Perennials That Thrive in Shade

These 8 great plants will add color to your shade garden and return year after year.

  • Dramatic Hosta


    This long-lived perennial is one of the top plants for shade. Valued for its seemingly endless variations of green, blue, cream and white foliage, hosta also produces tall lavender or white flower spikes in midsummer. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9

  • White Christmas Rose


    Nodding flowers in rich hues of cream, white, pink, maroon, rose and green appear in early winter to early spring, depending on the variety. The dark-green evergreen foliage remains attractive all year. Give this plant moist, rich, well-drained soil in dappled light to full shade. Best site: plant them on a shady slope where their flowers can best be appreciated from below. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9 (The Christmas rose is hardy to Zone 3.)

  • Bleeding Heart Branch

    Bleeding heart

    It's hard not to love rows of miniature dangling \"hearts\" in spring on a plant that needs virtually no maintenance year to year. The ferny foliage is beautiful but short-lived; place bleeding heart where its yellowing foliage in midsummer won't be a design buster. Moist, well-drained, rich soil in shade is a must; placing it in a wind-free area is good too. USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9

  • Japanese Painted Fern

    Japanese painted fern

    A colorful addition to the shade garden, this deciduous fern has glowing pewter-and-green fronds and red or purple stems. Give this plant moist, well-drained soil. It can handle some sun during the day if the soil stays consistently moist. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

  • Ajuga

    A fast-growing groundcover, ajuga has low-growing foliage and flower spikes in pink, white, blue or lavender. Plant 12 to 18 inches apart. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 10

  • Colorful Shade Garden


    This low-maintenance perennial is a must for any shade garden that can supply moist, rich, well-drained soil. In midspring, the graceful, feathery plumes in pink, red or white complement light green fern-like foliage. Plant in masses for maximum impact in the garden. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

  • Japanese reed grass

    The cascading golden and green foliage of variegated Japanese reed grass creates a bright splash for the shade garden. The stems occasionally turn shades of red and pink in the fall, then die back for the winter. Plant in moist, well-drained soil and don't worry about it taking over the garden: it's very slow-growing. USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 (with protection) to 9

  • Delicate Pink Peonies


    Showy flowers and heavenly fragrance make peonies a much beloved perennial for mid- to late-spring color in the garden. Typically best placed in an area with at least six hours of sun, the peony needs afternoon shade in warmer climates. The showy flowers can be vibrant shades of white, yellow, pink and red. Peonies are extremely long-lived plants; a 75- to 100-year lifespan isn't uncommon. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

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