Horticulture Magazine

30 Perennial Flowers That Grow Well In Shade

pink coneflowers in shade

In this article, we will take a look at some of the best perennial flowers that grow in shade.

In any garden, one key thing essential to success is choosing the right plants for the right places.

The best perennial flowers that grow in shade are not the same as those that will grow best in full sun, for example.

First of all, you need to think about what type of shade you are looking at. 

Deep Or Partial Shade?

hosta, ferns and other plants under a shaded wall and tree

You might be looking for perennial flowers that will do well in deep shade, in a north-facing border for example.

Or you might be looking for perennial flowers that will bloom in partial shade, or in the dappled shade below trees and shrubs.

The type of shade in the location where the flowers will be planted is important. 

Damp Or Dry Shade?

damp shaded area in a forest

Another factor is whether you are looking at damp shade, or dry shade, since the moisture content of the soil will also be important in determining which plants are right for you. 

Of course, other characteristics of the soil will also come into play.

You should think about soil type, and whether it is moisture retentive and fertile, or particularly free draining.

Soil pH is another important factor to consider. 

In this article, we will explore how to choose the best perennial flowers for the shady sight in question, then go on to discuss thirty potential options that bloom throughout the different seasons of the year. 

Shady Perennials That Bloom In Spring

Let’s begin then, by looking at some of the excellent options to consider for spring.

These perennial flowering plants are all excellent choices for some colour and interest in the springtime months:

1) Aquilegia
yellow aquilegia flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: COLUMBINE
  • SUNLIGHT: PARTIAL OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: RICH, MOIST, FREE-DRAINING (NOT TOO WET OR DRY)
2) Bergenia
bergenia with pink upright flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: ELEPHANT’S EARS
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINING
3) Brunnera
blue flowers of Siberian bugloss
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: SIBERIAN BUGLOSS
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST BUT WELL-DRAINING
4) Daffodils
daffodils in a shaded under-tree area
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: NARCISSUS
  • SUNLIGHT: LIGHT OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: WELL-DRAINED
5) Lamium
pink flowers of lamium plant
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: DEAD NETTLES
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, FREE-DRAINING
6) Primroses
blue and purple primula flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: PRIMULA
  • SUNLIGHT: PARTIAL OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINED
7) Pulmonaria
common lungwort flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: COMMON LUNGWORT
  • SUNLIGHT: PART OR FULL SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINED SOIL

Shady Perennials That Bloom in Summer

Next, let’s take a look at some of the best perennial flowers for shade that will bloom during the summer months:

8) Acanthus mollis
Acanthus mollis in part shade
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: BEAR’S BREECHES
  • SUNLIGHT: PART OR FULL SHADE
  • SOIL: WELL-DRAINED
9) Alchemilla mollis
Alchemilla mollis foliage in dappled sunlight
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: LADY’S MANTLE
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, FREE-DRAINING
10) Astrantia maxima
pink largest masterwort flowers in focus
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: LARGEST MASTERWORT
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST BUT FREE-DRAINING OR POORLY DRAINED AREAS
11) Beesia calthifolia
Beesia calthifolia leaves in moist soil
Meneerke bloem, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: MARIGOLD-LEAVED BEESIA
  • SUNLIGHT: PART SHADE
  • SOIL: GOOD QUALITY, MOIST BUT WELL-DRAINED LOAM
12) Campanula persicifolia
purple Campanula persicifolia flowers with woodland in background
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: PEACH-LEAVED BELLFLOWER
  • SUNLIGHT: PART OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINED (NOT TOO WET OR DRY)
13) Comfrey
flowering comfrey plants in part shade
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: Symphytum officinale
  • SUNLIGHT: ANY
  • SOIL: MOST CONDITIONS
14) Hostas
hosta plant in dappled sunlight
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: PLANTAIN LILY
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST
15) Hydrangea anomala
white flowers of climbing hydrangea
16) Geraniums
pink groundcover cranesbill flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: CRANESBILL
  • SUNLIGHT: PART OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, FREE-DRAINING
17) Malva
common mallow flowers in pink and white
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: COMMON MALLOW
  • SUNLIGHT: PART OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, FREE-DRAINING
18) Meconopsis baileyi
Himalayan blue poppy close-up.
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: HIMALAYAN BLUE POPPY
  • SUNLIGHT: PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, FREE-DRAINING, NEUTRAL TO ACIDIC

Shady Perennials That Bloom In Autumn

As summer fades, there may be fewer blooms in your shade garden.

But here are perennial flowers for shade that will provide blooms into the autumn months:

19) Caryopteris x clandonensis
Bluebeard Heavenly Blue in focus
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: BLUE MIST BUSH
  • SUNLIGHT: LIGHT OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: ANY
20) Colchicum autumnale
violet autumn crocus in dappled shade conditions
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: AUTUMN CROCUS
  • SUNLIGHT: LIGHT OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: WELL-DRAINING
21) Corydalis
Corydalis in bloom in low light
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: BLUE CORYDALIS
  • SUNLIGHT: PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, FREE-DRAINING
22) Saxifraga fortunei
Saxifraga fortunei in woodland setting
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: FORTUNE SAXIFRAGE
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINED
23) Tradescantia
Tradescantia spiderwort with purple flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: SPIDERWORT
  • SUNLIGHT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINED

Shady Perennials That Bloom In Winter

Finally, even in winter, there are perennial flowers that will bloom – even in shady spots.

Here are some interesting options to consider:

24) Chaenomeles
red flowers of Japanese quince
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: JAPANESE QUINCE / FLOWERING QUINCE
  • SUNLIGHT: PARTIAL OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, FREE-DRAINING
25) Chionodoxa
purple and white Glory-of-the-snow flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: GLORY OF THE SNOW
  • SUNLIGHT: DAPPLED SHADE (WORKS WELL BENEATH TREES)
  • SOIL: ANY
26) Hellebore
pink hellebore flowers in shade
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: LENTEN ROSE
  • SUNLIGHT: PARTIAL OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINED, NEUTRAL TO ALKALINE
27) Mahonia
mahonia shrub with yellow flowers
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: WINTER SUN
  • SUNLIGHT: DAPPLED OR DEEP SHADE
  • SOIL: ANY
28) Snowdrops
white snowdrops in damp woodland setting
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: GALANTHUS
  • SUNLIGHT: PART SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST
29) Winter aconites
winter aconites flowering in yellow
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: ERANTHIS HYEMALIS
  • SUNLIGHT: PARTIAL SHADE
  • SOIL: MOIST, WELL-DRAINED
30) Witch hazel
branches of flowering witch hazel tree
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: HAMAMELIS
  • SUNLIGHT: LIGHT OR DAPPLED SHADE
  • SOIL: WELL-DRAINED, NEUTRAL TO ACIDIC

Tips When Choosing Perennial Flowers for Shade

Before you choose perennial flowers for shade, there are a number of questions you need to ask yourself. 

  • Are you looking at deep shade, partial shade or dappled shade?
  • What are the climate, microclimate and soil conditions like in your area?
  • What other plants are already growing close by?
    • This may determine not only which flowers will look good, but how well they will do.
    • Certain plants may compete with one another in detrimental ways, while others will benefit one another.
    • Looking at other plants could also give you clues about the environment, that might help you in making your decisions.

When creating any perennial planting scheme, it is best to start with observation, and an understanding of your site.

The better you understand your garden, the better equipped you will be to make the right plant choices.

It is also very important to consider your plan holistically – planning from the big picture down to the specifics.

Patterns & Colour Scheme

perennial planting scheme with clear colour scheme

Begin with the patterns before drilling down to the details of which individual plants you will choose. 

It can be helpful to determine a colour scheme and general tone or feel for the design.

Of course, this is important because it will help you work out whether plants will fit well within an ornamental scheme. 

It can also be a good idea to consider lighter, brighter flowers or foliage when planting up a more shaded area, as these will stand out better in lower light conditions. 

Benefitting Wildlife

bee harvesting pollen from hosta flower

But you should also think beyond aesthetics –

You could consider the broader benefits that perennial flowers can bring.

For example, they might be beneficial to the soil ecosystem and other plants growing nearby.

They might attract pollinators or other beneficial wildlife to your garden. 

In order to make your garden as wildlife-friendly as possible, it is a good idea to choose plants so that you have flowers in bloom for as much of the year as possible.

This means that nectar is available for insects all year round. 

Summary

There are, of course, many more options for perennial flowers for shade that might work well in your garden.

But the above list should give you a place to start when choosing the right plants for the right places in your garden. 

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