22 Easy-to-Grow Annual Flowers That Thrive in the Shade

Brighten dark corners with the flower power of made-for-the-shade annuals.

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: SakataOrnamentals.com

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: SakataOrnamentals.com

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Begonia Mistral Yellow Container

Bring on the blooms with Mistral Yellow begonia. This sunny beauty is a type of Begonia boliviensis, which pumps out flowers all summer long. Showcase Mistral Yellow in a hanging basket or tall container. Plants form tubers that overwinter easily in the pot. Slip the pot into a non-freezing, cool, dark location for winter. Barely water once a month. Tubers start sprouting in spring, signaling it’s time to move the plant into bright light.

Hippo Rose Polka-Dot Plant

When leaves are this pretty, flowers aren't necessary! Hippo Rose polka-dot plant (Hypoestes) delivers outstanding color with contrasting shades of hot pink and deep green. Tuck this beauty into containers or use it to fill a planting bed with can’t-miss color. Pinch plants when young to increase branching. Plants grow 16" to 22" tall by 8" to 14" wide.

'Velvet Elvis' Plectranthus

In garden circles, plectranthus is known as the plant with a funny name that delivers big, strong color. 'Velvet Elvis' is no exception. Leaves offer a fuzzy touch with a deep green top and violet-purple underside. Lavender flowers rise on 4" spikes that last easily through the summer heat. Use 'Velvet Elvis' in pots or planting beds — pair it with 'Jack Frost' brunnera or 'All Gold' Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'). Plants grow 28" tall and 31" wide.

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is an old-fashioned annual that holds its own in a part shade spot, opening tiny, dainty white blooms with a sweet fragrance. Snow Princess (shown) updates that timeless beauty by giving sweet alyssum an ability to withstand heat and sun. Use Snow Princess in part shade to full sun as a spiller in containers, or count on it as a butterfly-attracting ground cover in beds. Plants grow 4" to 8" tall and up to 24" wide.

Gryphon Begonia and Impatiens

Unusual hand-shaped leaves with a striking color mix make Gryphon begonia a star for shade gardens. Avocado green leaves have maroon veins and are splashed with silver. Leaf undersides and stems also showcase maroon shades. It’s a natural for containers, easily filling the thriller role. It looks beautiful paired with red and white Super Elfin impatiens (shown). Gryphon does best in part to full shade, growing 18" to 24" tall and wide. In Southern zones, protect Gryphon from hot afternoon sun.

Lobelia And Nemesia Hanging Basket

This pretty pair of bloomers bridges the part shade to sun gap with non-stop flowers. Lobelia Sky Blue Erinus opens blossoms in soft blue, offering an eye-catching contrast to Sunsatia Lemon nemesia and its lemon yellow flowers. Both plants tend to stop flowering when night temps stay above 70 F. If this occurs, give plants a light trim to promote fresh, branching growth when temps cool off. Both plants grow 6" to 10" tall and spread at least 12" to 16". Choose these bloomers to fill the spiller role in containers or make a handsome hanging basket.

Red And Violet Fuchsia

Fuchsia is a showstopper in part to full shade conditions with its dangling, multi-colored flowers. 'Bellinto Compact Red And Violet' fuchsia delivers a classic pink and purple color combination in a small plant that’s perfect for pots. Plants grow 8" to 16" tall and 10" to 14" wide. Look for fuchsia in many different color pairings, including pastel pink and lavender, or white and red. Flowers also come in solid shades, such as orange or deep red. Fuchsia is a hummingbird magnet, so display plants where you can easily view them from indoors to watch the air show.

Coleus Container Garden

Coleus is an old-fashioned favorite for shady locations, and modern varieties deliver even more. This trio of ColorBlaze coleus boasts beautiful leaves on plants that don’t set flowers easily, which means no more endless deadheading. Mix and match coleus varieties for containers or planting beds by choosing complementary and contrasting leaf colors and patterns. Make sure the coleus you choose is not a full-sun variety if you’re growing it in the shade. Pinch out growing tips when plants are young to increase branching.

Caladium, Begonia and Ivy

Shady spots explode with color when you draft botany’s big guns for shade: caladium, begonia and ivy. This pot showcases classic container garden design. A white and green caladium stands in as thriller, with Dragon Wing Pink begonia as filler and green ivy as a spiller. It’s a blend that easily fits on any porch or deck to bring season-long color. Dragon Wing begonias are a shade all-star, strutting their stuff in part to full shade. These begonias are low maintenance, heat tolerant beauties that pump out flowers until fall’s first frost. This planting combination looks great in a pot but would transition easily to planting beds too.

Blue And White Torenia

For beautiful blooms that can’t be overlooked, plant 'Duchess Blue & White' torenia (Torenia fournieri 'Duchess Blue & White'. Also known as wishbone flower, this pretty annual makes a striking filler in containers or edging along a planting bed. Plants grow 6 inches tall and up to 10 inches wide. Pinch out growing tips on young plants to increase branching, which means more flowers. Look for torenia that opens blossoms in hues of pink, lavender, yellow and white. 'Duchess' torenia has been specifically developed to flower strongly in full shade.

Kong Salmon Pink Coleus

Color explodes on the leaves of Kong Salmon Pink coleus. Bright lime-green leaves unfurl to reveal bubble gum pink splotches and burgundy etched veins. Each leaf is a work of art. This coleus struts its stuff best in full shade but also sparkles in part sun. Large leaves make Kong Salmon Pink a strong choice for landscape designs or large containers. Plants grow 18" to 20" tall and 15" to 18" wide.

Picotee Tuberous Begonia

For long-lasting color in shade to part sun, tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberosa) brings the goods. Plants offer deep-green leaves accented with larger-than-life flowers in hues from white, to sunny orange, to bicolor blends. Picotee-type blooms feature white petals edged in a different hue, like this red-edged AmeriHybrid tuberous begonia with flowers measuring 4" to 8" across. This beauty was bred by Golden State Bulb, a fifth-generation family business that grows tuberous begonias. Plants grow 14" to 20" tall and 10" to 12" wide. Tuberous begonias flower non-stop in Zones 9 to 11. In other zones, dig tubers and store for winter.

White Browallia

Give your shady spots some sparkle with the endless flowers of white browallia. Also known as bush violet, this tropical bloomer thrives in heat. Pinch plants when young to increase branching — and flower numbers. Once browallia starts blooming, there’s no need to remove spent blossoms to keep the flower show going strong. Bush violet grows best in full shade; avoid giving plants full sun. Look for varieties with purple flowers. Plants grow 12" to 16" tall and 10" to 14" wide.

SunPatiens

Vigorous and versatile, SunPatiens take traditional impatiens to the next level with plants that thrive in shade or sun. SunPatiens is the result of a cross between two different impatiens species: New Guinea impatiens and traditional shade-loving impatiens walleriana. The result is a plant that grows in shade or sun and stands up to high temperatures with ease. Plants add color to the garden or pots from spring through fall’s hard frost. Variegated leaves dazzle in shady settings. Plants grow 14" to 28" tall and 14" to 24" wide. This variety is Tropical Rose Sunpatiens.

Fantastic Foliage

When leaves bring the color, the show never stops. These gorgeous foliage plants fill shady pots or planting beds with season-long good looks. One way to create an eye-catching display is to plant pots with one type of shade-loving annual. Cluster the pots together to create a striking garden tableau. This shade garden features (clockwise from bottom center): glowing gold millet grass (Milium effusum), Kong Red coleus, a hanging basket of Emerald Falls dichondra, Chocolate Mint coleus and Kong Rose coleus. These plants all grow best in full shade to part sun.

'Purple Knight' Alternanthera

Take your yard to the dark side by adding a drift of 'Purple Knight' alternanthera (Alternanthera dentata). This easy-growing annual thrives in whatever weather summer throws at it — heat, humidity, thunderstorms or drought. Use 'Purple Knight' to deliver color to planting beds, or tuck it into a container design where it happily plays a thriller or filler role. If you like to gather garden bouquets, include this dark-leafed beauty in your plant palette. Stems make a pretty addition to a vase. Pinch plants when young to increase branching. Leaf color is darkest in full sun, but plants adapt well to part sun or part shade conditions. Plants grow 18" to 36" tall and 24" to 36" wide.

Double Impatiens

If impatiens are your go-to favorite for shade gardens, check out double impatiens like the Rockapulco series, including Appleblossom (above). Double impatiens unfurl rose-like blooms that blanket plants all summer long. There's no need to remove spent flowers, and plants never need trimming, unless you want to do so to maintain a certain size. Plants flower best in full to part shade. Look for Rockapulco varieties with blossoms in shades of orange, orchid, purple, red and white. Plants grow 10" to 20" tall and 12" to 24" wide.

Trailing Snapdragon

Tall, upright snapdragon takes a tumble in this beautiful trailing form. Candy Showers snapdragon is a trailing type that creates a stunning hanging basket or eye-catching spiller plant in a container. Or use it to fill a planting bed with season-long color. Flowers open in shades of purple, yellow, red, orange and rose on plants that grow 12" to 24" long. This snapdragon tolerates summer heat and sun, but also stages a strong show in shade.

Waterfall Blue Lobelia

Blue is a coveted hue in most gardens, and lobelia delivers with season-long blooms. Waterfall Blue unfurls light blue blossoms, while other lobelia varieties open flowers in shades of purple, white, pale blue and bicolor blends. This pretty annual shines in hanging baskets or containers, where its trailing stems cascade to form waterfalls of blue. Grow it in part shade to full sun. In hotter regions, definitely give plants shade during the hottest part of the day. Trim plants to encourage a fresh flush of flowers, especially if summer heat causes them to look straggly. Lobelia flowers beckon butterflies and hummingbirds. Plants grow 8" to 12" tall and 24" to 30" wide.

Flowering Tobacco

Star-shaped blooms beckon butterflies and moths on flowering tobacco plants. An old-fashioned plant, this annual tolerates heat and humidity. Flowers produce a sweet floral perfume that’s more pronounced at dusk. Flowering tobacco is also known as Nicotiana, and this type is Avalon Mix. It’s the most dwarf variety available, growing 7" to 10" tall and 10" to 12" wide. Flowers open to 1-1/2" across and come in shades of lime, pink, lime purple, red and white.

Caladium

For colorful leaves that thrive in shade, it’s tough to beat caladium. This variety, Artful Fire and Ice, unfurl leaves that look like a painter crafted them with splashes of green, pink, rose and white. Give caladiums a spot in full to part shade, although in northern gardens, plants can withstand more sun. Keep soil consistently moist for best growth and color. You’ll know you’re failing if leaves turn yellow and drop. Fire and Ice caladium grows 18" to 30" tall and 12" to 18" wide. The other annuals in this container thrive in part shade: Diamond Frost euphorbia and Black Cherry Supertunia.

Magilla Perilla

Formally known as Magilla purple perilla, it’s okay to shorten the name of this shade-loving plant to Magilla perilla, just because it’s fun to say. It’s a coleus lookalike, but the similarities stop there. Unlike coleus, Magilla perilla branches easily to form a full plant that’s packed with multicolored leaves. It’s also extremely heat and cold tolerant, which means it stands up to summer sizzle and fall’s chilly nights. Use it in containers or to bump up the color quotient in landscape beds. Plants grow quickly to achieve their full size: 24" to 36" tall and 12" to 18" wide.

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