6 Perennial Flowers That Thrive in Shade - Backyard Boss
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6 Perennial Flowers That Thrive in Shade

Gardeners of all skill levels eventually find themselves looking for plants that fill the shady spaces of their gardens. While these areas can seem to pose some growing challenges, many perennial flowers fit this type of space beautifully! Do not let a lack of sunlight stop you from creating a stunning garden space!

Defining Your Shade

Hosta with flowers under a tree
Image credit: Hans via Pixabay

Before heading to the nursery for your new shade loving plants, it’s important to note that not all shade is equal. Understanding the varying levels of shade and sunlight that your space experiences, whether it’s a partial shade or full shade, is crucial for your gardening success!

Partial shade is an area that experiences shade for more than half the day, with approximately two hours of direct sunlight per day. The sunlight it does receive is typically cooler morning sun, not the hot afternoon sunlight. On the other hand, full shade is a space that receives less than an hour of direct sunlight during the day.

Perennials That Thrive in the Shade

Once you have an understanding of the type of shade you are dealing with, take a look at this list of perennial flowers that thrive in low light and take the guesswork out of your shade garden designs!


Mulching Hostas
Image credits: Jon Rehg via Shutterstock

Hostas may come to mind when choosing a shade-loving plant, and it’s for good reason! With 6,000 cultivars to choose from, there is a wide array of beautiful leaf variations among this plant. Try growing ‘Blue Angel,’ ‘Patriot,’ or ‘Blue Mouse Ears,’ in the full shaded areas of your garden.

These perennials enjoy four hours of sunlight per day, and some produce bell-shaped blooms in lavender, white, or blue. With so many options, you are likely to find a hosta variety that suits your space perfectly.

Pro Tip: In general, the darker the hosta leaves, the less sunlight they require. Use this tip to choose a hosta cultivar according to your unique space!


Fern Wall
Image credits: Govind Krishnan via Unsplash

Another common shade-loving plant is the fern. These perennials, often naturally found in shady wooded areas, have beautiful feathery foliage that provides visual interest to those otherwise empty shady spaces! Ferns grow well where there is partial shade, with dappled sunlight throughout the day.

The varying heights of ferns provide flexibility and allow you to design your space exactly how you’d like! For example, the ‘Ostrich’ fern grows up to 4 feet high while others like the ‘Japanese-painted’ fern grow 12 to 18 inches high.

Lily of the Valley

lily of the valley flowers
Image credits: Océane George via Unsplash

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a perennial with stunning foliage and delicate white blossoms that enjoys partial to full shade! Growing 10 inches tall, this plant makes a great ground cover, spreading 1 to 2 inches wide. Not only a perfect option for shady spaces, but the lily of the valley also produces a lovely fragrance to enjoy while in bloom during spring and summer months.

These perennial flowers are very tolerant plants with few pest problems, making them an easy-to-grow option for your shade garden.

Wild Ginger

close up wild ginger
Image credits: Kylbabka via Shutterstock

Although not the same as the culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale), wild ginger is a unique and easy-to-grow perennial that thrives in full to partial shade. Wild ginger is a fast-growing ground cover that has unique leaf variations among its cultivars with subtle flowers that bloom in mid to late spring.

Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is a great low-maintenance option that has light green heart-shaped leaves. Arrowleaf ginger (Hexastylis arifolia) on the other hand, has arrow-shaped leaves that range from speckled silver to deep green. Choosing your favorite will be the hardest part!


Pink Astilbe
Image credits: hartjeff12 via Creative Commons

Astilbe (Astilbe japonica) is another eye-catching flower to include in your shade garden designs. Enjoying full to partial shade, astilbe is a pollinator attractant and resistant to deer and rabbits!

The feathery plumes shoot up from the leafy base during late spring to early summer in colors like pinks, reds, and whites. What’s not to love about these shade-loving perennials?

Toad Lily

Toad Lily
Image credits: Nagara Oyodo via Unsplash

Have you considered adding toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana) flowers to your shade garden? These delicate speckled perennial flowers enjoy the shade that is not too deep and provides a wonderful contrast to other shade-loving plants like hostas. The blooming season is later than others, beginning in late summer to fall, and keeps the color in your garden after other blooms have finished.

Not only are the blooms attractive, but the leaves of this flower are unique as well! Toad lily cultivars provide differing leaf variations, from the gold leaves of the ‘Gates of Heaven’ cultivar to the yellow-bordered deep green leaves of the ‘Autumn Glow’ cultivar.

Shade Garden Dreams

Avoid the shade no more! With these shade-loving perennial flowers, you are sure to find something to fill your dark corners. From the unique flowers of the toad lily, the varying leaf shapes of wild ginger, or the delicate blooms of the lily of the valley, feel confident that you can beautify those darker spaces in your garden.

Do you have a shade garden? Share your favorite shade-loving perennial flowers in the comment section below!

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