Many people find shady spots challenging, but there are more options than you might think.  If you select the right plants, you can make the dark spots in your yard pop with color.

What grows best in your garden will be determined by your climate zone and soil type in addition to the amount of light it receives, but we wanted to include a few suggestions that have worked well for many gardeners.  

Shade-loving perennials include feather-like astilbesJacob’s ladder, coral bells and hostas.  Annuals include begonias and impatiens.  They come in many colors and varieties.

Astilbes range from red to white, soft pink and lavender.  Even when they are not in bloom, their delicate foliage continues to add interest.  

Coral bells are prized even more for their foliage than for their tiny bell-like flowers.  The leaves can be anything from bright green to maroon or purple, and many have lovely variegated patterns.

Jacob’s ladder flowers come in shades of blue, white and pink, but the varieties with creamy white and green leaves provide an especially nice contrast against the maroon or purple leaves of coral bells.



Also highly valued for their foliage, hostas are probably the most well-known shade plants.  Leave enough space to prevent overcrowding since many varieties spread.  You can make an attractive display by grouping different types together, including those with bluish-green leaves and white, yellow or light green stripes.   The tall white, blue or purple flowers are lovely when they are in bloom.

Lily of the valley and columbine are other beautiful flowers that do well in at least partial shade.

Once established, these perennials provide years of enjoyment with comparatively little work aside from regular watering. 

Annuals are wonderful for high impact locations. Begonias and impatiens come in a number of different colors, and both double begonias and double impatiens have the appearance of tiny roses. They are easy to find as hanging plants and make perfect choices for difficult spots like shady porches.  Ferns also make beautiful hanging shade plants.

Always check when purchasing a plant to see if it is tagged for full sun, part sun/part shade, or full shade.  In a garden center, shade plants are usually found under an awning of some type.  They are rarely the ones you see as you first arrive displayed out in the bright hot sun. (If they are, look for them in a few days in the distressed plant clearance section!)

For a day or two, observe your shady spot throughout the day to determine how shady it is before selecting your plants.  Is the shade caused by a building or is it dappled shade through trees?  Is it shady all day or just during certain times of the day?  If it is a wooded area, is there a patch of sunlight that makes it through the trees to even a small area where you would have more options?  

After you purchase a plant, place it where you plan to plant it for a day or so before planting it to see how well it does.  If it wilts even though you’ve given it the right amount of water, it might be in a spot that gets more or less sun than you thought.  Adjust accordingly.  

If it is a very dark spot (shaded on multiple sides by walls, for example), your best option might be decorative rocks, such as multi-colored pebbles and granite boulders, and garden art.  Mirrored or otherwise reflective pieces can also liven up the area, as can benches painted white, light yellow or in your favorite bright colors.  Soon that dark spot may become a welcome oasis from the summer’s heat.  
We hope these tips will brighten your little corner of the world!

Shade Garden - Pink Astilbe & Hostas