We all have different garden environments, some sunny, some shady. Similarly, some plants grow best in full sun, some prefer dappled light, and others will thrive in a very shady area. We are going to focus on shade-loving plants in these 2022 garden tips.
So what plants will grow in the shade where you live? When you choose plants for shady areas, there are many elements you will need to consider. These include the USDA plant hardiness zone you live in as well as the amount of shade your garden has each day. For example, some plants do best in light shade, while others will thrive in deep shade.
22 Best Plants that Grow in Shade
We have chosen 22 of the best shade-loving plants that are popular with keen U.S. gardeners. They include flowers, plants with insignificant flowers but fabulous foliage, and ground covers that are ideal for shade gardens.
Here are our favorite 22 plants for shade. You will find them all in your local garden center if they are well suited to your plant hardiness zone.
Violas, a popular cool-season flower that is also known as bedding pansies, grow best in partial shade. They do bloom well in full sun, but they don’t like the heat of the sun.
The secret seems to be to plant viola seedlings in summer and make sure they get shade during the hottest parts of the day, in the afternoon.
Coleus is a spectacular shade garden plant with a wide range of foliage colors, including some of the most amazing leaf-color combinations.
Even though it thrives in areas without much sun, it needs consistent moisture. Just be sure that the soil is well-drained and not too wet.
Sun must also be balanced. Too much will tend to scorch the foliage, while too little will result in weak growth.
Better known as bleeding heart, dicentra is a hardy perennial that is great for shade gardens. It grows very well alongside several of the other shade-loving plants featured here, including hostas, astilbe, and ferns.
There are various types of dicentra, but they all grow best in partial, light shade where they have protection from the hot sun.
Ligularia, with its glossy, deep green leaves and purple underside, is another great shade plant that will also grow in partial shade. It likes moist soil that drains well and it’s important not to let the soil dry out.
If ligularia starts to wilt, which it will do in the heat of the sun, water it well.
There are more than 1,000 species of Impatiens, a superb summer bedding plant that will brighten up any shady area. If you’re looking to introduce a color theme to your shade garden, you can mix white and pink-red shades with Impatiens.
Known by a variety of strange names including fairy wings, horny goat weed, and bishop’s hat, epimedium is a shade-loving plant that is native to Asia. It is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
It grows well in a range of environments including those that offer deep shade or are mostly sunny. They grow well under trees and provide an interesting ground cover where other plants often die.
Hellebores are evergreen perennial flowering plants that we often refer to as Lenten roses. Even though they have a vaguely rose shape, the flowers don’t look anything like roses.
They are one of the earliest perennial flowering plants that grace our gardens with their blooms. Hellebores are also one of the prettiest spring-flowering plants you can grow in your garden. They will grow best in light shade.
Brunnera Macrophylla is a great shade plant that will grow in USDA zones 3-8. It does well in the filtered shade when planted in moist soil that is well-drained.
Also known as Siberian bugloss, Brunnera has varied foliage, from lime green to silver, that add color and character to any garden landscape. One of the most popular varieties is commonly known as Jack Frost, which has pretty little sprays of blue flowers.
Even though Torenia is an adaptable plant, it does best in an area that provides partial shade. It’s a good choice for adding color to shade gardens and shady areas within bigger gardens.
It is commonly known as the wishbone flower because it has an intriguing wishbone shape in the center of each flower. It does best in partial shade.
Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are low-maintenance foliage plants with a huge variety of leaf shapes, sizes, and textures. With more than 2,500 cultivars, you could create a hosta shade garden without including any other plants.
Even though hostas are generally considered to be shade-loving plants, those with light-colored leaves need more sunlight. Those with creamy white or white and gold striped leaves do better in full sun.
Spiderwort is a hardy perennial that blooms in the spring. They are extremely versatile and you can grow them in the garden or in pots. They also make great houseplants.
Spiderwort does best in partial shade, but you can grow them in sunny spots as long as you ensure there is moist soil all the time. They do best in bright filtered light when they grow indoors.
Corydalis is a hardy perennial flowering plant in the poppy family that is related to bleeding heart. They grow best in shade to partially sunny areas and look great in a shade garden or woodland setting.
There are thousands of fern species, none of which flower. They are incredibly diverse in habitat, but many types thrive in the shade.
Astilbe is a perennial plant with colorful, feathery flowers and glossy, fern-like foliage. It is ideal for adding color and texture to shady areas where other flowers don’t do well.
Lily of the Valley Shrub
A shade-loving evergreen shrub, the Japanese lily of the valley has quite small glossy green leaves and tiny lantern-shaped flowers that bloom in spring. It thrives in light shade and damp conditions.
The toad lily is a hardy perennial of Japanese origin. It grows naturally on stream banks and on well-shaded rocky cliffs. Although there are about 20 different species of toad lily, only two are commonly found in garden settings.
These lilies do well in part to full shade in moist soil.
Fuchsias, with their elegant pink-red, and purple flowers, grow equally well in partial to full shade or full sun. They also do well indoors but prefer bright indirect, rather than direct, sunlight.
They like moist soil and will thrive in a humid environment.
Foamflower is a shade-loving perennial plant that is native to parts of the U.S. and Canada. Plant in a shade garden with other plants that love the shade, like hostas, ferns, Solomon’s seal, coral bells (heuchera), and dwarf-crested iris.
Found growing wild on stream banks and in moist woodlands, foamflower is happy in deep shade.
Better known as coral bells, heuchera has feathery flowers and intriguing foliage that ranges from lime green to deep purple, red, and burgundy.
While it thrives in deep shade, it does just as well in full sun!
Known as the Chinese ground orchid, Bletilla prefers semi-shaded or sunny sites. They like well-drained soil that is best kept dry during the winter months.
Polygonatum Odoratum, better known as Solomon’s seal, is a stunning perennial plant that has pretty fragrant flowers. It is a very easy-to-grow plant that is drought-tolerant but will thrive in any shady area of your garden.
So named because its leaves resemble stinging nettle leaves, dead nettle is an attractive evergreen ground cover that will thrive in a shady area. A member of the mint family, its pretty flowers attract bees.
Various cultivars have left of different shapes and colors, many of which are variegated. Even though it grows best in the shade, silver types need a bit more sunlight to maintain their pale color.
Are there plants that can grow without sunlight?
You will find a plethora of articles on the Internet that state that certain plants can grow without sunlight. Delve a little deeper and you will find that most state that, while they will thrive in areas that get minimal sunlight, they all need light to survive.
In a BBC Science Focus article, Can any plants live without sunlight? author, Luis Villazon, a science and technology educator, says that while all plants can survive for relatively short periods without light, no plants can live without sunlight forever.
The crux of the matter is that some plants have developed ways to survive when they aren’t able to photosynthesize. This is, of course, the process when green plants use sunlight to build up their carbohydrate reserves to live.
There is one plant that has lost its power to photosynthesize. Broomrape (genus Orobanche), a small herbaceous plant native to temperate parts of the northern hemisphere, can survive without producing chlorophyll. As Encyclopaedia Britannica points out, these plants have small suckers that enable them to get their nourishment from the roots of other plants.
Basically, they are parasites! So, even though they don’t use sunlight directly, they are still indirectly reliant on sunlight.
There are also other parasitic plants, known as mycoheterotrophic, that feed on fungi. While they might, theoretically, be able to survive in the dark, without any sunlight, for years, they still need the fungi to survive.
Without fungi, and without the sun, they won’t be able to keep on growing.
Lots of different plants grow in shade. Some prefer deep shade, while others do better in light shade. Some shade-loving plants even like full sun and will grow in either environment.
Our garden tips outline 22 plants that will grow in shady conditions. If you are planning a shade garden or have a shady area you want to plant, why not try planting some of them?