List of Plants for the Shade


An abundance of plants for the shade is available. The exceptional diversity of foliage colors in shade loving vegetation enhances any landscape design. Consider soil conditions and location when choosing plants. Be creative with heights, textures, shapes, sizes and colors for an attention-grabbing landscape.


  • Several groundcovers perform well in the shade. Choose less invasive plants, or they may crowd out others in the bed. Wild ginger's green heart-shaped foliage and slightly upright form add height. It prefers rich, moist soil. Ajuga, deadnettle and chameleon plant add colorful leaves and flowers. The first two need a well-drained soil, while the latter thrives in wet conditions. Grow lilly-of-the-valley for fragrance, texture and its spreading habit. It does best in moist soil, but tolerates dryness in deep shade. For an evergreen groundcover, look for spreading junipers. They need well-drained soil and can be planted in poor, rocky areas.


  • Look for variety when choosing shrubs for shade. Include Hydrangea macophylla for the flowers; which are large and range from blue to red. Hydrangeas generally require moist, well drained soil amended with compost. Plant rhododendrons for their flowers, but also for the evergreen leaves. They prefer an acidic soil that has good drainage. Pyramidal arborvitae is an evergreen that does well in deep shade, grows in nearly any soil and gives height to the landscape. Carolina allspice is a spicy scented shrub with red flowers. It grows in almost any soil but needs adequate amounts of water.


  • Numerous perennials thrive in shaded conditions. A common choice for its foliage and flowers is hosta. Select from several sizes and colors: Stained Glass, Elegans, Wide Brim and Krossa Regal are large-leafed varieties. Golden Tiara and Patriot are smaller variegated hostas. All do best in rich, moist and well-drained soil. Grow heucheras for the purple, yellow, and burgundy leaves. Heucheras have similar soil needs as hostas, but need winter mulch. Try columbine, bee balm and bleeding heart for distinctive flowers. While bleeding hearts prefer light soil, the others thrive in rich conditions. Hellebores are one of the earliest spring flowers that do well in partial shade and moist earth.


  • Annuals are useful in filling in empty areas of the landscape. Begonias are a popular choice for the shade. Their relatively small and rounded form, along with various colored leaves and flowers, allow them to fit into almost any landscape and soil. Impatiens balsamina have similar features to begonias, but it is more upright and needs moist conditions. Pick sapphire flower for their delicate blue flowers, spreading habit and adaptability. A low growing border plant for shade is the mosaic plant. The leaves are green pink, purple or variegated and it grows in adequately drained loam.

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  • Pictorial Library of Landscape Plants; M. Jane Coleman Helmer, PhD; 1988
  • Pictorial Guide to Perennials; M. Jane Coleman Helmer, PhD, Karla S. Decker Hodge, B.S.; 1996
  • NGA Plant Finder
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