Shade plants: 16 shade-loving plants for your garden

Shade plants: 16 shade-loving plants for your garden

Dark corners and shady garden beds? This article will help you discover the annual and perennial plants that will thrive in your garden even without much light.

Many gardeners exclusively associate plant life with sunshine. However, contrary to what one might assume, there are a lot of plants that prefer life in the shadows – and not because they are shy or unsightly. In fact, they are plenty of shadow-loving plants that will add green into garden corners. The following overview lists 16 great plants that are best suited for shady places. We have divided these shade lovers into annual and perennial plants.

Shade-loving plants: the 8 best annual species for your garden

Colourful blossoms and leaves that are full of life in shady places? These eight shade-loving, annual plants transform even gloomy garden beds into vivacious areas that will become a pride and joy of every gardener.

8. Annual shade plant: Coleus

The painted nettle or coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) lives up to its name. Its colourful leaves shine in many different hues from light yellow to red to a dark purple. Coleus is a real stunner due to the wild colour combinations that enrich the garden beds. At the same time, it is very easy to care for and does not require much attention. In sunny places, however, the vulnerable leaves of the coleus can burn easily, which is why it should be planted in semi-shade at the very least. The painted nettles thrive wonderfully in shady places, but there is a small detail to consider: the darker their location, the lesser is their bright leaf colouring.

7. Annual shade plant: Pansy

The garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) is gorgeous especially in spring. The pansy’s large flowers, which range in colours from snow-white to yellow to bright violet, make the plant one of the most loved flowering plants. Its low-maintenance nature also makes the pansy a gardener’s favourite. The plant will easily forgive if you take care of it in a ‘step-motherly’ way and it doesn’t get too much attention. Only the right location is of decisive importance for the small plant. The pansy prefers a slight shade. If it is exposed to the blazing sun, it quickly loses its strength and withers.

6. Annual shade plant: Lobelia

The lobelia (Lobelia erinus), also known under the names edging or trailing lobelia, has become a well-loved balcony flower in recent years. The reason for this is that even though the lobelia produces slightly more flowers in sunny places, it grows best in shady areas. Moreover, lobelias look wonderful when planted in hanging baskets or when grown next to other taller plants. Lobelias are also remarkable for their multitude of small, blue-violet, sometimes also white flowers, which bloom from May to September.

5. Annual shade plant: Jasmine nightshade

Although its name seems to suggest a connection to jasmine, the jasmine nightshade (Solanum laxum), also known as potato vine, is actually a close relative of the potato. The two plants share similarly looking large white flowers. The jasmine nightshade also resembles other nightshade plants in its choice of location: it likes to be warm and protected. This does not necessarily mean that it enjoys being in the full sun, though. The plant manages the best in a moderate shade. Additionally, it does not tolerate frost well. Therefore, it is advised to keep the plant at home during winter or plant it as an annual. Other than that, the jasmine nightshade is resilient and relatively easy to upkeep, just provide the plant with a climbing aid and prune it regularly, so that it does not completely devour your garden (this plant can develop up to 10 m long tendrils!).

4. Annual shade plant: Browallia americana

This plant is hardly known here in many parts of the world, so it mainly goes by its Latin name. Some English sources, however, refer to this plant as Jamaican forget-me-not or simply amethyst flower. Although it is relatively unknown, it has a lot to offer including a potential to be a magnificent summer garden addition. Its light purple flowers, reminiscent of the traditional forget-me-not we all know and love, appear in July and bloom tirelessly until the first frost. Thanks to its ability to thrive in shady places the Browallia americana is a great plant to grow in less sunlit areas.

3. Annual shade plant: Polka dot plant

If you are looking for boring, monochrome plants, this is not the right place. The polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) has a vibrant colour and characteristic dots on its leaves. Due to its pretty white or red colouring and its interesting pattern, the polka dot plant has managed to become a beloved houseplant. It is not just restricted to being a houseplant, it can prosper outside too. It is low maintenance and resilient, but does not tolerate colder temperatures and is therefore best suited as a pot plant that can be brought into the house as necessary. The polka dot plant prefers semi-shady to shady locations. If it gets too much light, it can suffer burns. If, on the other hand, it receives too little light, its leaves become less vibrant in colour.

Hypoestes phyllostachya
This gorgeous spotted plant is simply eye-catching [Shutterstock.com/ Salamatdoh]

2. Annual shade plant: Busy Lizzie

Those who desire to have long and gorgeously blooming plants in their garden, will make the right decision with the industrious busy Lizzie or simply impatiens (Impatiens walleriana). This persistent plant blooms from May to October and even increases its flowering capacity during the summer. It brings joy not just because of its extended period of bloom, the flowers of this plant are radiant and stunning. In the light shade, the intense colouring of the flowers surprisingly increases and therefore creates an oasis of colour even in the dimmest spots of the garden. Keep in mind, however, that the plant does not tolerate the blazing sun. The direct sunlight can burn the sensitive leaves.

1. Annual shade plant: Fuchsia

She is the queen of the shadow-loving plants and one of the absolute favourites when it comes to balcony plants. Fuchsia works just as well in the garden, it manages well in areas without much light. However, contrary to what fuchsia’s love of darker locations might suggest, it is not strictly just a shade plant. Certain fuchsia varieties can also tolerate sunlight well as long as their environment and care are adapted to it. This plant differs greatly in appearance depending on the species. The fuchsia varies from the small Fuchsia procumbens, which feels most at home in rock gardens, to the Fuchsia excorticata, which grows into a magnificent tree with a height of almost ten metres. All varieties, however, have the graceful bellflowers in common, which make these plants all the more charming. The flowers of fuchsias, that are often two-coloured, range in the most diverse colours and often appear in hundreds on the branches of this plant.

Shade-loving plants: the 8 best perennial species for your garden

Would you like to permanently embellish your shady garden with colourful plants? The list below shows you eight shade-loving perennials that you should not miss.

8. Perennial shade plant: Alumroot

Tiny bell blossoms in white, pink or red – the beauty of the alumroot (Heuchera, also known as coral bell) can hardly be denied. The lobed foliage is the reason why alumroot is a favourite decorative garden plant. It beams in bright colours from green to red to violet and often also has an elegant pattern. The preferred location of the plant is directly related to the colour of its leaves. While yellow-leaved and green-leaved varieties prefer shade or semi-shade, red-leaved varieties should be moved to a sunny area so that their leaves are as intensely coloured as possible. However, even yellow and green-leaved varieties should not be left completely in the dark, as their flower production can be hindered by an extreme lack of light. The alumroot grows best in moderately shady to sunny areas.

7. Perennial shade plant: Hosta

Hosta (Hosta) not only charms with its hanging bellflowers, but is additionally stunning because of its unusual leaves. The heart-shaped and columnar leaves of the hosta are colourful and appear in cream white, steel blue or various shades of green, but are also usually decoratively patterned. These characteristics are the reason for this plant’s popularity as a house plant. But it can also be grown in the garden and is amazing for Japan inspired gardens and shady areas. Hostas also make great potted plants because they are extremely resistant as long as they are not exposed to the blazing sun.

6. Perennial shade plant: Lungwort

A beautiful plant carpet, which not only enchants with pretty flowers but also with decorative leaves? This is the exact description of the lungwort (Pulmonaria). With a maximum height of 30 centimetres, this rather small plant is the perfect ground cover for shady garden beds. The lungwort feels especially at home under deciduous trees or shrubs, because here it receives enough light for its flowers during the early spring and is additionally protected from strong sunlight in summer. But even in permanent shade the lungwort usually gets along well. From March to April the red, violet, blue and (rarely) white flowers appear and are among the first messengers of spring. Some varieties even change their flower colour within the flower which makes them a unique resident in gardens. But even after flowering, lungwort is not to be underestimated. Many varieties have white-spotted or silver-grey leaves, which are also extremely decorative.

lungwort in bloom
Lungwort is one of the most decorative shade loving plants there is [Shutterstock.com/ EQRoy]

5. Perennial shade plant: Helleborus

The genus Helleborus is widespread from Europe to Asia with 15 to 25 species as well as countless varieties and cultivars. This genus is widely adored by gardeners. The early flowering makes them sought-after garden flowers. The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), which as the name suggests blossoms around Christmas time, is the earliest bloomer out of this family. Between February and April, the lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis hybrids) and the dungwort (Helleborus foetidus), which exudes a slightly unpleasant smell, flower. Almost all Helleborus species are characterised by dark green foliage and beautiful flowers, which make them extraordinarily stunning, especially in the snow. Since they also prefer shady places, they are perfect for spring in the shade garden.

4. Perennial shade plant: Astilbe

Bright, feather-like flower panicles from June to September: hardly any other perennial shrub blooms as impressively as Astilbe, which funnily enough is also known as the false goat’s beard. Depending on the variety, the upright standing plants reach a height of 10 to 100 centimetres and flower in a colour spectrum from white to carmine red and violet. But it is not only the inflorescences of the Astilbe that have an embellishing effect. If you leave the flowers on the plant, beautiful fruit clusters develop, which decorate the garden in winter.

3. Perennial shade plant: Foamflower

These plants definitely live up to their name. The garden beds with blooming foamflowers (Tiarella) look almost like sea foam. The countless small flowers in white or pale pink, that bloom from May to August, appear in grape-like structures on the plant. The foamflower grows fast and can spread quickly but only reaches a maximum height of up to 30 centimetres. It thrives wonderfully in the shade and is extremely easy to upkeep. For these reasons it is fit to grow as a decorative ground cover under bushes and trees. In contrast with other flowering shrubs, the foamflower is more impressive and can adorn shady areas underneath other plant life.

2. Perennial shade plant: White trillium

Beautiful white flowers and up to ten-centimetre-long leaves – the large-flowered white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) is certain to captivate anyone. But also other members of the Trillium plant genus, colloquially also called tri flowers, are in no way inferior to their big sister. Both the impressive flowers and the three bracts, which protrude almost horizontally from the stem of the plant, can be found in all species and make them a welcome decoration for the garden. The white trillium prospers in shady places and it particularly likes growing as a neighbour under deciduous trees. What is more, the white trillium is anything but care intensive. Quite the contrary, once it has grown, it needs very little care and is very hardy. Only in hot summers does the plant require regular watering as it does appreciate droughts.

1. Perennial shade plant: Bleeding heart

Easy to maintain, romantic, extravagant – the Asian bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is due to its extraordinary flower shape a one of a kind stunner in the realm of plants. As the name suggests, the shape as well as pink or white colour of the flamboyant flowers are reminiscent of a heart. This dreamy appearance is further enhanced by the arching overhanging shoots, each with almost a dozen flowers. What makes the bleeding heart even more conspicuous is that it is both robust and beginner-friendly. In a shady, sheltered places, the shrub needs to be fertilised every two years or so and watered on very hot days exclusively – more care is not necessary.



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