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28 Shade-Loving Plants That Are Made for a Tree-Lined Garden

There's a reason impatiens are so popular.

Daydreaming of your next garden? Even if yours is mostly shady, you still can fill it with color. Many pretty plants will do fine under a large shade tree or in flower beds, hanging baskets, and containers throughout your garden. But before planting, pay attention to how much shade you have. Full shade means three hours or less of direct sun, while partial shade equals three to six hours. Some shade lovers, such as flowering shrubs, bloom best with some sun (preferably in the morning because the hot afternoon sun isn't a friend to shade lovers). And if you're planting shrubs or perennials, which come back every year, make sure they're suited to your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). After all, there's no sense investing in plants that won't have a fighting chance in your garden!

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Below, find 28 shade-loving plants to brighten up any dark spot in your garden.

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1 Hostas
hosta "moon river"
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Mainly a foliage plant, Hostas are perfect for shade gardens with moist soil. They come in various sizes from as mini as 4 inches to as big as 6 feet long. But beware: Deer, rabbits, slugs, and snails love these plants. If there are lots of deer near where you're thinking about planting them, you might want to reconsider!

Varieties to try: Sum and Substance, Mouse Ears


2 Begonia
the forbidden city
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Begonia, which boasts hundreds of species, can typically be found climbing up walls or blooming in hanging baskets—and they're always basking in the shade.

Varieties to try: Cane, Wax, Angel-Wing


3 Ligularia
leopard plant or ligularia
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Ligularia, sometimes called the leopard plant, boasts a large leaf structure and makes for a great option in shade gardens. Some varieties like The Rocket feature stunning yellow-orange flowers. Generally, they love shade to partial shade and plenty of water.

Varieties to try: Britt-Marie Crawford, The Rocket, King Kong


4 Viola
purple and yellow flower
bluestone perennials

There are more than 500 different species of Viola. They prefer full sun to partial shade depending on the species, so make sure to double-check which one you buy before planting them in your shady garden.

Varieties to try: Johnny Jump-Up, Penny Purple Picotee


5 Toad Lily
tricyrtis hirta toad lily
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Looking for a gorgeous, lively addition to your garden? Try adding toad lilies. These flowers bloom from later summer to early fall and prefer partial to full shade. They require well-drained soil and are even available in a mini size.

Varieties to try: Raspberry Mousse, Purple Beauty


6 Asarum Canadense
asarum canadense canadian ginger a maine native plant
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This perennial, commonly known as wild ginger, prefers light to deep shade. Its green, heart-shaped leaves will brighten up any dull garden. Bonus: Hidden underneath the Asarum Canadense's big leaves are tiny purple-brown flowers.

Varieties to try: Canadian wild ginger, Chinese wild ginger


7 Primrose
spring, primrose bloom
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Primrose, or Primula vulgaris, is a flowering plant that's part of the family Primulaceae, and it's native to northwest Africa, western and southern Europe, and parts of southwest Asia.

Varieties to try: Drumstick Primula, Round-Headed Himalayan Primrose, Giant Cowslip


8 Epimedium
epimedium grandiflorum

Also known as fairy wings because of their unique flower shape, Epimedium enjoys partial to full shade and blooms from mid to late spring.

Varieties to try: Candy Hearts, Pink Champagne, Lilafee


9 Brunnera
at skillin's greenhouses in falmouth, close up of a heart leaf brunnera, a perennial, reveals brilliant
Portland Press HeraldGetty Images

Often used as groundcover, this perennial is known for its tiny blue flowers that bloom in the spring. They're ideal for a semi-shaded border or along a pond edge.

Varieties to try: Jack's Frost, Silver Heart, Alexander’s Great


10 Corydalis
bulbous corydalis
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Whether you go for a bright pink shade or deep purple, you can't go wrong with corydalis. These plants are a solid option for any shade garden. The tubular, light-scented flowers bloom in the spring.

Varieties to try: Blue Panda, Fumewort


11 Dicentra
findhorn ecovillage
Yuriko NakaoGetty Images

Known as Bleeding Heart, these charming flowers are shade-loving, low-maintenance, and offer romantic beauty. Keep the perennials in well-drained soil in your spring garden.

Varieties to try: Valentine, King of Hearts, Aurora


12 Spiderwort
DEA / C. DANIGetty Images

This spring-blooming plant features long leaves and blue-purple flowers. It's perfect for planting in a partially shaded area of your garden and prefers moist yet well-drained soil.

Varieties to try: Amethyst Kiss, Red Grape


13 Hellebores
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These gorgeous perennials look delicate but are tough as nails! They bloom in late winter to early spring, sometimes popping through the snow. They're available in a profusion of colors ranging from pure white to deepest pinks and every color in between to almost black.

Varieties to try: Apricot Blush, Cherry Blossom


14 Heuchera
heucherella 'alabama sunrise'
ullstein bildGetty Images

Heuchera, also known as Coral Bells, is one of the most versatile perennials. It'll grow in any amount of sunlight, from full shade to full sun. It's best to grow the plant in an area that has average moisture and offers partial shade.

Varieties to try: Citronelle, Color Dream


15 Impatiens
impatiens in a park in oslo, norway
Wolfgang KaehlerGetty Images

These annuals are one of the only plants that will put on a floral display in full shade. Downside: Some types are susceptible to powdery mildew, a devastating disease that kills the plants and overwinters in the soil for years! If you've had problems in the past, look for other types (such as New Guinea impatiens) and new hybrids that are more disease-resistant.

Varieties to try: Cherry Splash, Infinity Cherry Red


16 Oakleaf Hydrangea
oakleaf hydrangea
Mark TurnerGetty Images

This gorgeous shrub produces oodles of impressive flowers from early summer to fall. It prefers morning sun and afternoon shade. Bonus: It's the only type of hydrangea that offers gorgeous autumn color with its foliage.

Varieties to try: Gatsby Pink, Gatsby Star


17 Astilbe
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Astilbe needs shade so its pretty flower plumes won't fry in the sun. Plant these perennials in drifts, or clumps, for best effect with other spring-flowering shade-lovers such as ferns and hellebores. It comes in many shades including pale pink, creamy white, and hot pink.

Varieties to try: Younique Carmine, Rise and Shine


18 Ferns
various shades and shapes of green from the hills and forests of connemara, galway, ireland i have been exploring the essence of the irish green for a long time and i am still amazed by the intensity and contrast of the colour green that i have discovered here and nowhere else, in no other country 
i am completely in love with the deep rich tones of this green and the amazing shapes it comes with
this is a nature study of colours and shapes from the deep hidden places of connemara, galway, ireland
Annie JapaudGetty Images

There's a reason ferns are often found in moist, shady forests: Their favorite environment is where there's light shade provided by tree branches. These perennials come in an array of lovely, lacy forms and spread to form a beautiful ground cover in time. Make sure you choose a variety that can survive winters in your climate.

Varieties to try: Autumn, Japanese Painted


19 Caladium
red and green leaves
Proven Winners

The huge, heart-shaped leaves are what make this plant so stunning! Some newer types take sun, so read the plant label to be sure about what you have. They're perennial in warm climates (zone 10 or warmer) but bring indoors in winter in cold climates to enjoy as a houseplant.

Varieties to try: Heart to Heart Blushing Bride, White Christmas


20 Bletilla
bletilla striata, commonly called chinese ground orchid or hyacinth orchid, is a terrestrial orchid which produces small, cattleya like, pinkish purple flowers in 3 7 flowered racemes atop naked scapes blooms mid to late spring each pseudobulb produces 3 5 sword shaped, pale green leaves
Photos from Japan, Asia and othe of the worldGetty Images

Bletilla, also called ground orchid, is a stunning low-maintenance addition to any garden. Protect plants from the harsh afternoon sun if you want them to look their best. Plant the bulbs the previous fall for spring blooms.

Variety to try: Striata


21 Dead Nettle
pink and green flowers
proven winners

The unglamorous name of this perennial is distracting because it's actually a pretty, reliable ground cover that needs almost zero care. Dead nettle, also called Lamium, has silvery or variegated foliage with white, yellow, pale pink, or purple blooms.

Varieties to try: Pink Chablis, Purple Chablis


22 Torenia
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This pretty annual prefers morning sun and afternoon shade—and it'll reward you with a longer bloom period. Torenia, also called the wishbone flower, is a favorite of hummingbirds. Plant it in baskets or window boxes for best effect.

Varieties to try: Catalina Gilded Grape, Summer Wave Large Blue


23 Lily of the Valley Shrub
flowering lily of the valley shrub in bloom
Catherine McQueenGetty Images

This stunning shrub is one of the first to bloom in spring. Its blooms are very long-lasting, and it's one of the few shrubs that really puts on a show in the shade. It can take some morning sun.


24 Foamflower
patch of blossoming foamflowers cottage garden in spring
Maria MosolovaGetty Images

Foamflower, also called tiarella, is a cold-hardy perennial that blooms with masses of frothy flowers in early spring. If you want these delicate flowers to look their best, make sure plants are located in part to full shade, especially in more southern zones.

Varieties to try: Cutting Edge, Elizabeth Oliver


25 Coleus
red and yellow plant
proven winners

These gorgeous annuals are grown primarily for their striking leaf colors that range from lime green to deep red with tiny flower spikes in summer. Coleus typically likes shade, but some newer varieties will tolerate sun. Read the plant label to be sure.

Varieties to try: Royale Apple Brandy, Chocolate Splash


26 Lobelia
lobelia in hanging basket
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This sweet annual looks best cascading from baskets and containers. Lobelia doesn't like the heat, so make sure it's in full shade and keep it watered. If it starts to look shaggy in mid-summer, trim back, and it will rebound in the cooler weather of fall.

Varieties to try: Laguna Dark Blue, Laguna Ultraviolet


27 Fuchsia
close up macro image of the beautiful hanging summer flowers of the pink and purple fuchsia flowers against a soft colourful bokeh background
Jacky Parker PhotographyGetty Images

This eye-catching annual drapes beautifully from pots and hanging baskets and blooms all season long. Hummingbirds will flock to fuchsia's gorgeous flowers in purples, pinks, and whites! Keep this plant in full shade.

Varieties to try: Dark Eyes, Billy Green


28 Japanese Forest Grass
ornamental grass hakonechloa macra 'aureola' golden hakonechloa
Jacky Parker PhotographyGetty Images

Hakonechloa macra (or Japanese forest grass) is a perennial grass plant that's native to wet climates, including those that boast mountains, cliffs, and forests.

Varieties to try: All Gold, Naomi, Nicolas


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