the soil is moist much of the time. Solomon’s seal prefers a bit more shade and drier soil.

If you have a fully shaded location much of the day, such as under tall trees, plants like Japanese painted fern will bring color and ease of care. Bear’s breeches will also prefer full shade but needs the soil to be consistently moist.

Evaluating each plant’s needs will ensure the correct choices for your shady garden. Fortunately, many are adaptable to partial or full shade, making them foolproof choices.

Plant Recommendations for Special Conditions

Made In The Shade…

Shade gardening can be interesting and fun. Some plants prefer lightly shaded sites; others tolerate medium shade, while some can withstand conditions of deep shade. Exciting plants that enliven these various types of shady spots will be featured below, including small trees, shrubs, and perennials.

People often ask “what plants will thrive in the shade by my back door?” The question may be simple, but the answer can be complicated. Defining different types of shade and what plants do better in which type of shade is challenging. The answer lies within determining what plants can handle both the type of shade and the area’s soil conditions.

Shade gardening is different than gardening in the sun. You need to have richer soil so that the plants have all the nutrients they need. When creating a shade garden bed, think of a shady forest floor. For thousands of years, leaves have been dropping from overhead creating a deep soil, rich in composted organic matter. That is the type of soil you need to mimic in your garden. To achieve that, add organic compost to your existing soil at planting time.

Plants grown in the shade usually require less water than their sun-loving relatives. Many shade-loving plants are shallow rooted. That is, they send feeder roots into a thick mat of leaf litter near the surface of the soil to catch the available nutrients and moisture before the deeper rooted canopy plants can suck them up. In your shade garden bed, use a fast draining soil rich in organic matter to prevent root rot.

Types of shade vary greatly (e.g. the difference between areas receiving refreshing early morning sun or blistering afternoon sun.) Shaded soil conditions also vary greatly depending upon organic health, moisture content, and amount of root competition. Plants’ shade preferences can vary between tolerating very dry shade to needing very wet shade.

Thus, it is hard to scale different types of shade. If we just look at the differences based on amount of average sunlight received, we can divide levels of shade into three categories:

  • Light Shade—A few hours of direct sun
  • Medium Shade—Little direct sunlight – Reflected sunlight comprises bulk of available light
  • Deep Shade—No direct sunlight – In very deep shade, it is often beneficial to include hardscaping, structures, water features, containers, and or sculpture for enhancement.

This list divides plants into three areas based only upon their tolerance of the three types of shade listed above. Generally, plants growing within the roots of over story trees always need supplemental moisture during dry periods. But if some of the garden’s plants can tolerate somewhat dry conditions or need even more moisture, it shall be noted in the following plant descriptions.

Generally, plants with white or crème variegation can better tolerate shade; whereas, plants with pigmented foliage, gold or purple, perform better in the sun. Some of the latter plants can be included in the light shade areas with the intention of toning down some of the brightness of the foliage, but this is a subjective preference.

To better understand the process of matching appropriate plants to the conditions of your shady back door, it may also be helpful to:

  • Chart the pattern of sunlight in your garden during the day and even through the seasons;
  • Observe nature, noting the difference of undergrowth in dense woods vs. light woodland vs. the edge of a glade.
  • Procure professional assistance from member companies of the Ohio Landscape Association!

Suggested shade tolerance is indicated by (L) Light, (M) Medium, and (D) Deep


Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Seiryu’ (Upright Lace Leaf Japanese Maple): Best upright growing form of lace leaf maple; spectacular fall color – 10 to 12’ – (M)

Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Viridis’ (Green Lace Leaf Japanese Maple): Excellent small accent plant that makes a graceful statement; Superb orange fall color – 3 to 10’ – (M)

Chionanthus retusus (Chinese Fringe Tree)

Amelanchier grandiflora ‘Princess Diana’ (Princess Diana Serviceberry): High performing small tree that shows white flowers in early spring, berries for the birds in June, and brilliant fall color – 20 to 25’ – (L)

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Glauca’ (Blue Nootka False Cypress): Blue-green pendulous branchlets make this narrowly growing evergreen a fine specimen – 20 to 25’ – (L)

Chionanthus retusus (Chinese Fringe Tree): Highly ornamental under story tree with shiny dark green leaves and white lightly fragrant flowers in May; Exfoliating bark – 15 to -20’ – (L)

Cornus drummondii (Giant Gray Dogwood): White flower clusters in late spring and long lasting clusters of cream-colored berries in the fall; Will tolerate some dryness – 15 to 20’ – (L)

Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’ (Cornelian Cherry): Small tree whose chartreuse yellow flowers herald spring; Cherry red fall fruit – 20’ – (L)

Hamamelis intermedia (Witch Hazel): Unique multi-stemmed trees offering hope of spring’s return by flowering during the warm spells of late winter and tolerating much shade – 10 to 20’ – (D)

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum (Doublefile Viburnum): Normally a shrub but can be trained into a small specimen tree with strongly horizontal branches that spread a nice show of white spring flowers – 12’ – (M)


Acanthopanox sieboldiana ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Five-leaf Aralia): A tough shrub capable of lighting up a dry, shady area with creamy mottled foliage – 8 to 10’ – (D)

Chamaecyparis obtussa ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Hinoki False Cypress): Wonderful compact upright evergreen shrub whose foliage displays in bright green whorls – 3 to 6’ – (L)

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (Silverblotch Dogwood): A shade brightening shrub with red stems holding leaves that are strongly edged in white – can spread by suckering – 6 to 8’ – (M)

Euonymus fortunei ‘Canadian Gold’ (Canadian Gold Euonymus): Just a little afternoon shade can soften the brightness of this small standard form that has blazing green and gold variegated foliage – 7’ – (L)

Forsythia intermedia (Forsythia): The bright yellow blooms of this familiar shrub will still show through in shaded areas of the yard; Also offered in an interesting grafted tree form – 8 to 10’ – (L)

Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Fothergilla)

Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Fothergilla): A compact shrub that can thrive in shade and still display slightly scented white spring flowers, good bluish green leaves, and amazing fall colors – 3 to 5’ – (M)

Hydrangea arborescens grandiflora (Garden Hydrangea): Having smaller flowers than its famous cultivar, ‘Annabelle’, this older form’s flowers are less prone to droop to the ground in deeper shade – 4 to 6’ – (D)

Kerria japonica ‘Pictum’ (Pictum Kerria): Dry shade tolerant shrub showing yellow spring flowers, white margined leaves, and bright green stems that can show into the winter – 3 to 5’ (M)

Leucothoe fontanesiana (Leucothoe): Evergreen foliage shines green in summer, turns mahogany for winter – prefers moist but well drained shady spot – 3 to 4’ – (D)

Microbiota decussata (Siberian Cypress): A low growing evergreen with arborvitae-like foliage that grows fine in well drained, shady locations – 1’ – (D)

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ (Japanese Andromeda): The new foliage is fiery red against the lustrous evergreen mature leaves; Clusters of creamy white flowers in spring – 5 to 6’ – (M)

Rhododendron ‘Bikini Island’ (Bikini Island Rhododendron): A newer introduction of the late David Leach that is said to be the finest red for cold climates; Extraordinary scarlet red flowers in early June – 6’ – (M)

Rhododendron ‘Casanova’ (Casanova Rhododendron): Another new Leach rhododendron; Its pale pink flowers change to light yellow for a striking contrast new to hardy rhododendrons – 6’ – (M)

Rhododendron ‘Red River’ (Red River Rhododendron): A very late blooming large plant with red flowers that is suitable for woodland screening: Also an introduction of David Leach – 11’ – (L)

Rhodotypos scandans (Black Jetbead): This very tough shrub will grow where others fear to bed; Can take dryness; White flowers in summer; Black berries last into winter – 3 to 6’ – (D)

Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland’ (Sutherland Golden Elderberry): An excellent new introduction; The finely cut golden yellow leaflets of this shrub are so brilliant, that a tiny bit of shade nicely tones it down – 8’ – (L)

Stephenandra incisa ‘Crispa’ (Cutleaf Stephenandra): A low spreading shrub with finely textured bright green leaves; Excellent for shade – 2 to 3’ – (M)

Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’ (Emerald Arborvitae): Though best when planted in full sun, arborvitaes can tolerate a little bit of shade. This is an excellent narrow cultivar – 14’ – (L)

Tsuga canadensis ‘Sargentii’ (Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock): The spreading and strongly weeping habit of this evergreen tree make it a wonderful specimen for the shade; Usually slow growing and used as a shrub – (D)


Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Bishop’s Weed): Aggressive groundcover that can brighten up a dry shady spot, but don’t even think of not containing it! – (D)

Ajuga ‘Bronze Beauty’ (Bronze Beauty Ajuga): Very dark purplish-bronze foliage showing blue flowers in May – (D)

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle): Beautiful leaves hold drops of water like crystal pearls; The chartreuse yellow late spring flowers are a bonus – (M)

Asarum canadense (Canadian Wild Ginger): An underused shade-loving native groundcover – (D)

Asarum europeum (Shiny Leaf Ginger): Excellent shade groundcover with shiny evergreen leaves: Needs moisture and good drainage – (D)

Astilbe – Feathery flower plumes rise in early summer over ferny foliage. Here are just two varieties. There are many more types available. Needs moisture – (M)

‘Red Sentinel’: Sports the brightest red flowers of the genus in June

‘White Gloria’: Distinctive, blocky plumes of white in late June

Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese Painted Fern): Perhaps the best hardy variegated fern; Shows wonderfully in the shade with its touches of silver and red – (D)

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Bugloss): Boldly variegated heart shaped leaves stand out; Has clear blue forget-me-not flowers in spring – (M)

Calamagrostis brachytricha (Foxtail Grass): One of the few flowering grasses that is happy in the shade; tawny pink inflorescence in late summer – (L)

Calamagrostis arundinacea ‘Overdam’ (Variegated Feather Reed Grass): A choice variegated grass that will accept some shade; Golden inflorescence appear in summer – (L)

Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’ (Bowles Golden Sedge): Needs shade protection and moisture, but the bright gold upright foliage can blaze like a beacon, especially when hit by a beam of sunlight – (M)

Carex elata ‘Kaga Nishiki’ (Gold Fountains Sedge): Thin green foliage margined with gold – quite shade tolerant – (M)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats): One of the best grasses for shade -looks a bit similar to bamboo; Oat-like seed heads dance in the winter winds – (M)

Epimedium youngianum ‘Niveum’ (Barrenwort): Dainty star-like flowers show in spring above heart-shaped ground covering leaves; prefers rich soil but tolerates dryness – (D)

Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff): Fragrant small white flowers in May ride above the bright green fine textured foliage; tolerates some dryness – (M)

Hakonechloa maculata ‘Aureola’ (Golden Hakonechloa): A stunning grass for shade with gracefully arching golden variegated foliage; favors rich soil, but good drainage is essential – (M)

Hedera helix ‘Buttercup’ (Buttercup Ivy): A light gold-green selection of ivy that withstands some dryness – (D)

Heucheras (Coralbells): Bell-shaped flowers on wiry stems in mid summer; exhibits excellent foliage when not in bloom – (M)

‘Bressingham Beauty’: Heavy blooming mixture of pinks and reds

‘Regina’: Silvered burgundy foliage with pink blooms on 3’ stems

Hosta – Wonderful bold textured plants for the shade; Many cultivars can withstand much sunlight without scorching; The golds need sunlight for full brightness, but some shade can offer temperance; The blues need more shade protection. This is just a selection of the many varieties offered. – (D)

‘Antioch’: Glossy green foliage with wide creamy edge

‘Black Hills’: A very dark deep green; Heavily puckered with great slug resistance

‘Blue Cadet’: Good blue foliage on a compact mounded plant

‘Daybreak’: Highly rated specimen with large bright gold leaves

‘Dorset Blue’: One of the best blues with slug resistant, powdery blue green leaves

‘Francis Williams’: Heavily corrugated and puckered; Unmistakable variegation

‘Guacamole’: New chartreuse-centered, green margined introduction; Colors intensify with season; Yum!

‘Krossa Regal’: Classically vase-shaped structure of cool blue

‘Minuteman’: Some think this is an improved ‘Patriot’, with wide white margins around a dark green center

‘On Stage’: One of the most beautiful interior variegated hostas that can withstand a lot of sun

‘Paul’s Glory’: Dark green margins; Center of leaf changes from chartreuse to cream

‘Regal Splendor’: A cream edged sport of ‘Krossa Regal’

‘Robert Frost’: Frosted gray-green leaf with wide white margins feathering towards center

‘Shade Fanfare’: Light green center, creamy yellow to white edge; Good substance

‘Twilight’: Newly introduced, dark glossy green leaves graced with wide yellow margins

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ (Chameleon Plant)

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ (Chameleon Plant): A very aggressive ground cover that does well in shade but its brightest colors of red, pink, and yellow are brought out by some sun, contain or else! – (L)

Kirengeshoma (Yellow Waxbells): Large maple-shaped leaves on arching stems; yellow flower bells in late summer; needs moist organic soil – (D)

Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Lily Turf): Yellow and green variegated foliage contrasts nicely with blue flowers in late summer – (L)

Lysmachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (Yellow Creeping Jenny): This true creeper appreciates moist areas; some shade can reduce the glare of its yellow-gold leaves – (L)

Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ (Red Dragon Lace Plant): Chevron patterned leaves of purplish red, silver, and green; non-running and will accept a bit of shade – (L)

Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Solomon’s Seal): Uniquely variegated leaves are dark green with streaks of cream that appear to have been personally brushed on by Mother Nature – (D)

Polystichum setiferum ‘Proliferum’ (Soft Shield Fern): Long fronds spiral about the crown of this fern – could be marginally hardy, so place carefully – (D)

Pulmonaria (Lungwort) The foliage of lungworts hold up for the whole season and many new cultivars are appearing with wondrous spotting – flowers are a spring bonus – (M)

‘British Sterling’: Shows foliage that is both mottled with silvery white and has distinct spots; bright purplish-pink buds open to blue flowers in April

‘Cotton Cool’: This English introduction sports long blooming blue flowers over entirely silvered upright leaves

‘Sissinghurst White’: White flowers over broad silver spotted foliage

Solenostemon (Coleus): No, coleus are not perennials, but the selection of new varieties that refrain from rapidly going to flower and can tolerate sun or shade warrant the inclusion of this annual in many a shade garden. They definitely need moisture. This antique plant is gaining new prominence from such garden designers as Julie Nulph of Kent. Some of the included varieties are ‘Alabama Sunset’, ‘Morning Mist’, ‘Red Ruffles’, ‘Mama Mia’, ‘Religious Radish’, ‘Stained Glass’, ‘Flirtin’ Skirts’, ‘Metzger’s Torch’, ‘Lifelime’, ‘El Brighto’, ‘Camillia’, ‘Glennis’, ‘Solar Flare’, ‘Japanese Giant’, ‘Bronze Pagoda’, ‘Lemon and Lime’, ‘Collin’s Gold’, ‘Lime Frill’, and ‘Amazon’. – (D)

Tiarella ‘Herronswood Mist’ (Herronswood Mist Foam Flower): Layers of pink, cream and green settle like a mist over the broad leaves of this new tiarella from Dan Hinkley – (M)

Valeriana officinalis (Garden Heliotrope): Some may object to the spreading tendency of this old perennial herb, but the loose clusters of fragrant white flowers riding the wind above the ferny foliage can magnetize one’s nose – (L)

Article written by Bill Healy of William Healy Design, Akron, Ohio.

More Plants That Can Tolerate Shade

Ajuga (light to partial shade)
Andromeda (partial shade)
Azaleas (partial shade)
Bayberry, Northern (partial shade)
Beech, Tri-color (light shade)
Blueberry, Highbush
Bottlebrush Buckeye (partial shade)
Boxwoods (light shade)
Burning Bushes (light shade)
Cherry, Pawnee Buttes (partial shade)
Chokeberries (partial shade)
Daphne, Carol Mackie (light shade)
Dogwoods (partial shade)
Enkianthus (filtered sunlight)
Euonymus, Evergreen (partial shade)
Falsespirea, (light shade)
Ferns (partial shade)
Fir, Balsam (light shade)
Fir, Dwarf Balsam (light shade)
Fringetree, White (light shade)
Hazelnut, American (light shade)
Hazelnut, Harry Lauder’s Walkingstick (partial shade)
Heather (light shade)
Hollies (partial shade)
Honeysuckles (partial shade)
Hophornbeam (light shade)
Hornbeam, American (partial shade)
Hydrangeas (partial shade)
Inkberry (light shade)
Japanese Maple (filtered light)
Kiwi (partial shade)
Labrador Tea (partial shade)
Laburnum, Scotch (light shade)
Lambs Ear, Silver Carpet (partial shade)
Laurels (partial shade)
Magnolias (light shade)
Maples (light shade)
Mockorange (light shade)
Mulberry (light shade)
Ninebark (partial shade)
Quince (partial shade)
Redbud (light shade)
Stephanandra, Crispa (light shade)
Sumac, Gro-Low (partial shade)
Sweetshrub, Common
Twinspur, Coral Canyon (light shade)
Tupelo, Black (light shade)
Variegated Fiveleaf Aralia
Viburnums (partial shade)
Virginia Creeper
Winterberry, (light shade)
Wintergreen (partial shade)
Witchhazel, Common


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Spring is fast approaching and the time has come to choose perennials for your garden. Though this task may seem daunting at first, it is relatively simple once you decide what type of environment you wish to create.

Perhaps you are looking to create a secluded area where you can read your favorite book and enjoy the sounds of nature while remaining cool under the foliage.

To help develop a shade garden, you will want to make sure there is a good mixture of medium and large plants to help provide shade from the sun. To add color to your garden, you will need to stage the area.

Here are the best perennials to choose to create your relaxing environment in the shade.


When you plant astilbe in your garden, you will find that you have a plant with dense foliage and flowery blooms to help breathe life into your shade garden.

This perennial, generally a native of Asia with a few varieties (such as false goatsbeard) native to North America, is perfect when planted in a group and used along flower beds, or as a border edging.

The astilbe, which normally blooms in June or July, offers a variety of aesthetically pleasing colors like pink, red, purple, or peach. It ranges from 6 to 18 inches high.

What makes choosing this perennial perfect for your shade garden? How easy they are to grow. You only need to make sure the soil is soft, and rich in nutrients.

It is ideal to use mulch around these perennials not only to help keep the weeds down, but to help feed the plant as it slowly decomposes. An added bonus for astilbe is how little they are affected by insect or disease problems. You can read about growing astilbe in more detail here.


If you want to make a statement with your shade garden, foxglove is the perfect addition.

Though the individual blossoms on this plant are small, about the size of a thimble, they grow in glorious spiky clusters that bring life to every inch of your garden in various colors like white, yellow, pink, red, lavender, or purple.

The plant, which ranges from 1 foot tall up to 6 feet, starts to bloom during the summer months.

When you are planting foxglove you need to make sure they are planted 15 to 20 inches apart in moist soil. If they are placed too close together, the flowers have a tendency to clump together and will need to be divided by hand.

Just like astilbe, foxglove benefits from a solid mulch bed that helps make it the perfect perennial by being able to reseed itself on a yearly basis.

Keep in mind that foxglove is extremely poisonous, and should not be planted in gardens where young children play.

Virginia Blue Bells

Commonly found in the eastern half of North America, the Virginia blue bell is the perfect addition to any garden.

Though the blooms are short lived and tend to only last through the spring months, Virginia blue bells offer beautiful, full clusters of sky blue bell-shaped blossoms.

You should make sure to surround this perennial with other blooming plants that tend to come alive more in the later months.

When planting Virginia blue bells, you should keep them 12 inches apart during the initial stages. The biggest concern is to keep the soil rich with nutrients. These will benefit from additional fertilizer in moist soil.

As with foxglove, the Virginia blue bell propagates better by seed, and will be well nourished in a minimal mulch bed.

Like native blue flowers? Find more varieties here!

Lily of the Valley

Perhaps you want to add a shorter, spreading groundcover to your shade garden by planting a perennial that grows slowly, creating a thick carpet of green with fragrant flowers. If so, lily of the valley is ideal for your secluded space.

This variety offers a welcome sight with tiny, white, bell-shaped flowers that last from spring to late summer while offering a pleasing fragrance.

These perennials are the most likely to thrive when planted at the end of fall or very early in spring, kept in clumps no more than 4 inches apart.

The soil will need to be rich with nutrients and less acidic to help these plants provide a natural ground cover that lasts, especially in the northern states.

Just like the astilbe, the lily of the valley is very hardy when it comes to withstanding the affects of insects or disease. Be wary with kids or pets, as this plant is also poisonous.

Louisiana Iris

Perhaps you live in an environment where the conditions are not ideal for the majority of perennials, an area like Texas or Arizona with acidic soils and wet conditions in the fall and spring.

The Louisiana iris is the perfect solution to add color to your garden. The blooms grow on 2 to 3 foot stems and can be found in a variety of colors like blue, purple, pink, white, and dark red.

Though the Louisina iris is able to survive in tougher conditions, it still needs to be planted in moist soil. It can be sustained with fewer feedings than what is required for astilbe and foxglove.

If you are looking to add the perfect complement to the edge of a water garden, the Louisiana iris is a garden favorite, especially when in bloom during the summer months.

Take your time in chooing the right perennials for your shade garden, and you will enjoy them for years to come. And for more about different types of iris, check out our articles on the classic variety here, as well as some info on cutting back bicolor iris.

What are you favorites? Share with us in the comments.

Looking for more perennial flower suggestions? Try these:

  • 17 Temperate Flowering Perennials That Will Grow Almost Anywhere
  • 15 Flowering Ground Covers to Meet Landscaping Challenges
  • Perennials for Butterfly Gardens
  • 9 Best Full-Sun Flowering Perennials for Southern Gardens

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