31 Perennial Flowers For Shaded Gardens With Limited Sun

If you have a shaded gardening area, finding the right flowers to plant can be quite a challenge. It's important to have the right balance of sunlight for perennials to come back year after year. In this article, hobby gardener Jason White looks at 31 shade loving perennials that will come back each year if properly cared for.

Shade Loving Perennial Flower

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Before planting your garden, you need to plan your flower garden based on the amount of sun they receive. You may think that you can only grow beautiful flowers in full sun. However, there are many fantastic shade-loving floral plants out there. Even better, many of these plants are perennials. This label means that these flowering plants can come back year after year.

When assessing your garden, you should first see how much shade the garden gets. A fully shaded garden may still receive a bit of reflected sunlight or almost no light at all. A garden in partial shade may get some sun through other leaves or during non-peak times.

A nice garden of shade perennials can provide you with a retreat that allows you to get out of the sun. It can also bring many beneficial pollinators as the spring season starts to kick off in your garden. Read on to learn about 31 beautiful options for your shade garden.

Barrenwort

small red and white flowers on dark green vines
Barrenwort is both flower, and groundcover.
Scientific name: Epimedium grandiflorum

If you are looking for a reliable groundcover with unique flowers, Barrenwort may be what you are looking for. Barrenwort loves shade, but it can tolerate some light. While it prefers moist soil, this plant can tolerate some drought. It can grow in zones 4 through 8, and it usually does not get taller than a foot.

Barrenwort flowers come in every color you may want, and sometimes they come in multiple colors at once. Choose between white, pink, purple, red, orange, and yellow perennial flowers. In the fall, Barrenwort provides lovely foliage. Its unique blooms almost look like butterflies as they flit above the foliage.

Bellflower

Purple Star Shaped Flowering Shrub
Bellflower prefers shade, and comes in a variety of different colors.
Scientific name: Campanula

You can find this plant in a variety of sizes and colors. Bellflower can be blue, pink, or white, and you can get it in a tall or dwarf size. Bellflower has a long blooming season from June to autumn. It’s a common flower in many shade gardens, and grows well in hardiness zones 3-4.

Bigfoot Geranium

bee drinking from small purple flower on a vine
Geraniums are hardy plants, and can act as ground cover for areas that need to cover space.
Scientific name: Geranium macrorrhizum

Bigroot Geranium is a hardy groundcover with rhizomes and aromatic and uniquely shaped foliage. It can grow one to three feet tall, and it grows well in zones 3 through 8. Magenta flowers rise above that foliage in gentle bursts.

Bigfoot geranium can grow in full sun to partial shade, making it a versatile plant. It is unlike other geraniums in that you do not need to prune back the plants. Instead, you can just remove stems. Other than that, this plant does not require other maintenance.  

Black Cohosh

hummingbird drinking from long white flowering stem
The black cohosh is an excellent perennial for attracting pollinators.
Scientific name: Actaea racemosa

This perennial is a shade plant that can add height to your garden in zones 3 to 8. From the lovely dark foliage springs sprigs of tiny white perennial flowers. Black Cohosh has white flowers, and it can reach six feet tall, which makes it a taller perennial compared to others on this list.

The Black Cohosh can bloom from late summer to early autumn, depending on your zone, which means it is a wonderful choice if you want some flowers later in the season. Like other shade plants, Black Cohosh can withstand a range of growing conditions, including a bit of drought.

Bleeding Heart

tear drop shaped pink flowers on stem
The bleeding heart makes an interesting conversation piece for any shade garden.
Scientific name: Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Bleeding Heart grows to two or three feet in zone 3 to 9. This popular perennial produces unique heart-shaped flowers in white or pink. It’s also a beautiful red perennial flower. The name of this plant comes from the petal that makes the hearts look like they are bleeding. It blooms in late spring and early summer.

The Bleeding Heart requires a bit of care to get optimum results. After blooming, the plant goes dormant, and it does well if you trim the stems at this point. Bleeding hearts will likely not thrive when you move them.

Columbine

purple flowers with layered petals  in a field
Columbines are easy to grow, and have beautiful blooms.
Scientific name: Aquilegia

Attract pollinators to your shade garden with Columbine flowers. Columbines create uniquely shaped blooms that come in a plethora of colors, including white, pink, red, yellow, and purple. It grows in zones 3 through 8 and is usually around two feet tall.

Columbine does well in sun or partial shade, but it does not do well in poorly drained or overly dry soil. By adding some mulch to this plant, you can help a lot with its drainage. You can easily start columbines from seed.

Corydalis

long tube shaped purple flowers clustered on a stem
Corydalis has a number of different varieties, each of them shade-friendly.
Scientific name: Corydalis

Corydalis is very versatile, and it comes in several varieties that are usually under a foot tall. It can grow in small clumps, or as a groundcover, thanks to its tendency to spread. Slender, horn-shaped flowers come in several colors including yellow, purple, white, and blue.

Corydalis has a very long blooming period compared to other shade plants. Growing in zones 5 through 8, it usually blooms from late spring to late autumn. In some zones, this plant blooms early and late in the season.

Deadnettle

field of purple flower clusters with big dark leaves
Deadnettle will bloom all summer, and is durable enough to grow in many hardiness zones.
Scientific name: Lamium purpureum

Deadnettle not only blooms all summer long with white, pink, and purple blooms, but it has beautiful silver and green foliage. Deadnettle is popular because while it grows well in the shade, it can also grow well in many other conditions. It prefers very moist, well-drained soil in zones 4 through 8.

Only growing about eight inches tall, Deadnettle is also a great groundcover, and you may want to contain it if you do not want it to spread.

False Spirea

fluffy white tiny flower clusters on long stems
The false spirea is a unique looking shade-perennial that can grow in several different climates.
Scientific name: Astilbe

False spirea has feathery plumes of flowers that can come in several colors and sizes. While they can reach five feet high, these plants can also be as small as six inches. False Spirea can also have white, pink, maroon, and lavender flowers. It can grow in zone 4 through 8.

False Spirea grows well in partial shade, but it is okay with anything from full shade to full sun. This perennial is not a shade plant that can tolerate dry soil. It is a good idea to divide the roots of this plant every few years to help the plants breathe.

Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart

purple teardrop shaped flowers with fern leaves
The fern-leaf bleeding heart will bloom all spring and summer once planted.
Scientific name: Dicentra

The Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart can grow between zones 4 and 8, and they usually do not get taller than two feet. They need moist, well-drained soil. This plant has a somewhat similar silhouette to the traditional Bleeding Heart.

The main difference between these two plants is that Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart has long-lasting foliage and multiple bloomings, while traditional Bleeding Heart loses its foliage partway through the season. While it has it, this plant’s foliage resembles ferns, especially compared to the original Bleeding Heart.

Foamflower

pointy pink and white clusters of flowers on long green stem
Foamflowers grow taller than many perennials on this list.
Scientific name: Tiarella cordifolia

This loamy soil lover does well in zones 3 through 8, and it can get one to three feet tall. Foamflower brags unique white flowers and foliage. The leaves are asymmetrical and mostly green with reddish accents. From this foliage rises spikes of delicate white blooms.

Foamflower blooms in late spring to early summer. In warmer zones, this plant can be evergreen. It spreads rapidly with runners. So, if you want a funky but ethereal groundcover, Foamflower is a great choice for your shade garden.

Foxglove

Foxglove Flower
The foxglove prefers to be in shady areas when the weather is hot.
Scientific name: Digitalis purpurea

While Foxglove is not necessarily a shade plant, it does enjoy the shade if the weather is hot. This perennial is typically grown in full sun, but it can do well in many conditions. However, it needs well-drained soil to thrive. It can grow in zones 4 through 10, and it can reach a height of two to five feet.

Foxglove is recognizable from its tall, colorful stalks made up of speckled flowers. These flowers can be white, yellow, pink, red, purple, or a mix of a few colors. Some of these plants are biennials which means that it only blooms in their second year and then self-seeds.

Fuchsia

Fuchsia Flower
The Fuchsia flower comes in a variety of different shapes and colors.
Scientific name: Fuchsia

The fuchsia flower comes in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Keep in mind that Fuchsia hates the cold. So, if you want to grow it as a perennial, you will need to be in zone 10 or 11. However, it can be grown as an annual in many different climates. Just make sure there’s some partial shade to keep the sun from damaging the plant.

Ground Orchid

Ground Orchid
Ground orchids grow up to two feet tall, and are quite hardy.
Scientific name: Bletilla striata

Ground Orchid grows in zones 5 through 9 and gets to one to two feet tall. You may think that all orchids are difficult to care for, but this orchid is very hardy. Blooming in early summer, this plant is not affected by many diseases. Ground orchids can spread using their rhizomes and seeds.

Delicate, colorful blooms emerge in the shape of spires over the foliage of this plant. This flower can be white, yellow, or purple. While ground orchids can grow in a range of zones, moist, well-drained soil is needed, and some mulching over the winter is a good idea in zone 5.

Hardy Begonia

Hardy Begonia
The Hardy Begonia is a hardy plant that has low maintenance needs.
Scientific name: Begonia grandis

Grow this plant in zones 6 through 9, and it can grow up to two feet. Living up to its name, the Hardy Begonia is easy to care for. Its only quirk is that it does not do well in poorly drained soil.

The Hardy Begonia has beautiful dark green leaves and delicate, white or pink flowers. Begonias grow from tubers, and sprouts very slowly. These plants propagate themselves with bulbs. It is a good idea to add some mulch around Hardy Begonias to support drainage for this plant.

Hellebore

Green Hellebore Flower
The hellebore flower blooms early, loves shade, and comes in many different colors.
Scientific name: Helleborus

Hellebore can grow in zones 4 through 8, and it is usually under a foot. Also known as a Lenten Rose, this plant is very tough, tolerating animals and drought. Hellebore blooms very early, and it can come in many colors, including white, pink, maroon, and even green colored flowers. These blooms can last for a long time. It prefers plenty of moisture, but it can also survive a bit of a drought.

Hostas

Flowering Hosta Plant
The hosta loves the shade, and produced beautiful flowers depending on the variety.
Scientific name: Hosta

With a height under two feet, Hostas grow in zones 3 through 8. There are many different types of Hostas, and they can differ slightly in size and color. One thing that they have in common is that they enjoy the shade and moist, well-drained soil.

While some Hostas do not produce flowers when they do they are often white or purple. Sometimes they are even fragrant. Hostas are known as good shade plants, but they also grow very well in full sun and partial sun. They can also make great edging plants because most cultivars grow low to the ground.

Ligularia

Ligularia Flower
The ligularia flower can grow quite tall, and has yellow or orange flowers.
Scientific name: Ligularia

This plant grows in zones 4 through 8, and it can grow to between three to eight feet. With their heart-shaped green foliage and yellow or orange perennial flowers, Ligulara can add a lot of character to your shade garden. These plants can tolerate partial shade and full shade, and they are rather sensitive to heat. They do not do well with dry soil, so make sure you water them regularly. Ligularia can be somewhat sensitive to slugs.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley
The lily of the valley loves the shade and has small white flowers.
Scientific name: Convallaria majalis

Grown in zones 3 through 8, this plant can get as tall as six to 12 inches in moist, well-drained soil. Known for its delicate, white bell-like flowers and sweet fragrance, Lily of the Valley is a wonderful addition to your shade garden. The white blooms turn into red berries in the fall.

Lily of the valley can spread very quickly when left unchecked, and it can be similar to a groundcover. As a result, you may want to try this plant in a container. Lily of the Valley may look and smell sweet, but it is toxic to humans and animals.

Lilyturf

Lilyturf Flower
The lilyturf flower is a shade loving purple flower that’s easy to care for.
Scientific name: Liriope

Lilyturf is a shade plant known for its grassy foliage and its blades of purple or white flowers in the late summer. It grows in zones 5 through 10 and is usually under a foot tall. This plant grows very easily, with very little intervention and it can survive some drought.

It is fairly resistant to pests and generally requires very little special care. While this plant can be beautiful, if you want to limit its growth you should keep it contained. When left to grow wild, it can be a prolific spreader.

Lungwort

Lungwort Flowers
Another shade loving perennial, lungwort has beautiful flowers in several colors.
Scientific name: Pulmonaria saccharata

Grown in zones 4 through 8 and reaching under a foot in height, Lungwort needs moist, well-drained soil. Despite its somewhat odd name, this plant is uniquely beautiful. You can recognize Lungwort from its white dappled green leaves and its spray of differently colored flowers.

Within a single Lungwort plant, you can see colors ranging from pink to blue. This range is because the small pink flowers turn blue as they mature. It is vital to keep this plant in the shade and keep its soil watered.

Meadow Rue

Meadow Rue
A unique looking perennial, meadow rue prefers at least partial shade.
Scientific name: Thalictrum aquilegifolium

Meadow Rue can grow from six inches to six feet tall in zones 5 through 8. With tiny flowers like lilac stars, Meadow rue is a charming perennial to add to any shade garden. This plant can grow in a range of sizes.

At maturity, it can creep along the ground or reach up to six feet. While Meadow Rue can survive the full sun, it significantly prefers at least some shade and moist, well-drained soil. If you live somewhere warm, shade is essential.

Monkshood

Monkshood Flowers
Another shady perennial, monkshood grows well in colder climates and enjoys partial shade.
Scientific name: Aconitum napellus

Monkshood grows well in zones 3 through 7. With its purple blooms and impressive five to six feet height, Monkshood is a good choice for your garden if you want a tall plant that provides late-season color. Since this is a tall plant, you may need to stake it up once it reaches a certain height.

This perennial is another shade-loving plant can grow in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Monkshood possesses uniquely-shaped blooms that look somewhat like a monk’s hood. This plant is not prone to any pests or diseases.

Primrose

White Primrose
The primrose grows well in partial shade, and does not handle warm weather well.
Scientific name: Primula

Primrose can grow to anywhere between six and 20 inches, and it can have blooms that are red, orange, yellow, blue, purple, and white. Though this plant can grow as a perennial, in certain zones this plant is grown as an annual since it does not handle warm weather well. In general, it can grow in zones 3 through 8.

It is an early bloomer, and it can tolerate a bit of sun. However, they can not tolerate much heat. There are many different kinds of primroses out there, and some of them have slightly different needs than others.

Siberian Bugloss

Siberian Bugloss
Siberian bugloss is a perennial that does well in shade, and has beautiful blue flowers.
Scientific name: Brunnera macrophylla

Siberian Bugloss can grow to around 1.5 feet tall in zones 3 to 8. This perennial is another plant that can easily burn from too much sun. It can do very well in the shade, especially in large groups. Though it needs moist, well-drained soil to thrive.

This mid-sized plant provides blue flowers, and blooms in late spring. It has dark green foliage. Siberian Bugloss is known to last a long time with very little maintenance needed. It can be a good groundcover after it has time to develop.

Solomon’s Seal

Solomons Seal
Another unique flower that enjoys partial shade, Solomon’s seal can make a great addition to any garden.
Scientific name: Polygonatum

Solomon’s Seal can grow anywhere between six inches and seven feet, and it can grow in zones 3 through 9. With some similarities to Lily of the Valley, this perennial has a sea of tapered green leaves and slipper-shaped white flowers that dance along a thick stem.

This plant blooms in late spring and the blooms develop into blue-colored berries by the time fall rolls around. Solomon’s Seal can take a few years to sprout when begun from rhizomes or plant starts. It needs moist, well-drained soil.

Spiderwort

Spiderwort Flower
Another purple perennial, spiderwort grows well in hardiness zones 4-7.
Scientific name: Tradescantia

Grown in zones 4 through 7, this small plant gets to be between six inches and two feet when planted in moist, yet well-drained soil. Though the flowers on this plant are simple, the overall plant can be quite striking. Spiderwort has long, slender leaves and delicate purple, pink, or blue blooms.

Spiderwort does best in partial shade, rather than full shade. It can even tolerate full sun. This plant is easy to care for, and pollinators love it. However, it can spread vigorously, so you may want to keep it contained unless you want a lot of it.

Toad Lily

Toad Lily
The toad lily grows in zones 4-8 and prefers moisture, as well as partial shade.
Scientific name: Tricyrtis hirta

Grow Toad Lily in zones 4 through 8 in moist, well-drained soil. It usually stays under two feet tall. While the toad lily is not a variety of orchid, its white or lavender flowers do closely resemble that orchid.

It has bold, speckled blooms and purplish-green leaves. The flowers on this plant are small but numerous. The Toad Lily is easy to grow, and it loves the shade. If you want pollinators in your garden, the Toad Lily is a great option.

Trillium

White Trillium Flower
The Trillium flower enjoys shade, and usually is colored in red, or white.
Scientific name: Trillium

Plant this perennial in zones 4 through 9 and moist, well-drained soil. It can grow to one to two feet with red or white flowers. Trillium is native to the U.S. and is often in woodland areas. There are quite a few different types of Trillium, and while some are common, others are endangered.

You can recognize this plant by its three-petaled flower. These petals can come in a few different shapes and colors. Trillium often does not do well when started from seeds. Often propagation through division is the best option.

Viola

Viola Flowers in Field
Another very common perennial is the viola, which comes in many different colors.
Scientific name: Viola

At a petite four to ten inches, the Viola can grow in zones 3 through 8 and moist, well-drained soil. There are many different types of Violas, and they all look a bit different. They can come in white, cream, yellow, blue, peach, and purple.

While Violas can handle a bit of sun, they do much better in partial or full shade. In some zones, these plants are grown as annuals. As perennials, they do not last for very long, but they do self-seed. Violas are some of the first flowers to bloom in the spring.

Virginia Bluebells

Virgnina Bluebells in Spring
The virginia bluebell blooms in early spring, and prefers partial shade.
Scientific name: Mertensia virginica

Reaching two feet, this plant thrives in zones 3 through 8, as long as it has moist, well-drained soil. Living up to its name, Virginia bluebell blooms look like tiny blue bells. Virginia Bluebells are also native to Virginia. It is important to know that the foliage of this plant fades after it blooms in early spring. Therefore, it is a good idea to pair them with other plant types. So, you do not end up with a bald spot in your garden in the summer.

Final Thoughts

Just because your garden is shady doesn’t mean it should be without an assortment of beautiful flowers. Use this list to build a selection of shade loving perennial flowers for your garden, and create a multi-colored garden oasis for many types of beneficial pollinators.

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