11 (lesser known!) Shade-Loving Perennials

11 (lesser known!) Shade-Loving Perennials

Shade is one of the garden’s great opportunities. It’s lush with layers of different hues of green, alive with birds and other critters, and you probably won’t spend much time weeding there. Many perennials bloom reliably in full shade and when not in bloom, their foliage adds color, form and texture. Others, such as hostas and ferns, provide classically-beautiful leaves. And, where planting is really a challenge, such as under shallowly-rooted trees, there are groundcovers that can be used effectively. No more just walking past that dim, dark space on the way to your sun-loving borders! Here are 11 unusual shade-lovers to try.


Zones: 6 – 8

Thrives in dappled to deep shade, perfect for understory or woodland garden. Reaches 24 in. tall and wide.


Jeweled Chain Fern
Zones: 8 – 10

Bold, long fronds emerge with a striking red tint. Thrives in consistently moist soil. Reaches up to 2 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide.


Fireworks Rodgersia
Zones: 5 – 8

Use in damp woodland or bog gardens for a showy display of flower spikes and bold foliage. Reaches up to 5 ft. tall and wide.


Northern Sea Oats
Zones: 4 – 9

Thrives in moist sites, though tolerant of dry shade. Useful on a shady slope. Reaches up to 3 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide.


Chinese Fairy Bells
Zones: 7 – 9

Fragrant, creamy-white flowers unfurl like nodding bells each spring. Reaches up to 6 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide.


Pink Elf® Saxifrage
Zones: 6 – 9

Sprays of pink flowers on dense short stems above low mounds of colorful foliage. Reaches up to 1 ft. tall and wide.


Windcliff Fragrant Pachysandra
Zones: 6 – 9

Groundcover with uniquely fragrant white flowers appear in early spring, repeating in autumn. Reaches up to 4 to 6 in. tall.


Orchid Frost Spotted Dead Nettle
Zones: 4 – 10

Scalloped margins and shimmering silvery centers brighten shady gardens. Reaches up to 1 ft. and 2 ft. wide.


Jeepers Creepers Tiarella
Zones: 4 – 9

Improved shade tolerance and lightly fragrant, creamy-white flowers in spring. Reaches up to 8 in tall and 12 in. wide.


Aphrodite Plantain Lily
Zones: 3 – 8

Double, white, fragrant flowers and, like most green-leaved hostas, is more shade tolerant. Up to 15 in. tall and wide.


EverColor® Everest Variegated Sedge
Zones: 5 – 9

Ribbon-like white-striped green foliage adds wonderful texture to shade garden. Reaches up to 15 in. tall and 24 in. wide.

Q.: What do we mean by “full shade?”

A.:  Areas that gets less than one hour of direct sunlight and are too dark to be considered dappled shade, are full shade. If your space gets no direct sun (such as under a thick canopy of trees or in the shadow of a tall wall) most of these plants will still grow, but won’t love it there.


Q.: Snails. Slugs. Help. 

A.: Guess who else loves it cool and shady? You may have to try a combination of approaches from hand-picking to copper rings to nematodes to keep the little slimers at bay. You may never win the war, but with some care, your tender plants can live to battle another night.

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