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Blossoms in the Shadows: 30 Exquisite Flowers Unveiled that Love Shade

A collage of shade-loving flowers.

At one time I lived in a home that had a heavily shaded front yard, particularly up close to the house. I had a terrible time getting grass to grow. Every year I would put down more seed, fertilize and water and wind up with a patchy growth that fizzled out by the following season.

Then I got the bright idea of starting a shade garden. I lined off a section of the yard with decorative bricks, tilled the ground and worked in some compost, and went off to the local garden shop to fill my new area. I came home with plants that looked really cool at the garden, planted them in various parts of my new plot, and waited for them to spread out and make everything beautiful.

It took a long time. In fact, it took years. Some plants thrived and some didn’t. Nothing raced around the garden spreading its progeny to all corners. Eventually, though, I got a pretty good shade garden going. Here are some things I learned along the way.

  • Pay attention to soil pH. My plot was shaded by oaks, which make the soil acidic. If I’d been aware I wouldn’t have fought that but would have chosen plants that like the soil that way.
  • Try to have at least some light. Very few things do well in deep shade. When I trimmed the lower branches from the oaks so that I got morning sun in my east-facing yard, things did much better.
  • Buy what will grow well vs. what looks showy at the garden center. I chose a few things because they were too pretty to pass up, but they didn’t thrive.
  • Get bigger plants in bigger containers. They cost more than the small ones, but they have a much higher success rate and they look good much sooner.
  • Plant plenty of groundcover. If you wait for a few isolated plants to spread, you may be waiting a long time.
  • Not everything has to go into the earth. Ground containers, pots on metal garden sculptures and hanging baskets are welcome artistic additions.
  • Keep track of what you plant and where. Most gardens guarantee their offerings for a year or two. Just dig up the root ball and bring it back in with the receipt. If you don’t remember where you put either the ball or receipt, that’s hard to do.

A word on hardiness zone: often a plant will thrive a zone or two north of its stated hardiness zone, especially if it’s close to your house. And don’t reject a flower just because it won’t survive as a perennial. It’s always good to have at least a section of your shade garden devoted to annuals. You get to change it up every year.

Here are 30 flowers and plants you might consider for your shade garden. Pull up your garden gloves, put on the funny hat that your significant other can’t stand and have at it. May the blooms be with you!

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Tropical Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

1. Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

A variety of colorful impatiens flowers.

Part sun.

Loamy soil, neutral pH.

Hardiness zones 10-11.

Keep moist but not too wet.

Impatiens are perhaps the most versatile of all the shady flowers, and one of the easiest to grow in low sun conditions. They come in a variety of colors and shapes.

They’re great for lining a sidewalk and they blossom all season long and seldom lose their looks. They’re nice potted along windowsills as well.

2. Begonia (Begonia)

Clusters of lovely pink begonias.

Sun to shade. Look for varieties developed for shade growth.

Well-drained soil with added compost, slightly acidic pH.

Hardiness zones 9-11.

Keep moist but not too wet.

Begonias prefer filtered sunlight and afternoon shade. The single and double flowers come in orange, yellow, red, pink, and white. Some varieties have showy foliage with speckles and streaks.

Most are reliable season-long bloomers. They are toxic to some pets but not to humans.

3. Alyssum (Lobularia maritmia)

A garden of beautiful small white alyssum flowers.

Full sun to partial shade. Prefer shade during the heat of the day.

Rich, loamy soil with neutral pH.

Hardiness zones 7-11.

Provide an inch of water a week, more during hot spells. Subject to rot if not well-drained.

These form a lovely carpet of white or lavender flowers. They work well as a ground cover and to offset flowers with contrasting colors.

4. Fuchsia (Fuchsia megellanica)

A beautiful pot of deep purple fuchsia.

Full to partial shade.

Well-drained soil, slightly acidic.

Hardiness zone 10-11.

Water enough to keep moist but not soggy.

Is there anything showier than a red and purple fuchsia? They can be planted in containers but they really come into their own in hanging baskets. They don’t like a lot of sun but love humidity.

5. Pansy (Viola tricolor)

A variety of colorful and vibrant pansies.

Full sun to part shade. The ideal is morning sun and afternoon shade.

Moist, rich, well-drained soil, slightly acidic.

Hardiness zones 2-9.

Water regularly. Lack of water is a big reason some pansies don’t thrive.

The “flower with the face” is great for lining gardens and as a perimeter to larger flowers. Purples and yellows are some of the prettiest. Pansies look great in pots as well.

6. Primrose (Primula polyantha)

Clusters of various colorful primrose flowers.

Light shade.

Well-drained, enriched soil, slightly acidic.

Hardiness zones 4-8.

Water at least once a week, more during dry periods, and back off toward fall.

Despite its name, this flower is neither prim nor a rose. It’s a happy-looking flower not only in the signature pale yellow but purples as well and has broad, attractive leaves.

7. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

A beautiful cluster of lily of the valley flowers.

Full sun to full shade prefers partial shade.

Moist soil, acidic to neutral pH.

Hardiness zones 2-9.

Water when surface soil becomes dry

These delicate bell-like white flowers dress up any garden. Plant them in the fall and there will be fragrant blossoms throughout the spring and summer.

8. Astilbe (Astilbe)

A garden of colorful and vibrant astilbe.

Light to moderate shade.

Moist, humus-rich soil, pH around 6.0.

Hardiness zones 3-8.

Water sparingly, they prefer average to below-average moisture.

These spiky flowers sit atop ferny foliage. They grow anywhere from six inches to five feet, and a patch of them can give the illusion that they’re waving at you.

9. Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis)

A garden of pink and white bleeding hearts.

Shady or part shade.

Composted soil, neutral pH around 7.0.

Hardiness Zone 3-9.

Water to keep the soil consistently moist.

These strings of heart-shaped red or pink bells are one of the first things to delight us in the spring. Watching the foliage come to life is almost as great as seeing the flowers emerge. Cut them back in the summer after they’ve done their thing and start to look scraggly.

10. Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)

A close up of beautiful deep blue lobelia flowers.

Full sun to partial shade.

Hardiness zones 6-8.

Moist rich soil, slightly acidic, pH 5.5- 6.5.

Low maintenance, but water frequently during hot and dry times.

Some say this herb has medicinal properties, but the attractive blue flowers are a feast for the eyes. There are also white and pink varieties. Most are short but a few grow up to three feet.

11. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

A bunch of gorgeous pink foxglove flowers.

Full sun, partial shade, full shade.

Rich well-draining soil, slightly acidic.

Hardiness zone 4-10.

Water to supplement during dry periods.

These are tall, stately flowering plants with bloom clusters that remind me of an orchestra of daintily colored trumpets. There are dwarfs as short as two feet and giants as tall as six. They can be purple, lavender, yellow, red, and white.

12. Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis)

A cluster of deep purple hellebore flowers.

Partial shade.

Well-draining soil, prefer pH 5.5-6.5 but will grow outside that range.

Hardiness zone 6-9.

Water especially during spring and fall.

Sometimes called “Lenten rose” because their rose-like flower blooms early in the year. The blooms face downward so they’re especially enjoyable planted on a mound or hillside.

13. Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Clusters of beautiful foamflowers in bloom.

Prefer part shade, will tolerate light sun or full shade.

Rich drained but moist soil, neutral pH.

Hardiness zones 3-8.

Do not overwater, especially toward winter.

This perennial groundcover has soft, foamy, cone-shaped flowers on deeply veined leaves. They clump and spread through offshoots, and they add a whimsical fairy garden look to a shady area.

14. Aconitum (Aconitum napellus)

A close look at clusters of aconitum flowers.

Full sun to partial shade. Shade preferred in hot areas.

Moist soil, with pH 4.5–7.5.

Hardiness zones 4-8.

Water regularly, but it can tolerate periods of drought.

A beautiful tall plant with richly veined leaves and deep blue flowers. Also knows as monkshood, wolfsbane, and several other nicknames. It is poisonous.

Presents no danger to adults handling it responsibility, but shouldn’t be grown around pets and children.

15. Spiderwort (Tradescantia)

A few clusters of speiderwort blooming among the grass.

Tolerates sun but prefer partial shade

Moist, well-drained acidic soil, pH 5-6.

Hardiness zones 4-9.

Water regularly, they like to be moist.

Though each bloom lasts only a day, others replace it so that there are continuous blossoms for four to six weeks in the summertime. The foliage has a glass-like appearance and the flowers tend to hang from it. At one time it was used to treat spider bites.

16. Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides)

A gorgeous cluster of coleus flowers.

Partial shade for most varieties.

Soil moist but not wet, neutral pH.

Hardiness zone 11.

Do not water to point where the soil is constantly wet.

Nobody pays much attention to the flowers on the coleus. As often as not we pinch them off. But, oh what dazzling foliage!

Greens, purples, reds, all intricately patterned. And one of the easiest plants to grow, though you have to be near zone 11 if you want to keep it as a perennial.

17. Hosta (Funkia)

A close up of a vibrant green hosta flower.


Soil with a neutral pH.

Hardiness zones 3-9.

Water so the soil is moist but not wet.

What’s not to love about hostas? They’re a cinch to grow, the foliage is gorgeous, and the white, pink and lavender flowers are a bonus. They spruce up a shaded path and look great along the front of a house.

Every year new varieties are available. One little issue: deer love them, so do what you can to protect them from Bambi.

18. Coral Bells (Heuchera americana)

A garden of blooming coralbells.

Shade or filtered sun.

Well-drained enriched slightly acidic soil, pH 6.0-7.0.

Hardiness zone 3-9.

Low maintenance, water occasionally.

Which is more attractive, the foliage, or the flower? The foliage boasts colors like bronze and purple in addition to variegated green, while the bell-like white, pink and red blossoms, which bloom from late spring to early summer, balance gracefully above. There are also varieties that bloom later in the year.

19. Bellflower (Campanula)

A cluster of deep purple bellflowers.

Full sun to light shade.

Rich, moist, well-drained soil, pH 6.5-8.5

Hardiness zones 4-8.

Water when rainfall less than an inch a week.

Most varieties are blue and many of them look like bells, but there are also star shapes as well as shades of purple, pink, and a few whites. There are tall ones suitable for cutting to bring indoors, and shorter examples that make good border plants.

20. Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

A close up of small purple periwinkle flowers.

Partial sun to full shade.

Prefers acidic soil but tolerates others.

Hardiness zones 4-9.

Water young plants, mature vines can tolerate some drought.

If you need a ground cover to take off establish itself, periwinkle can do the job. The flowers come in spring and can be the signature periwinkle color or a shade of lavender or purple. A few are white.

21. Toad Lily (Tricyrtis formosana)

A close up of a speckled toad lily flower.

Partial to deep shade.

Moist but not soggy soil, slightly acidic or neutral pH.

Hardiness zones 4-9.

Low maintenance, water occasionally.

Some people think this looks like a frog, but I say it’s closer to a prince. They come in a variety of flowers that sit on top of the stem, in many colors and some are even speckled. They look almost orchid-like.

22. Ligularia Ragwort (Ligularia)

A garden of bright yellow ligularia ragwort flowers.

Partial to full shade.

Nutrient-rich soil with a wide acceptable range of pH.

Hardiness zones 4-8.

Water deeply about once a week.

If you like a flower that is a bit of a show-off, then ligularia may be for you. The flowers come in a variety of shapes, form petals to stalks, but all of them are screaming yellow. If your shade garden is suffering from a lack of color these plants will wake it up.

23. Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)

A small colorful cluster of lungwort.

Partial to full shade.

Rich, moist soil pH 7.0-7.5

Hardiness zones 4-8.

Water in dry times, soaking the soil.

Pulmonaria will grow in a lot of places, and it likes to venture out early in the spring. Many have mottled leaves, and the petite cupped flowers tend toward pinks and blues.

24. Dropwort (Filipendula)

The cluster of small white flowers of the dropwort.

Sun or part shade.

Moist, fertile soil.

Hardiness zones 3-8.

Water occasionally, rain does most of the work.

This has been used for centuries to make tea for treating minor pain, but it’s often overlooked as a garden plant. That’s too bad, because its clusters of white and pink flowers are a delight in early summer, and its serrated fern-like leaves are a pleasure all season long.

25. Pachysandra (Pachysandra)

Clusters of the pachysandra plant.

Partial to full shade.

Loose, moist, rich soil, preferably acidic at 4.5-5.5 pH.

Hardiness zones 4-7.

Water new plants, mature ones are more drought-tolerant.

If you have bare shady spots where it seems nothing may grow, pachysandra may be the answer. This ground cover spreads readily with hearty leaves and produces fragrant white flowers in the spring.

26. Dead Nettle (Lamium)

A close up of the dead nettle flower.

Sun to partial shade.

Rich, well-drained soil, prefers neutral pH.

Hardiness zones 3-8.

Water when newly planted, drought-tolerant once established.

Another hearty groundcover that can take over those unproductive bald spots in the shade. Small white or purple flowers depending on variety, but the real beauty is in the leaves. Many are a patterned green and white.

27. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

A cluster of deep purple bugleweed planted on the ground.

Full sun to part shade.

Medium moisture acidic soil, pH 3.7-6.5

Hardiness zones 3-10.

Water young plants weekly, then every 2-3 weeks is adequate.

A ground cover with dark leaves and blue flowers that make a surprising contrast. It can fill in a thick mat in those tough shady areas.

28. Hydrangea (Hydrangea)

A garden of colorful hydrangeas.

Full sun to partial shade.

Rich, porous soils. Colored hydrangea can change from blue with a pH under 5.5 a pink with a higher. White hydrangeas are not pH sensitive.

Hardiness zone 3-9.

Water heavily the first year or two.

They’re used frequently for hedges, but many hydrangea varieties will grow in shade as individuals or in small clusters. The signature “popcorn ball” blossom is a classic that never fails the, please.

29. Azalea (Rhododendron subgenus pentanthera)

Clusters of colorful azaleas in the garden.

Light shade

Well-drained acidic soil, pH 4.5-5.5.

Hardiness zone 6-9.

Water to uniform moisture, an inch every week or two for established plants.

Few flowers shout out “spring!” like azalea blossoms. The white ones are classic, but they also are available in pink, yellow, and purple. Spotlight a single shrub or plant a cluster.

30. Rhododendron (Rhododendron)

A close up of vibrant purple clusters of rhododendron.

Light shade

Well-drained acidic soil, pH 4.5-5.5.

Hardiness zone 4-8.

All azaleas are rhododendrons, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. There is a multitude of species and colors, but I like the purple ones because they remind me of their wild mountain cousins. You can hardly do better than to build a shade garden around these spectacular beauties.

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