21 Best Shade Plants for Raised Beds

Shade garden displays bring bold color and texture to dark garden zones. Shady raised beds offer the opportunity to showcase dynamic foliage and flowers while solving challenging garden situations. Garden expert Katherine Rowe explores plant selections perfect for brightening the shade in raised garden beds.

Columbine flowering plants are popular choices for shaded raised beds, characterized by delicate, lobed leaves and distinctive, spurred purple flowers.


Raised beds happily house a variety of plants, from ornamentals to herbs and vegetables, and bring a number of benefits to the garden. They offer solutions to challenging garden situations in areas with poor soils, drainage issues, small spaces, and no soil at all. Raised beds also provide accessible options for above-ground gardening, harvesting, and seasonal rotations.

Raised garden beds allow us to create lush plant displays in a variety of locations, including shady garden zones. The beds can be both architectural and functional, giving control over site placement, soil quality, and moisture needs. They showcase plants with unique features and eye-catching combinations.

When growing shade-loving plants in raised beds, choose selections with overlapping cultural requirements. Many shade plants prefer moist, well-drained soils and thus make excellent companions. Others work well together in dry shade and require less water.

Shade plants work well in raised beds with particular attention to shade preferences, mature size, and soil volume. For large specimens, make sure the bed size is suitable for accommodating established roots, and take care not to overcrowd plants for the best air circulation. Treat raised beds like big containers and garden beds, ready for boundless creativity made in the shade.


Coleus features colorful, variegated leaves of burgundy pink with jagged bright green edges.
Brilliant foliage brightens gardens with vibrant colors from spring to frost.
botanical-name botanical name Coleus spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 6”-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Coleus is a kaleidoscope of colorful leaves, able to brighten up dark areas and add drama with vibrant foliage and a “filler” habit. Versatile to many garden conditions and endless combinations, coleus is a show-stopper in both shade and sun displays, depending on the variety.

Coleus thrives from spring through frost in brilliant jewel tones of pink, purple, red, orange, green, and splashes of white. Look to the ‘Kong’ series for huge leaves in full shade conditions. Use trailing varieties like ‘Burgundy Wedding Train’ for deep red and lime green contrasting tones. Trailing coleus spills and softens the edges of raised beds, blurring them into the landscape.

Coleus shines because of its leaves in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Light purple bloom spikes accent the plant in late summer, but it’s best to pinch off blooms to direct energy to the leaves. Trim leafy stems if plants get too tall or sparse for a tidy appearance. Coleus grows best in evenly moist soils.


Fuchsia displays pendulous, tubular flowers in vibrant shades of pink, contrasting with dark green foliage.
Vibrant fuchsia blooms dance in raised beds, attracting hummingbirds.
botanical-name botanical name Fuchsia spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1.5-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

Fuchsia features highly ornamental blooms worthy of showing off in a raised bed display. Pendulous flowers in white, pink, red, magenta, purple, and bicolor bloom heavily in spring and early summer, with repeat flowering into fall.

Fuchsias rose to fame in Victorian-era gardens with their unique, teardrop-shaped single or double flowers that dance and bob along a fountain of stems. Popular in hanging baskets, fuchsia brings vibrant color and form to raised beds.

Fuchsia needs bright indirect light to thrive and protection from direct sun. Hummingbirds love to stop by the bright blooms.


Heuchera showcases semi-evergreen, lobed green leaves with a silver dusting, and produces delicate, airy flower spikes.
Coral bells add vibrant color and contrast to shady beds.
botanical-name botanical name Heuchera spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6”-2.5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Heuchera, or coral bells, are North American native perennials prized for their form and color. Heuchera hybrids have green, purple, bronze, black, red, or orange foliage, often in mottled tones. They add exciting visual interest and high contrast to shady raised bed arrangements.

Coral bells make gorgeous raised bed perennial “filler” options amidst other foliar textures and colors. In addition to bold foliage are sweet bloom sprays above the mounded leaves in summer. Pair coral bells with other shade-loving plants like hellebore, hosta, ferns, and brunnera for a striking combination of multi-season foliage and flowers.

Heuchera needs rich, organic soils in well-draining raised beds. Grow these dynamic foliage plants in a dappled shade area of the garden or full shade, though growth may be slower.


Impatiens walleriana exhibits oval-shaped, serrated leaves and produces abundant, colorful flowers in shades of red-pink.
Brighten shady beds with impatiens in a myriad of colors.
botanical-name botanical name Impatiens walleriana
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6”-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Impatiens are among the most popular bedding annuals due to their profuse flowers in a myriad of colors, from baby pink to neon magenta, and their ability to grow in partial to full shade. Their sweet flowers and deep green leaves soften and brighten the raised bed shade planting.

Impatiens flower as temperatures warm in spring and continually bloom until cool weather arrives in the fall (the moisture-packed stems are highly sensitive to cold weather). For best growth, impatiens require organically rich soils and consistent moisture throughout the summer.

The classic, shade-loving Impatiens walleriana is susceptible to downy mildew, especially in damp and humid conditions. Look for the BeaconⓇ and Imara™ series for selections with improved disease resistance.


Hosta features large, ribbed leaves in shades of green, blue, and variegated patterns, with attractive leaf textures.
Lush, sculptural leaves enrich garden beds with cool tones.
botanical-name botanical name Hosta spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6”-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Hosta brings their lush, full, sculptural leaves to enrich the shady raised bed. Available in a variety of leaf shapes – from broad to strappy to curly – hosta offers textural contrast and visual interest. Cool color tones of blue-green, emerald, and variegated foliage make hosta a versatile shade choice.

The raised bed garden provides an opportunity to feature detailed plant characteristics like leaf shape and texture. Plant a range of hosta sizes, colors, and leaf textures, or complement them with other woodland perennials in the raised bed. 

In addition to stunning leaves, hostas bloom in early summer with lavender or white flowers. Tall bloom scapes float above the leafy base, which attracts hummingbirds.

Hostas prefer partial to full-shade garden locations. Morning sun benefits bright or variegated varieties to retain color and vibrance. Provide moist, well-draining potting mix and keep soil consistently moist, especially early in the growing season. Hostas enter winter dormancy when temperatures fall before emerging with full foliage in spring.


Begonia has glossy, asymmetrical leaves in shades of green, and produces clusters of small pink flowers with yellow centers.
Graceful blooms and glossy leaves thrive in shady spots.
botanical-name botanical name Begonia spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1-1.5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Begonias are graceful but durable plants with arching stems and thick, glossy leaves in various shapes and colors. Clusters of pendulous blooms hang from tuberous stems. Depending on the variety, begonias perform well in tough spots like dry shade with heat and humidity. 

Delicate pink or white blooms give the raised garden a lovely effect. Bold red begonias add contrast against rich green or dark foliage plants. For dynamic interest, incorporate rex begonias or angel wing begonias into shady spots for unusual texture and foliar interest. Their wing-shaped leaves feature dramatic mottling in rich tones.

Begonias are hardy annual performers that thrive in warm conditions and bloom continually until frost. They’ll enjoy summer outdoors but enjoy them as houseplants when the weather turns cold.

Holly Fern

Holly Fern has leathery, dark green fronds with a glossy texture and spiny leaflets, adding a lush, fern-like appearance to shaded areas.
Glossy fronds add lush architectural interest to shady beds.
botanical-name botanical name Cyrtomium falcatum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1.5-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Holly fern is a handsome architectural plant with broad, dark green, and glossy fronds. Each leaflet is coarse and resembles a holly leaf, although with the soft texture of a fern.

Holly ferns make excellent specimens in shady raised beds with a lush, full form and arching fronds. These easy-to-grow ferns prefer rich soils with even moisture, though they withstand periods of drought once established. 

In areas with mild winters, holly ferns are evergreen and give lasting seasonal interest. Leave fronds in place over the winter for added protection, and remove faded or weathered fronds in spring as new growth emerges.

Japanese Forest Grass

Hakonechloa macra features arching, cascading leaves with variegated gold and green stripes, creating a graceful mound.
Feathery, cascading blades add texture and color to any garden.
botanical-name botanical name Hakonechloa macra
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1-1.5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Japanese forest grass, or Hakone grass, adds exceptional texture and color to shady garden spots. With a mounding, cascading habit, the narrow-bladed grass is feathery among broadleaf and fronded shade plants like hosta, astilbe, and ferns. 

For a bright, golden-green selection with bold appeal, opt for ‘All Gold’. This cultivar is lovely among dark foliage and shade bloomers like begonia impatiens.

Japanese forest grass benefits from winter protection in zones 5-6, where mulching with fallen leaves helps insulate plants. This shade-tolerant grass needs organically rich and well-draining soils to grow. Poor and overly wet soils cause stress and disease issues.


Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmacsix’ has large, lacy inflorescences consisting of tiny blue-purple flowers surrounded by larger four-petaled flowers in shades of pink and purple, against dark green foliage.
Bold, vivid blooms pop against lush foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3-6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Hydrangeas are gorgeous summer bloomers that grow in partial to full shade, depending on the variety. To grow hydrangeas in raised garden beds, consider the plant’s mature size. While large varieties need significant space for robust root systems and above-ground growth, dwarf varieties reach lower heights with the same full flowering as their taller relatives. Because of their compact nature, dwarf hydrangeas are perfect for adding lush foliage and considerable blooms to raised bed arrangements.

Pop Star is a dwarf variety and part of the Endless SummerⓇ series of reblooming hydrangeas. It brings bold, bigleaf hydrangea lacecap blooms to small plants that grow only 18-36 inches tall and wide. Depending on soil pH, Pop Star produces loads of flower clusters in vivid blue or bright pink. The rich flower pigments “pop” against the dark, lush foliage. 

Pop Star makes a showy, low-growing specimen. It’s an excellent option for growing bigleaf hydrangeas with continual seasonal color in small space shade gardens.


Lamium maculatum showcases heart-shaped leaves with silver markings and produces spikes of pink flowers.
In shady spots, lamium forms vibrant mats of variegated foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Lamium maculatum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 6-9”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Lamium, or spotted deadnettle, lightens shady spots with a carpet of bright little leaves in silver, variegated, green, and gold varieties. The low-growing plants spread to form a soft mat. Prolific pink, purple, or white flowers appear in late spring through early summer, with sporadic blooming until frost. 

Ideal growing conditions for lamium are partial to full shade garden locations with organically rich, moist, well-drained soils. Plants tolerate dry shade but wither in overly wet conditions, which leads to crown and stem rot. 

Lamium spreads vigorously. In raised beds, easily pluck spreading stems to keep them in bounds and orderly amongst other plantings.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart displays delicate pink heart-shaped flowers, hanging gracefully from arching stems with fern-like foliage.
Graceful and colorful blooms elevate the charm of shaded gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Dicentra spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 9”-1.5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Bleeding Heart brings woodland, wildflower, and cottage garden appeal with pendulous flowers on graceful stems. With species native to eastern North America and Asia, Dicentra and its cultivars are well-adapted to shade conditions.

Bleeding Heart’s blooms are ornamental and detailed, and a raised bed planting gives the opportunity to show them off. Puffy, heart-shaped blooms in white, pale pink, and fuchsia dangle from arching stems in late spring.

Dicentra is a delicate beauty in the raised bed among columbine, heuchera, hardy geraniums, ferns, and hosta. Plants enter dormancy in the heat of summer; to obscure fading foliage, nestle bleeding heart with other leafy shade-loving plants.


Brunnera macrophylla has heart-shaped leaves with silver markings and produces clusters of small, forget-me-not-like blue flowers.
With its striking silver foliage, brunnera stuns in shade garden beds.
botanical-name botanical name Brunnera macrophylla
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1-1.5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Brunnera grows beautifully as a shady groundcover with heart-shaped leaves and blue flowers in spring. This Siberian perennial boasts multiseason appeal, with unique silver, gray, and dark green foliage with heavy venation and patterning.

Brunnera is a top-performing perennial that is well-suited to a wide range of climates. They’re easy to grow and bear pest and disease resistance. Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ is a Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial of the Year winner. ‘Jack Frost’ features large, silvery leaves with rich veins.

Brunnera grows best in moist, well-draining soils. Morning sun, afternoon shade, or dappled light are ideal. Plant ‘Jack Frost’ with hosta and ferns in raised beds for interest in texture and color.


Epimedium features delicate, heart-shaped leaves on wiry stems and produces small, intricate flowers in shades of pink.
With intricate foliage and delicate blooms, epimediums enrich any garden.
botanical-name botanical name Epimedium spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6″-2′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Epimediums (barrenwort and fairy wings) are low-growing, compact perennials that bring color, texture, and form to the shady raised bed for multi-season appeal. Their colorful foliage has dramatic mottling, blotching, and venation. Ornamental, orchid-like flowers with delicate spurs emerge in summer.

Despite their delicate appearance, epimediums are resilient and low-maintenance. Unlike many showy plants, they grow in conditions other perennials may find challenging, like deep and dry shade.

Epimediums make lovely accents in groups with other shade-loving perennials like ferns, astilbe, hellebore, wild ginger, columbine, bleeding heart, and hosta. A raised bed arrangement with epimedium captures this plant’s intricate details, ideal for multi-season shade combinations. Its flowers are similar to columbine’s.


Vibrant red-and-and pink columbine flowers in bloom against a green and leafy background.
With its vibrant blooms, columbine is a favorite for pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-3′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Columbine is a North American native perennial with graceful, origami-like blooms that delight the shady raised bed with ornamental appeal. The nodding flowers range from vibrant red and yellow to beautiful blues, purples, and pinks, depending on the variety. Hummingbirds and other pollinators appreciate the nectar from the tubular blooms, and birds feed on the seeds in the fall.

Aquilegia species have natural habitats along woodland edges, clearings, and riverbanks. Columbine grows best in moderately moist, well-drained soils (not too wet or dry). It is semi-evergreen and retains its basal leaves except in overly cold and hot temperatures when it enters dormancy until temperatures level off.

This plant appreciates partial shade and protection from the afternoon sun. In cool climates, it tolerates sunnier conditions.

Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalis has glossy, lance-shaped leaves and produces fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers.
These fragrant bell-shaped blooms brighten any garden.
botanical-name botanical name Convallaria majalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

Lily of the valley brightens the shade garden with white bell-shaped blooms in spring and summer. The delicate, nodding flowers are fragrant and emerge in pendulous clusters amongst the broad, deep green leaves.

This shade-loving plant thrives in dappled light and shade. It spreads slowly by rhizomes for a lush underplanting among other shady raised bed selections. Divide the plant if clumps become dense or spread too much.

Convallaria majalis grows best in cool climates and even withstands sub-zero temperatures. It thrives in zones without high heat and humidity. However, all parts of the plant are toxic, so keep them out of the reach of curious children and animals. It’s also an invasive species in parts of North America, so check with your extension office before planting. 


Tiarella has deeply lobed, palmate leaves with attractive patterns and produces spikes of small, star-shaped flowers in shades of white and pink.
With striking foliage and delicate blooms, tiarella thrives in woodland settings.
botanical-name botanical name Tiarella spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Tiarella is a lovely native woodland herbaceous perennial with striking foliage and delicate flower sprays that thrive in the shade garden. Its heart-shaped and maple-shaped leaves in exciting, colorful patterns give raised bed arrangements high texture and contrast. 

A Heuchera relative, tiarella is a tidy, compact plant with attractive mounded foliage. It complements a variety of planting styles, from woodland to naturalistic to pollinator to contemporary.

Tiarellas are low-maintenance plants that tolerate deep shade. Given consistent moisture and a shady spot to grow, tiarella enchants with multiseason interest and easy care.


Plectranthus fruticosus has fleshy, serrated leaves and produces spikes of tubular flowers in shades of purple.
Blooming in late summer and fall, plectranthus stands out in stunning shades of lilac and deep purple.
botanical-name botanical name Plectranthus fruticosus
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Plectranthus is a late-blooming standout, with glorious bloom spikes emerging from September through November. Large, loose spires of lilac and deep purple flowers among deeply textured, leathery leaves make this fall bloomer worth the wait.

Plectranthus blooms in the shaded raised bed as other flowers begin to fade, creating a beautiful transition bloom from warm to cool seasons. The violet blooms stand out among muted rust and gold hues of seasonal color.

Plectranthus is a tender perennial or annual to bring indoors in cold climates. Unique in the garden, plectranthus adds interest to the late summer and fall display.


Caladium features large, heart-shaped leaves with vibrant patterns in shades of red, pink, green, adding tropical flair to gardens.
This vibrant foliage plant thrives in partial to full shade.
botanical-name botanical name Caladium spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 1-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-10

Caladiums are a must-grow annual to quickly fill and enliven the shade display. These fast-growers develop from small tubers who need little else than plenty of water and partial to full shade to thrive. In raised beds, they happily fill in gaps with their broad leaves and compact forms. 

Caladiums have distinctive arrow-shaped leaves in decorative patterns and colors. Heights vary from low-growing to tall, in fancy and lance-leaved shapes. Leaves are green, red, pink, or white – or combinations of each – with colorful veins, blotches, and splotches.

Caladiums thrive in partial shade or shade, with some varieties (especially red lance-leaved) suited to full sun. They’ll develop a spathe flower that is less showy than the foliage; it’s useful to cut off the bloom to direct energy to the leaves.

Hardy Geraniums

Hardy geraniums have palmately lobed leaves and produce delicate, cup-shaped flowers in shades of purple.
Their resilient nature and vibrant blooms enhance any garden bed.
botanical-name botanical name Geranium spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6”-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Hardy geraniums, or cranesbill, are tough perennials with attractive foliage and delicate flowers in rich colors. They include native woodland species (Geranium maculatum), which form soft, mounding specimens with spring and early summer flowers. Leaves are palmately lobed in a fresh, true green.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is a top-performing hybrid with bright purple-blue flowers from spring until frost. For its long bloom time and vigor, ‘Rozanne’ won the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year award. ‘Gravetye’ is a readily available, compact hardy geranium with large, deep violet-blue blooms. ‘Gravetye’ tolerates shady conditions and grows best in partial to full shade.

Hardy geraniums grow best in organically rich soils with even moisture. Their leafy forms and rich blooms soften the raised bed arrangement. These low-maintenance plants don’t require deadheading.

Pineapple Sage

Salvia elegans has lance-shaped leaves and produces spikes of bright red, tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds.
This flavorful sage attracts hummingbirds with its vibrant scarlet blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia elegans
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Pineapple sage is a highly ornamental shade-growing salvia with a flavorful, tropical flare. Brightening the display with scarlet flowers in late summer and fall, pineapple sage is also an edible bloomer.

The leaves and flowers of pineapple sage have a fruity flavor reminiscent of mint and pineapple. The showy, nectar-rich, tubular blooms draw hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Pineapple sage thrives in moist, well-drained soils and tolerates moderate drought. It grows in full sun to partial shade (especially appreciating shade in hot, southern climates). Its ideal raised bed placement receives morning sun and dappled afternoon shade with protection from scorching rays.


Astilbe features fern-like foliage and produces fluffy plumes of red flowers, adding a soft, airy texture to shade gardens.
Vibrant plumes add elegance and color to shaded landscapes.
botanical-name botanical name Astilbe spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

A perennial favorite, astilbe shines in summer shade with frothy, feathery, colorful plumes. Dense, pyramidal bloom spikes in shades of pinks, reds, purples, and whites rise above mounding leaves. Astible’s glossy green leaves have tinges of red and copper. 

Astilbe is lovely as an accent in shady raised beds and grows well with hosta, columbine, ferns, and heuchera. Seed heads develop post-bloom for lasting garden interest. 

Astilbe is relatively easy to grow, and consistent soil moisture is vital to its performance. Plantar suffer in dry periods. Highly organic soils are ideal for best growth.

Final Thoughts

Shady raised beds let us design gardens that ensure soil health and good drainage while enlivening dark garden zones. Dynamic shade plants abound in raised beds for partial to full shade areas in an array of foliage and flowering forms.

Use raised beds to feature plant details that may otherwise be lost in a vast planting bed. Group complementary selections with similar growing requirements for best health, and enjoy an abundant display of thriving plants in the cool garden shade.

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