Late summer is the perfect time to take stock of various garden spaces to see what’s lacking. Maybe your shade gardens are full of blooms and color early in the season, but by late August, the show’s pretty much over. While not as rich in options as in spring and summer, fall offers plenty of gorgeous shade lovers that add color to borders, woodland gardens, under trees, in the dim shadow of tall walls, or on the shadier sides of the house.
Shade can be a challenge for gardeners looking for colorful beauty. So, here are some examples of the more common situations you might face—partial shade, filtered sun, and full shade—and a few plants that perform well there, with the added bonus of brilliant early-fall color.
You will find many more options in our My Plantfinder by using the filters for light, zone, and any other landscape needs you would like to be met. Head to your local garden center to get these plants or similar options to add early-fall color to your shade garden.
What is Partial Shade?
Partial shade gardens receive up to 6 hours of direct sun, with four or more of those hours being in the morning, and the rest of the day being in shadow. If your garden is shaded for most of the afternoon, it's considered partial shade. Lucky you! This is the most beneficial type of shade condition for a variety of plants.
Colorful Late-Summer and Early-Fall Perennials for Part Shade
Fragrant, creamy-white, slender bottlebrush flowers top foliage that matures to dark purple is a standout in the shaded border or woodland garden. Up to 2' tall and wide. Zones 3-9.
Volume of pink flowers on graceful branching upright stems. Lovely massed in a woodland setting, slotted into wild rock gardens, and an excellent cut flower. Up to 24" tall and 18" wide. Zones 5-8.
Long, purplish-black spikes are encrusted with bright yellow, daisy-like flowers over large leaves. Mass in a shady or part sun space, or plant in a large container. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
What is Dappled Shade?
Dappled shade gardens have sunlight filtering through the canopy of open tree branches or through latticework structures. Dappled shade is also called "filtered sun." Most filtered sun conditions have the pattern of light shifting throughout the day. This type of shade is a bit more challenging, but many plants love this kind of light.
Late-Summer and Early-Fall Color for Dappled Shade
Ruffled leaves with deep-red stems, and an intense red color that is most vibrant in the cool weather of spring and fall. Perfect for adding dramatic fall color. Up to 7" tall and 14" wide. Zones 4-9.
Flowers open white then turn pink in fall. Very hardy, perfect in filtered light situations such as containers, mass plantings, hedges, or as a cut flower. Up to 12' tall and 10' wide. Zones 3-9.
An excellent border plant to brighten up shady gardens with stunning sprays of pink flowers and colorful foliage. Ideal for a shaded garden or woodland setting. Up to 10" tall and 12" wide. Zones 6-9.
What is Full Shade?
If your yard looks like this all day, it’s considered full shade. This is the dense kind of shade found under evergreens and trees that does not allow any direct light to penetrate. It’s dim and cooling, but can be a challenge to find plants that will bloom here. Instead, we turn to foliage with lovely color and interesting leaf structure.
Perennials with Fall Color for Full-Shade Gardens
- Find your local garden center to ask if they carry these (or similar) plants.
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