Annuals for Shade

Discover some of the best shade annuals, and learn tips for choosing these shady characters.

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'Olivia' features delicate peachy pink petals. This particular begonia is extremely vigorous and floriferous. 


'Olivia' features delicate peachy pink petals. This particular begonia is extremely vigorous and floriferous. 

'Olivia' features delicate peachy pink petals. This particular begonia is extremely vigorous and floriferous. 

Brighten dark corners with shade loving annuals. These plants thrive in lower light and offer colorful flowers and foliage that can add some sparkle to your yard’s shady spots. Before investing in annuals for shade, study sun patterns in your proposed planting areas. Some shade annuals require deeper shade to flourish, while others boast a slightly sunnier disposition and withstand some direct sun for a brief time. 

As you explore annuals for shade at the garden center, you’ll see a variety of light descriptions on plant tags. Some shade annuals may thrive in part shade. This means plants should receive three to six hours of sun per day. Ideally, that sun should occur during the morning hours, and plants should be bathed in shade when the hot afternoon sun is at hand. Part shade might describe the area beneath a tree or beside a building that casts a shadow during the afternoon. 

Full shade annuals sparkle when they receive less than three hours of direct sun per day. These shade loving annuals typically faint if exposed to direct sun during the balance of the day. Instead, they crave filtered or dappled sunlight like you would find beneath a mature tree or along the north side of a building. 

Regionally, annuals for shade usually need protection from hot afternoon sun in southern locations, but may be able to withstand full sun in the cooler, cloudier climate of the Pacific Northwest. A local garden center can help you understand the idiosyncrasies of your particular region. 

Many annuals for shade include plants with striking foliage colors and patterns, like caladium, coleus and polka-dot plants. These beauties unfurl a variety of leaf colors and patterns, including shades of pink, white, burgundy and chartreuse. Magilla perilla resembles coleus, but doesn’t form flower spikes and withstands lower temperatures than coleus. Angel wing begonia brings silver and rose tints to shady spots, while Limone jewels of Opar (Talinum) glows in electric lime in part shade areas. 

Annuals for shade include the lavender-toned browallia and wishbone flower (Torenia), along with a rainbow of colors in Nemesia and monkeyflower (Mimulus). Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana) opens blossoms in rose, burgundy, chartreuse and white. Count on lobelia to bring on blue, white and rose hues, and Dragon Wing begonias to form shrub-like plants covered with red, orange or coral blossoms. Wax begonias also thrive in shade and offer green or burgundy leaves with a host of flower colors. New Guinea impatiens are another strong shade loving annual that boasts a variety of blossom hues and some leaf variation. 

Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) has been the go-to shade annual for years. It’s tough to beat that shade lover for a non-stop flower show in nearly any hue imaginable. A recent disease outbreak of impatiens downy mildew across the country has required some gardeners to abandon impatiens. Learn about this disease if you typically fill your shady areas with billows of impatiens.

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