Though shady garden areas have a reputation for being limited in the types of plants you can grow, there is actually a wide ranges of choices. Some shade-loving perennials are grown primarily for the ornamental foliage, while others are valued for their attractive flowers.

There are different types of shade, including morning shade, afternoon shade, filtered shade, or deep shade. The type of shade you have will help determine the best plants to grow. Create a dynamic landscape with season-long interest by adding some of these shade-loving perennials to your yard.

See more on Shade Garden Ideas & Design

PERENNIALS FOR SHADE

'Bridal Veil' astilbe. Photo: Proven Winners.

ASTILBE (Astilbe spp.)

Buy astilbe plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Full sun to shade; flowers best with partial sun
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 4 feet tall and wide
Bloom time: Summer

Also known as false spirea, showy flower plumes occur in colors of red, pink, purple, and white above lacy foliage. Astilbe prefers moist soil and blooms best with partial sun. Mass as a ground cover, plant in a woodland mixed border, or plant in containers. Learn more about growing astilbe plants.

Photo: mizy / Shutterstock.

BARRENWORT (Epimedium spp.)

Zones: 5-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Low spreading habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 36 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring

Delicate four-petaled flowers emerge in early spring in shades of orange, yellow, white, purple, or lavender. The green leaves, which are evergreen in milder regions, are heart or lance-shaped with bronze or red highlights. Barrenwort performs well in dry shady areas where little else will grow. Use in a woodland border, rock garden, underneath trees, or massed in the landscape.

Photo: jlf06 / Shutterstock.

BERGENIA (Bergenia spp.)

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Half day sun to shade
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide
Bloom time: Spring

Thick cabbage-like leaves, which stay evergreen in milder climates, turn bronze in cold weather, adding winter interest to the landscape. Upright clusters of bell-shaped pink, red, or white flowers occur in spring on robust stems. Mass in a woodland garden or use as edging along pathways or borders.

Valentine® old-fashioned bleeding heart. Photo: Proven Winners.

BLEEDING HEART (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

Buy bleeding heart plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Partial shade
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Late spring to early summer

Charming heart-shaped flowers in colors of pink, red, or white occur on graceful arching stems. Ferny green or gold foliage dies back in the heat of summer. Grow this long-lived perennial in a woodland border, cottage garden, or container. Learn more about growing bleeding heart plants.

Photo: Ken Druse.

COLUMBINE (Aquilegia spp.)

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Habit: Upright habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 36 inches tall, 8 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Mid spring to early summer

This endearing spring bloomer is distinguished by single or double open-faced flowers with backward facing spurs, and segmented leaflets that are deeply dissected. Flowers occur in colors of blue, red, yellow, pink, purple, white, black, or chocolate. Plant this self-sower in a woodland border, rockery, or cottage garden. Learn more about growing columbine.

Dolce® ‘Appletini’ in bloom. Photo: Proven Winners.

CORAL BELLS (Heuchera spp.)

Buy coral bells plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Late spring to early summer

Grown primarily for the foliage, coral bells come in a nearly endless array of colors, patterns, and forms. This durable perennial is tolerant of a wide range of light and soil conditions. Use in mixed borders, mass plantings and containers. Learn more about growing coral bells.

'Canary Feathers' corydalis. Photo: Proven Winners.

CORYDALIS (Corydalis spp.)

Buy 'Canary Feathers' corydalis from Proven Winners.

Zones: 5-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Mounding spreading habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, 6 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring to fall

Related to poppies, this diminutive shade lover thrives in cool, moist conditions. Corydalis is characterized by clusters of small funnel-shaped flowers in shades of cream, yellow, pink, or blue. The delicate ferny green, blue-green, or golden foliage is attractive on its own. Plant in a shady border, rock garden, or mass as a ground cover.

Proven Accents® Pink Chablis®. Photo: Proven Winners.

DEADNETTLE (Lamium spp.)

Buy deadnettle plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Low spreading habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 12 inches tall, 24 to 36 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring to summer, some with sporadic bloom into fall

This vigorous ground cover produces silver, white, gold, or variegated foliage that lights up shady areas. Hooded tubular flowers occur in colors of pink, white, lavender, or yellow. Use this quick growing creeper in difficult sites such as underneath trees or in dry shade. Plant as edging or in containers.

‘Cutting Edge’ foamflower. Photo: Proven Winners.

FOAMFLOWER (Tiarella spp.)

Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring to early summer

Native to North America, this woodland plant produces attractive lobed green or patterned foliage. Frothy white or pink flower spikes bloom for weeks in spring. Leaves stay evergreen year-round in milder regions, with many varieties developing vivid winter color. Use as a ground cover for dry shade areas, in rock gardens or containers.

Photo: Janet Loughrey.

FOXGLOVE (Digitalis spp.)

Zones: 3-8
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Habit: Upright spiky habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 6 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Late spring to summer

This classic cottage style favorite is grown for the tall spires of tubular flowers in shades of white, cream, pink, peach, orange, or yellow. While some are perennial, others are self-sowing biennials. Naturalize in a cottage garden or woodland border. Learn more about growing foxglove.

'Bottle Rocket' ligularia. Photo: Proven Winners.

LEOPARD PLANT (Ligularia spp.)

Buy 'Bottle Rocket' leopard plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Full sun to shade; flowers best with some direct sun
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 4 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer to early fall

Also known as golden groundsel, tall yellow or orange-yellow flower spikes brighten up darker areas in summer. The large rounded or palmate foliage in colors of green or purple is attractive throughout the growing season. Grow this moisture lover along a pond, stream, or boggy area, or in a woodland shade garden.

Wedding Party® ‘True Love’ hellebore. Proven Winners.

HELLEBORE (Helleborus spp.)

Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Habit: Compact, upright, or spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Winter to spring

One of the most popular winter blooming perennials, the cup-shaped flowers occur in a wide range of colors and patterns. Leathery lobed or toothed foliage stays evergreen in most climates. These long-lived perennials are virtually carefree once established. Use in a woodland border, mass plantings, or containers. Learn more about growing hellebores.

Shadowland® 'Autumn Frost'. Photo by: Proven Winners.

HOSTA (Hosta spp.)

Buy hosta plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 48 inches tall, 5 to 60 inches wide
Bloom time: Summer

One of the most popular shade perennials, hosta is a foliage plant that comes in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. Easy to grow and tolerant of difficult sites such as deep shade and underneath trees. Plant in a woodland setting, containers, mass in a border or along a slope. Learn more about growing hostas.

'Heaven Scent' Jacob's ladder. Photo by: Proven Winners.

JACOB'S LADDER (Polemonium spp.)

Buy 'Heaven Scent' Jacob's ladder plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Habit: Upright habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 36 inches tall, 6 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring

Named for the ladder-like plant structure, this erect perennial produces fern-like green or variegated leaves. Bell-shaped flowers come in shades of blue, white, purple, or pink. Grow in a woodland setting, rock garden, or mixed border.

'All Gold' Japanese forest grass. Photo by: Proven Winners.

JAPANESE FOREST GRASS (Hakonechloa macra)

Buy Japanese forest grass plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 5-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Mounding habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 2 feet tall, 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer; flowers are insignificant

One of the few ornamental grasses to thrive in shade, this elegant perennial produces gold, green, chartreuse, or variegated foliage that lights up darker areas. Color is most vivid with some sun. Add to a woodland border, mass in the landscape, or grow in containers.

'Crested Surf' Japanese painted fern. Photo by: Proven Winners.

JAPANESE PAINTED FERN (Athyrium nipponicum)

Buy 'Crested Surf' Japanese painted fern plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Habit: Upright arching habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide

Grown for the patterned foliage in shades of silver, green, and burgundy, this reliable perennial is useful for lighting up darker areas. Pairing well with many other woodland shade plants, Japanese painted fern is versatile in borders, mass plantings, as edging, or in containers. Learn more about different types of ferns.

Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY (Convallaria majalis)

Zones: 2-8
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Habit: Low spreading habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, 9 to 18 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring

This hardy carefree ground cover is regarded as a sure sign of spring, with sweetly scented bell-shaped white or pale pink flowers and lance-shaped green or variegated leaves. Lily-of-the-valley spreads quickly by rhizomes, filling in areas where little else will grow. Use underneath trees and shrubs or naturalize in a woodland setting. Learn more about growing lily-of-the-valley plants.

Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

LUNGWORT (Pulmonaria spp.)

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Habit: Mounding spreading habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Early to mid-spring

One of the earliest perennials to bloom, the blue, pink, coral, or white bell-shaped flowers emerge simultaneously with the lance-shaped green, silver, or spotted foliage. Lungwort prefers rich soil and regular moisture. Use in a woodland border, mass in the landscape, plant in containers by itself or in combination with other plants.

Photo by: Pavel Klimenko / Shutterstock.

PRIMROSE (Primula spp.)

Zones: 2-8
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Habit: Upright, mounding, or spreading habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 48 inches tall, 4 to 36 inches wide
Bloom time: Late winter to summer, depending on the variety

This popular spring bloomer comes in a wide range of flower colors including blue, pink, coral, red, orange, and yellow. Primrose prefers cool temperatures, rich soil, and moist conditions. Naturalize with other plants in a woodland setting, mass in the landscape, or add to containers.

'Jack of Diamonds' heartleaf brunnera. Photo by: Proven Winners.

SIBERIAN BUGLOSS (Brunnera spp.)

Buy Siberian bugloss plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-8
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 2 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Spring

Also known as false forget-me-not, the clusters of tiny blue flowers resemble true forget-me-nots. The attractive heart-shaped leaves are green, white, gold, or silver patterned, brightening up shady areas. Use this easy-care perennial in a mixed border, as edging, or in mass plantings.

Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

SOLOMON'S SEAL (Polygonatum spp.)

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Upright arching habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 4 feet wide
Bloom time: Spring

This native woodland perennial is grown for the tall, graceful, arching stems, lance-shaped green or variegated leaves, and creamy white tubular flowers. Use this vigorous spreader in difficult shady areas. Naturalize in a woodland setting, along a stream, or mass in the landscape.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

SPIDERWORT (Tradescantia spp.)

Buy purple spiderwort plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Full sun to shade
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide
Bloom time: Spring to summer

Spiderwort produces strappy green or gold foliage and petite three-petaled flowers in colors of blue, lavender, purple, pink, or white. The flowers, which last just one day, are attractive to butterflies and other insect pollinators. Plant this moisture lover near a pond or stream, or combine with other plants in a shade garden. Learn more about growing spiderwort plants.

Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

TOAD LILY (Tricyrtis spp.)

Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Habit: Upright habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall

This exotic looking perennial is grown for the speckled orchid-like blooms that grow on tall, elegant stems. Flowers occur in shades of purple, burgundy, pink, or white, while the lance-shaped foliage is green or variegated. Plant this late blooming moisture lover near a water feature or in a woodland border in combination with other plants.

Photo by: ikwc_exps / Shutterstock.

URN ORCHID (Bletilla spp.)

Zones: 5-9
Exposure: Partial sun
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 12 to 36 inches tall, 6 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Late spring to summer

Also known as Chinese ground orchid or hardy orchid, this exotic looking perennial produces delicate flowers in colors of pink, lavender, or white. For the greatest visual impact, mass this moisture lover in a bed, border, or rock garden. Grow in containers to enjoy the diminutive flowers up close.

Photo by: Kylbabka / Shutterstock.

WILD GINGER (Asarum spp.)

Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Habit: Low spreading habit
Height/Spread: 5 to 12 inches tall, 8 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring to summer

Wild ginger is a semi-evergreen groundcover grown primarily for the foliage. Leaves are round, heart, or lance-shaped, in shades of green, some with silver patterning. Tubular three-petaled flowers are inconspicuous, occurring beneath the foliage. Use underneath trees and shrubs, to edge borders and pathways, or in containers.

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