12 Best Perennials for Shady Areas

With so many options of perennials, it is not easy to know which plant will do best in the shade. Unlike annuals, perennials blossom every year after the colder months exit; that is why gardeners love them. The flower that keeps on giving.

For perennials to thrive, it is important to understand which perennials do best in the shade. Not all perennials are alike. Some perennials prefer the sun, while other perennials do better in shady areas.

With warmer months coming, most gardeners are preparing to plant their gardens and flowerbeds. Outlined below are the 12 best perennials for shaded areas.

Aconitum Adds Height to Your Garden

This gorgeous blue and purple flower is a great addition to your flowerbed. They grow up to three feet tall, adding height to the arrangement. Aconitum’s stems are solid, so staking them may not be necessary. Another bonus with Aconitum is deer do not like them, and the flower is resistant to pests and disease.


Aconitum’s need to be planted in rich, well-drained soil. They are late-season bloomers, and their blooms can last up to two months. As a note of caution, Aconitum’s are poisonous. When planting this perennial, keep in mind possible exposure with children and pets.

Aconitum comes in many varieties, but these three are some of the best:

  • Albus
  • Blue Scepter
  • Monkshood

Albus, Blue Scepter, and Monkshood are three great varieties to buy. Aconitum is also derived for medicinal purposes such as treating fevers and pain.

Columbines Burst with Color

This early-blooming perennial bursts with various colors, including red, yellow, white, pink, salmon, purple, and even bicolor. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to Columbine because of their sweet fragrance.


Columbines are easy to grow and often will spread through self-seeding. Columbines are low maintenance requiring average soil and low are resistant to pests.

One thing to note about Columbines is they are prone to Leaf Miner. Cutting back this perennial’s foliage will help with leaf-miner damage.

False Spirea Lasts the Entire Season

This perennial comes in multiple varieties, offering a fern-like bloom in pink, red, and white colors. False Spirea can grow to six inches and up to five feet, depending on the variety. Blooming only during spring to early summer, False Spirea lasts the entire season even after fading.

False Spirea requires loamy soil with medium moisture. This perennial prefers the shade, making it ideal for shady areas. False Spirea is low maintenance other than they may need to be divided around every third year. Want to learn more about how to divide your perennials?

Viola’s Can Offer a Sweet Fragrance

Violas are rich in deep purple hues with pops of white and yellow. As a spring bloomer, Violas can tolerate some sun but prefer shaded areas. Depending on the variety, some Violas offer a sweet fragrance.

viola flower

Recommended varieties include:

  • Penny Purple Picotee
  • Johnny Jump Up

While some types don’t bring that sweet scent as much as others, all of them produce beautiful flowers.

Barrenwort Is Hardy

This perennial is known to be a libido enhancer and is commonly referred to as horny goat weed. Barrenwort can be used for ground cover. Its flowers grow in clusters, starting with a lime green early season turning to a red color in the fall.

Barrenwort prefers cool, moist soil but can also tolerate dry conditions. This hardy perennial can tolerate full sun to full shade, making it ideal for any location in your yard. Along with horny goat weed, another name for this plant is the bishop’s hat.

Meadow Rue Is a Long Bloomer

This fuzzy-looking perennial comes in a few colors like purple, white or pink. Meadow Rue does exceedingly well in shaded areas. This plant is independently requiring little care. However, Meadow Rue does not like being uprooted, so make sure when you plant it, you like the location.

Meadow Rue

Meadow Rue will grow to three to five feet. It requires well-drained, medium moist soil. This perennial is a long bloomer lasting on average from May to July.

Lamium Requires Little Care

Lamium is a great perennial for shaded areas. It offers yellow, pink, or purple blooms with silvery foliage. Use this plant for ground cover, and rest assured it will not monopolize the entire flower bed.


Lamium is a fast-growing perennial requiring little care. The best soil for fast growth is humus-rich and slightly moist. However, Lamium can withstand any soil and will last early spring through late summer.

Siberian Bugloss is Great for Mass Planting

Siberian Bugloss boasts tiny light blue flowers with dark green heart-shaped leaves that look fantastic even when this perennial is not blooming. It is a cousin to Forget Me Nots and will grow up to eighteen inches.

A great perennial for shade, Siberian Bugloss prefers well-drained soil consisting of medium moisture. The plant blooms with its blue flowers during April and May and is great for mass or clump planting.

Bleeding Hearts Require Full Shade

Bleeding Heart’s delicate petals explode with the color of vibrant pinks with a white accent. They bloom well in areas with full shade. Bleeding Hearts are a spring/early summer perennial and grow to two to three feet tall.

This well-known perennial requires rich soil with a lot of organic material. Bleeding Hearts may die during the hotter months, hence why shade is great for this flower.

A couple of varieties worth mentioning are:

  • King of Hearts
  • Valentines

While it can be pickier about its soil than other perennials, Bleeding Hearts are fantastic to any shaded garden.

Primrose Can Treat Hormonal Imbalance

Primrose thrives in shady areas with little sun or heat. This perennial blooms in the early spring. Primrose’s soft open petals come in pinks, blues, purple, red, yellow, and some in a bicolor.

Rich, well-drained soil is optimal for Primrose and does not withstand warmer weather. Primrose comes in various species offering gardeners multiple options for this beautiful flower. Primrose is also a supplement to aid with hormonal imbalance and mood swings.

Astilbe is Versatile

Astilbe is great for shady areas. It works well as a ground cover, in borders, and does well in a pot. In bloom, this plant’s flowers come in various colors such as white, pink, red, and violet. Astilbe foliage looks like a fern giving it unique apparel.


Growing up between one and four feet tall and wide, Astilbe thrives in rich, well-drained soil. Astilbe can tolerate partial sun, making this a versatile perennial.

Hydrangea Flowers are Massive

Hydrangea is one of the most popular perennials due to so many variants and ease of care. This perennial prefers a light shade over a darker shade area. Hydrangea’s pop with dinner plate size flowers of red, white, blue, pink, and purple. This flower is great for mixing with other perennials, using as a border or as an accent. Hydrangea also does well in pots if they are smaller.

What to Love about Hydrangeas:

  • Dinner plate size flower clusters
  • Great as a border or accent
  • Can do well in a pot or a garden
  • Can grow to two to twenty feet tall and five to ten feet wide

This perennial can grow to a massive size of two to twenty feet tall and five to ten feet wide. Hydrangeas require regular watering and are planted in rich soil. Like Astilbe, they are happier in a lightly shaded area versus a dark shade.

The Top Ten Low Care Shade Perennials

When selecting a Perennial understanding, the care requirements are essential for a rich blooming flower garden. Perennials vary dependent upon sun and shade requirements.

Here is what you need to know about caring for your perennial. Full sun perennials require six to ten hours of sunlight. Partial Sun/Shade flowers need four to six hours of sun, preferably in the mornings when it is cooler. Full shade means the plant requires no sun.

Low-care shade perennials offer gardeners less time and headache and more time to enjoy the flowers in the garden. Low maintenance is also a good way to reduce costs to care for the plants. Here are some low-care shade perennials.

Hosta Loves Shade

Hosta is well known for its low maintenance requirements. Hosta loves the shade but also can withstand some sun. This perennial comes in numerous shades and sizes, making it optimal for gardeners.


Hosta needs well-drained soil to flourish. It can grow up to three feet tall and eight feet wide. When Hosta becomes too large, it is easy to split up this plant using a shovel. Get valuable insight as to.

Coralbells Are As Cute as They Sound

Coralbells are easy to grow, and hummingbirds love them. This low-maintenance perennial blooms with flowers, yet its leaves are just as beautiful. Coralbells leaves have a marble-like appearance rich in color. Some varieties of Coralbells have leaves that look like they have been spray painted.

Plant Coralbells in well-drained soil such as rocky or cliff-like areas. Coralbells can grow up to three feet tall. This perennial is ideal for a shade garden.

Bigroot Geranium Attracts Wildlife

Bigroot Geraniums are an excellent option for dry shade areas. This perennial is resistant to deer and rabbits due to its fuzzy foliage. Bigroot Geranium is good for ground cover and is a long-season perennial offering pink or magenta petals in the spring that turn reddish-orange in the fall.

Bigroot Geranium

Other Great Varieties of Geraniums:

  • Ingwersen’s
  • Variegatum

Not only is Bigroot Geranium a great ground cover, but it can also grow up to eighteen inches tall. Plant Bigroot Geraniums in well-drained soil with organic matter for best results. Bigroot Geraniums come in other varieties such as Ingwersen’s Variety or Variegatum.

Cushion Spurge Is a Poinsettia Mimic

Cushion Spurge is great for shade areas, especially during hotter months. Like Bigroot Geranium, deer and rabbits are not attracted to Cushion Spurge. Cushion Spurge mimics the look of a Poinsettia with pink, white or red flowers. Cushion Surge blooms in early spring. In the fall, the foliage of Cushion Spurge turns to vibrant red color.

Plant Cushion Surge in well-drained soil, as it prefers dryer soil. This perennial can grow up to three feet tall and produces many tiny flowers. Cushion Surge can also be grown in the sun.

Hellebore is Poisonous but Beautiful

Hellebore is a tough, shade-loving perennial. The leaves of Hellebore resemble leather, making it very hardy. Hellebore’s bloom in the early spring and can withstand colder temperatures. This perennial is also referred to as Christmas or Lenten Rose.


One thing to note about Hellebore is all parts of this perennial are very poisonous. The benefit of that being deer and rabbits will leave it alone. However, if planting Hellebore, make sure it is not accessible by children or pets.

Hellebore prefers soil rich in organic matter and well-drained. This plant can tolerate dry soil and can grow up to three feet tall. Such an odd-named perennial, learn.

Lilyturf Looks Like Grass

Lilyturf is a long-season perennial that does great in shaded areas. This perennial looks like ornamental grass until it blossoms with lavender flowers. Lilyturf flourishes in the spring, summer, and fall. In the south Lilyturf does well throughout the winter. Deer and rabbits are not prone to like Lilyturf and can be used as a great ground cover.

This plant needs well-drained soil. It can tolerate dry or somewhat moist soil, do not overwater it. Lilyturf can grow up to twelve inches tall and comes in different varieties.


Deadnettle is another great perennial for ground cover in dry shade. This plant blooms on and off throughout the summer season. Deadnettle comes in different forms: White Nancy, green and white flowers, Cosmopolitan with pink flowers, and Golden Anniversary with green and gold leaves.

This plant can grow up to three feet tall and does best in a moist, shaded area. However, it can withstand dry soil for a short period of time. Deadnettle is good for use in a salad too!

Foamflower Gives Colorful Groundcover

Foamflower is not rare in North America; in fact, it is a native perennial. Pink or white flowers bloom in the spring, making this plant a great addition to creating a flower garden’s ground cover. Foamflower comes in varieties offering unique color patterns on the leaves.

Like Deadnettle, Foamflowers do best in well-drained soil with organic matter. Foamflowers grow up to twelve inches tall.

Care Tips for Shade Perennials

Good Soil is Essential

Before planting perennials in a shady area or shade garden, check the soil. If the soil consists of too much clay or sand, it will not allow the flowers to take in needed nutrients and moisture. Shade-loving perennials need consistent moisture.

If your soil has a lot of clay or sand, not to worry, there are some simple tricks to fix this. Mix in organic matter such as decayed leaves, seaweed, or fertilizer to mix in with the soil.

For excessive clay, add a top layer of potting mix to the top layer of the planting area. You may have to increase the height of your garden area. To do so, add additional layers of bricks or rock.

Fertilize Periodically

Like humans, perennials require food to grow and remain healthy. Fertilizer also helps ward off pests allowing the plant to thrive. A good rule of thumb is to fertilize at the beginning of the bloom season. Make sure to check the back of the bag to see how long the fertilizer will last so you can reapply when needed.

To Seed or Not to Seed?

A lot of perennials can be bought as plants. However, if you prefer to start a perennial by seed, there are things to know. Start with a perennial that is easy to grow from seed.

A few easy to grow perennials include:

  • Columbine
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Yarrow
  • Snow in Summer
  • Catmint

Soil with warmer temperatures will aid in the germination of the seeds. Starting seeds indoors is a good option. The type of perennial is important to understand as to when to plant the seeds outdoors. For tender perennials, planting the seeds in June or July is optimal.

For hardy perennials, you can sow the seeds in early spring or late winter. Keep in mind some seeds require freezing before they can germinate. Pay close attention to the instructions on the seed packet.


There are so many types of perennials. It can be confusing to know which ones are best for certain conditions. Shade perennials are great for areas with low light to full shade. If low maintenance is important to you as a gardener, make sure to know which shade perennials require the least amount of effort.

Some shade perennials can require a lot of upkeep. It is also important to understand the difference between a hardy perennial and a tender perennial.

Finally, knowing how to care for your beautiful plants is essential. Soil, moisture, and drainage are important for a lot of perennials.

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