Shade Perennials

Replace annual impatiens with shade loving perennials for a low maintenance landscape.



These two astilbes, 'Heart and Soul' (right) and 'Boogie Woogie' (left) make excellent cut flowers. In the garden, they attract butterflies with their midsummer blooms.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Longfield Gardens

Image courtesy of Longfield Gardens

These two astilbes, 'Heart and Soul' (right) and 'Boogie Woogie' (left) make excellent cut flowers. In the garden, they attract butterflies with their midsummer blooms.

Brighten your yard’s shady nooks with shade loving perennials. These eye-catching plants strut their stuff when direct sunlight is off the menu. Shade perennials include plants that thrive in deep shade, as well as those that can hold their own in the dry shade beneath mature trees. Perennial shade flowers feature a variety of bloom colors and forms. Learn about shade tolerant perennials that will make your yard sparkle. 

In the garden, full sun is full sun, but shade is a matter of degrees. You may need shade perennials for the dappled sunlight beneath a tree with a high canopy. Or you might be sourcing shade loving perennials for the kind of deep shade that plagues the north side of a house. In temperate climates, deciduous trees create seasonal shade, offering sunlight in spring followed by summer shade. For these planting areas, you want perennials for shade that can take some early spring sun. 

You can choose from a host of shade perennials with beautiful foliage. Golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) infuses any shady spot with beautiful light, courtesy of its green and gold leaves that resemble a waterfall. Variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) splashes hues of green and white into shade plantings, and lungwort (Pulmonaria) offers silver shades. 

Hosta is probably the most popular of the perennials for shade. Its leaves might be oblong, strappy or even spoon shaped, and plant size varies from foot-size miniatures to wheelbarrow size clumps. Hosta offer a host of leaf colors and patterns, including variegated blends, solids and stripes. Some hosta have a seersucker leaf texture, while others are slick and smooth. These shade loving perennials can grow in even the deepest shade. 

For perennial shade flowers, try growing astilbe (Astilbe chinensis). Plant a mix of astibles, choosing ones that flower in early summer, midsummer and late summer for a parade of color all summer long. Astilbes have feathery, plume-like blooms that stand above ferny foliage. They pair well with goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), which puts out white feathery plumed flowers in summer. Goatsbeard prefers moist soil. When goatsbeard is happy, clumps multiply to create a hedge of fern-like leaves topped with white blooms. 

For spring color, plant what are known as ephemerals, plants that appear for a season, flower and then enter dormancy until the next year. Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are both spring ephemerals. These two shade perennials provide reliable color in a shady border. 

One of the toughest places for shade perennials to thrive is in the dry shade beneath established trees. If you’re dealing with that type of shade, focus on these perennial shade flowers: barrenwort (Epimedium), bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis), columbine (Aquilegia) and Lenten rose (Helleborus). Toss in some shade tolerant perennials that feature more of a foliage look, such as ferns, Liriope, monkshood (Aconitum napellus) or mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus).

Next Up

The Reluctant Botanist

Learn about a wildflower that is a favorite for shade gardens and was also an ancient disease remedy.

How to Grow Giant Leopard Plant

Wake up a shade garden with this bold and beautiful clumping perennial.

North-Facing Garden

Master gardener Paul James dresses up his mother's north-facing garden beds with hydrangeas, heucheras, ferns and other shade tolerant plants.

Hardy Begonia

The hardy begonia has red stems and starts blooming in late summer.

Four Grassy Options for the Shade

Four grasslike plants that thrive in shady gardens.

Shade Gardening Secrets

Learn how to choose shade-tolerant plants for your garden.

Annuals for Shade

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

7 Shrubs for Shade Gardens

See our favorite shrubs that flower and flourish in the shadows.

How to Grow Pachysandra

Meet one of the best groundcovers for shade that delivers evergreen color year round.

How to Grow Lily of the Valley

Dress up your yard’s shady spots with the fragrant blooms of an old-fashioned favorite.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.