Shade Gardening With Perennials

Many gardeners with shady, low-light landscapes mistakenly believe they can’t enjoy beautiful gardens and flowerbeds because of the lack of sunlight. In reality, however, many stunning perennials thrive in shady spots and can bring elegance, color and beauty to what was formerly a drab corner of the yard. Some include stunning foliage, even variegated options or unusual shapes, while others have subtle yet beautiful blooms as well. Some even have dramatic stems and arching branches that can be lovely all year long.

Try some of these shade-loving perennials to brighten up your darker spots, whether they are beneath mature trees, tucked into hidden corners or just in less sunlit areas.

Perennials for Dry Shade…

  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’)*
  • Bishop’s Hat (Epimedium perralchicum, pinnatum, pubigerum)*
  • Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum, endressii, nodosum)*
  • Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)*
  • Deadnettle (Lamium maculaturm)*
  • Soloman’s Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum)*

Perennials for Cool, Moist Soils in Shade…

  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)**
  • Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’)**
  • Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium)**
  • Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)**
  • Marginal Shield Fern (Dryopteris marginalis)**
  • Epimedium grandiflorum, warleyense*
  • Lenten Rose (Helleborus viridus, orientalis)*
  • Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica)**
  • Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)**
  • Soft-Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’)**
  • Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)*
  • Toad Lily (Tricyrtis formosana)*
  • Toadshade (Trillium sessile, grandiflorum)**
  • Globeflower (Trollius europaeus)*

Perennials Groundcovers in Shade…

  • Bear’s Breech (Acanthus mollis)*
  • Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’)*
  • European Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum)*
  • Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)*
  • Variegated Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon ‘Florentinum’)*
  • Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’)*
  • Variegated Wood Rush (Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’)*
  • Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)*
  • Dwarf Periwinkle (Vinca minor)*
  • Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia ternata)*

Climbers for Shady Walls & Fences…

  • Akebia (Akebia quinata, trifoliata)
  • Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
  • Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloradus’)
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus)
  • Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’)
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenosis henryana, quinquefolia, tricuspidata)

*light shade
**medium to dense shade

When choosing your shade-loving perennials, be sure to take into consideration the size of the space you’re hoping to fill, the soil quality, moisture levels and whatever sunlight the area does receive. Plant them gently and care for them thoughtfully until the plants are well established and they will thrive. Carefully selected shade perennials can do well if they are well-matched to their location, and you’ll love the beauty and ease they add to your yard.