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. But even if you know that you are looking for plants that grow well in shade, there are still other things to consider.

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

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. 

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. 

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. 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 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. 

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. 

Best Perennials For Shade That Bloom In Spring

blue flowers of Siberian bugloss
Siberian Bugloss

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:

  • Aquilegia (partial/ dappled shade, rich, moist but free draining soil (not too wet or too dry).)
  • Bergenia (e.g Elephant’s ears – full or partial shade, moist but well drained soil.)
  • Brunnera (Siberian bugloss – full or partial shade, moist but well drained soil.)
  • Daffodils (spring ephemeral, dappled or light shade, well-drained soil.)
  • Lamium (dead nettles – full or partial shade, moist but well drained soil.)
  • Primroses (Primula – partial or dappled shade, moist but well drained soil.)
  • Pulmonaria (common lungwort – full or partial shade, moist but well drained soil.)

Best Perennials For Shade That Bloom in Summer

Himalayan blue poppy close-up.
Himalayan Blue Poppy

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

  • Acanthus mollis ( Bear’s breeches – full or partial shade, well-drained soil)
  • Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle – full or partial shade, moist but free draining soil)
  • Astrantia maxima (Largest masterwort – full or partial shade, moist but free draining soil or poorly drained areas)
  • Beesia calthifolia (Partial shade – good quality moist but well drained loam.)
  • Campanula persicifolia (Partial or dappled shade, moist but well drained soil.)
  • Comfrey (very unfussy, copes with most soil conditions.)
  • Hostas (most do best in full to partial shade, in moist conditions.)
  • Hydrangea anomala (full to partial shade, moist but well drained, neutral to acid soil.)
  • Geraniums (Cranesbill – partial to dappled shade, moist yet free draining soil.)
  • Malva (Several species cope with dappled/ partial shade well, moist yet free draining soil.)
  • Meconopsis baileyi (Himalayan Blue Poppy – Partial shade, moist, free-draining, neutral to acid soil.)

Best Perennials For Shade That Bloom In Autumn

Bluebeard Heavenly Blue in focus
Blue mist bush

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:

  • Caryopteris x clandonensis (Blue mist bush – light/ dappled shade, most soil conditions.)
  • Colchicum autumnale (Autumn crocus – Light/ dappled shade, well drained soil.)
  • Corydalis (Partial shade, moist but free draining soil.)
  • Saxifraga fortunei  (Full or partial shade, moist but well-drained soil conditions.)
  • Tradescantia (Spiderwort) (Full or partial shade, moist but well-drained soil.)

Best Perennials For Shade That Bloom In Winter

purple and white Glory-of-the-snow flowers
Glory of the snow

Finally, even in winter, there are perennial flowers that will bloom – even in shady spots. Here are some interesting options to consider:

  • Chaenomeles (Japanese quince/ flowering quince – partial/ dappled shade, moist to free draining soil.)
  • Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow – Dappled shade beneath trees.)
  • Hellebore (Lenten Rose) (Partial to dappled shade, moist but well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil.)
  • Mahonia (e.g. ‘Winter Sun’ – Dappled to deep shade, most soil conditions.)
  • Snowdrops (Partial shade, thrives in relatively moist conditions.)
  • Winter aconites (Partial shade, well drained to moist but well drained conditions.)
  • Witch hazel (Light/ dappled shade, well-drained neutral to acid soil.)

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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