What Flowers Grow Best in the Shade

Brighten dark corners of your yard with annual and perennial bloomers that are made for the shade.

August 27, 2019
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Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: TerraNovaNurseries.com

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Photo by Edward Lyon / Courtesy Timber Press

Photo By: Image courtesy of PerennialResource.com

Photo By: PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

Photo By: PerennialResource.com


Meet one of the shade garden’s toughest characters: hellebore. This hearty little plant sprouts through ice and snow to flower from late winter to early spring. Flowers come in any hue you can dream up, including rose, white, almost black, gold and freckled blends. Hellebores are sometimes called Lenten roses, because they bloom around the Lent season. Plants are drought-tolerant once established. Hardy in Zones 6-9.


Few flowers dress up full to part shade like fuchsia. Annual varieties make perfect container plants and are often sold as hanging baskets. Flower buds frequently unfurl dual-toned blooms, including pink and purple, pastel pink and lavender, or white and red. Flowers also come in solid shades, such as orange or deep red. Many varieties are annual, but look for hardy varieties to use in planting beds in Zones 6-9.


Add some blue to your garden’s shady spots with ‘Blue Heron’ corydalis, which flowers from late spring through midsummer. Red stems and blue-green leaves complete the color show. Mark where you plant this perennial, because high heat or drought sends plants into dormancy. Hardy in Zones 6-8.

Dragon Wing Begonia

Large oval leaves earn ‘Dragon Wing’ its name. Tall arching stems give this plant a fountainous look that’s perfect in a container. In planting beds, ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia forms a dense mound 15 to 18 inches tall and wide. This begonia is a Dallas Arborteum Flameproof Plant, which means it can take the heat without missing a blooming beat. Look for varieties that open flowers in red, pink or white. Annual.

Sweet Woodruff

Transform dry shade with a gorgeous ground cover of sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). Whorled leaves resembling tiny umbrellas beg touching and release a pleasant scent if crushed underfoot. White flowers blanket the plant in spring. Sweet woodruff grows in deep shade. It spreads by runners, so can run amok quickly in ideal conditions. Otherwise, it’s a plant-it-and-forget-it ground cover. Hardy in Zones 4-8.


Many gardeners plant brunnera (common name Siberian bugloss) for the silvery leaf shades available in varieties like this popular ‘Jack Frost’. These silvery leaves deliver season-long color that brightens the shade garden. But spring delivers another surprise—tiny blue flowers. Brunnera leaves are hairy, which makes them slug-, rabbit- and deer-resistant. Hardy in Zones 3 to 10.


For shady soil that stays moist, astilbe is a go-to plant. It unfurls feathery flowers in a paint box of hues, including pink, red, white, yellow and purple. Different varieties flower at different points through the summer, so with a little planning you can have astilbe blooming all summer. Plants are deer- and rabbit-resistant. Hardy in Zones 4-9.

Tuberous Begonia

Fill shady containers with the long-lasting blossoms of tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberosa). Deep green leaves contrast artfully with larger-than-life flowers in hues that include white, orange, pink, red and bicolor blends. Keep soil consistently moist and feed plants weekly for a strong show. Tuberous begonias flower non-stop in Zones 9 to 11. In other zones, dig tubers and store for winter.

Toad Lily

Trouble-free and beautiful, Japanese toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) opens exquisite orchid-like blooms from late summer through early fall. On mature plants, stems are literally covered with 1-inch-wide blossoms. Some toad lilies spread quickly, which means you should plant them where they can’t overtake prized plantings. For non-aggressive toad lilies, look for the ‘Miyazaki Hybrids.’ Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Old-Fashioned Bleeding Heart

An old-fashioned favorite, bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) opens dainty blossoms in mid- to late spring. Deer ignore this plant, which thrives in humus-rich soil with part shade. Leaves often disappear as plants enter a summer dormancy, especially in warmer zones. In cooler regions, leaves may linger to late summer. Hardy in Zones 3-9.

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