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Annual and Perennial Flowers for Shade

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Few garden annuals or perennials will succeed in dense shade. Where no sun penetrates, the list of plants for growing in shade is almost wholly restricted to plants native to thick woodlands.

Where there are two or three hours of sun each day, or flickering shade from trees, some garden favorites will bloom satisfactorily.

Get to know your shade

Study your garden to determine where shade occurs and for how long. There are all degrees of shade; light shade caused by high branches of an open-growing tree, dense shade caused by a grove of evergreen trees, and intermittent shade caused by a building or tree interrupting continual direct sunlight.

Full shade occurs where there is virtually no sunshine. The ground in full shade can be cold and poorly prepared. When it gets wet, it stays wet.

When planting in full shade, prepare the soil by digging the ground deeply and adding or replacing some of the soil with large quantities of acid soil amendments (most full shade plants are acid-loving). Check the soil often to be sure it is not soggy.

Heart-leaf Brunnera, Brunnera macrophylla
Heart-leaf Brunnera, Brunnera macrophylla

Annual and perennial flowers for full shade

A-B Common NameBotanical NameZones
AgapanthusAgapanthus spp.8-10
AjugaAjuga spp.3-9
Amethyst FlowerBrowallia speciosaAnnual
Arum, ItalianArum italicum6-10
AstilbeAstilbe spp.3-8
Begonia, HardyBegonia grandis6-10
Begonia, WaxBegonia x semperflorens-cultorumAnnual
Bleeding HeartDicentra spp.3-9
Brunnera, Heart-LeafBrunnera macrophylla3-8
BugbaneCimicifuga spp.3-8
Cupflower, Nierembergia
Cupflower, Nierembergia
C-D Common NameBotanical NameZones
Cardinal FlowerLobelia spp.2-9
Cast iron PlantAspdistra elatior8-10
Christmas RoseHelleborus niger3-9
ColeusSolenostemum scuttellarioidesAnnual
ColumbineAquilegia spp.3-9
Coral bellsHeuchera sanguinea3-9
CorydalisCorydalis spp.4-8
CupflowerNierembergia spp.Annual
Cyclamen, HardyCyclamen hederifolium7-9
DaylilyHemerocallis spp.3-10
Dead Nettle, SpottedLamium maculatum3-9
Foam Flower, Tiarella
Foam Flower, Tiarella
E-G Common NameBotanical NameZones
EpimediumEpimedium spp.4-9
Ferns varies
Flowering TobaccoNicotiana spp.Annual
Foam Flower, AlleghenyTiarella cordifolia4-9
Forget-Me-Not, ChineseCynoglossum amabileAnnual
Forget-Me-Not, WoodlandMyosotis sylvaticaAnnual
FoxgloveDigitalis purpurea4-8
FuchsiaFuchsia spp.8-10
Geranium, HardyGeranium spp.3-8
GoatsbeardAruncus dioicus3-7
GoldenstarChrysogonum virginianum5-9
H-M Common NameBotanical NameZones
HelleboreHelleborus spp.5-9
HostaHosta cultivars3-8
ImpatiensImpatiens spp.Annual
Kafir lily; CliviaClivia miniata9-11
Lady’s MantleAlchemilla mollis4-7
Lenten RoseHelleborus orientalis4-9
LigulariaLigularia spp.5-8
Lily-of-the-ValleyConvallaria majalis3-8
MimulusMimulus x  hybridusAnnual
Mondo GrassOphiopogon japonicus7-9
Money Plant, HonestyLunaria annua4-8
MonkshoodAconitum spp.3-7
O-V Common NameBotanical NameZones
Obedient PlantPhysostegia virginiana2-9
PansyViola x wittrockianaAnnual
Phlox, CreepingPhlox stolonifera2-8
Pigsqueak; BergeniaBergenia spp.3-8
PrimrosePrimula spp.5-8
Pulmonaria; LungwortPulmonaria saccharata3-8
Queen-of-the-prairieFilipendula rubra3-8
Salvia, Annual RedSalvia splendensAnnual
Sweet AlyssumLobularia maritimaAnnual
Sweet WoodruffGalium odoratum4-8
TrilliumTrillium spp.4-8
Turtlehead, PinkChelone lyonii3-8
Vinca; PeriwinkleVinca spp.Varies
VioletViola spp.Varies
Virginia BluebellsMertensia virginica3-7

Also of interest:

Shade Gardening

Annuals and Perennials for Part Shade

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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Annual and Perennial Flowers for Part Shade