Perennials are flowers that can live for two years and bloom year after year, completely on their own. While this makes for easier gardening, there are so many varieties that it can be hard to decide which to plant. Our criteria would be low maintenance perennials or shade perennials that have a long blooming period. You’ll also want to look for the right color and height to match the rest of the garden.
Shade-loving perennials are a great choice for gardens in cooler climates. (Find your USDA Hardiness Zones here.) These cooler-weather plants will last longer and won’t react poorly to cloudy or dark days. That said, we want to cover our list of the best perennials for shade so you can love your garden longer.
Best Shade Perennials
While searching for perennials that love the shade, it’s important to remember the difference between part shade and full shade. To ensure that your flowers are getting the right amount of sun, measure the amount of sun each part of your garden receives. Because the sun will shift throughout the year, it might be necessary to measure each month.
Part Shade Perennials
Part shade means that the flowers never receive more than three to six hours of sunlight each day. One important thing to note is that sunlight for part shade perennials is best at dawn or dusk. In other words, they shouldn’t be in full sun in the middle of the day.
Here are some of our favorite part shade perennials:
Also known as False Goat’s Beard, Astilbes feature long-blooming plumes in brilliant shades of pink, purple, and red. They’re one of the easiest and most beautiful perennials to grow, making them an obvious choice for many gardeners. But be careful: If they are not placed in partial shade, they can burn.
Jack Frost Heart-Leaf Brunnera
Low growing perennials like the Heart-Leaf Brunnera thrive in partial shade. This plant blooms with brilliant sky blue flowers that pop up over hardy silvery leaves. They’re so hardy in fact that the leaves will last down to 15 degrees Celsius. While the plant does shed its leaves for winter, they will make a return in early spring. Some may confuse Brunnera with forget-me-nots due to their color and shape. But this only adds to their appeal.
Hydrangeas are very popular perennials available in many beautiful shades. heir long-reaching stems can grow up to 3 meters and hold many dainty flowers. While they are easy to grow, hydrangeas don’t do well in the sun. They enjoy a light bit of sunlight in the morning, but for the rest of the day, they should be in the shade.
Bleeding Hearts have a rather romantic look. They are also hassle-free or low maintenance, making them one of the most popular shade perennials. Unbothered by pests, this flower grows in compact spaces. It will last all the way from April through the first frost of fall without the need for much care. One thing to note though, is that old-fashioned bleeding heart can go dormant in the summer. When this happens it may lose its beautiful pink or white blooms. Be sure to plant it with like-colored plants such as astilbe so you don’t end up with a bald spot in your garden.
Lily of the Valley
This perennial is highly poisonous to eat, but fine to touch. It’s also one of the most sweetly fragrant perennials available and easy to maintain. These adaptable plants can survive in full sun or full shade. Plant them in areas of the garden that receive full light during part of the year and full shade for periods of time.
Full Shade Perennials
Full shade means direct sunlight will never touch the plant. This, of course, does not mean that the flowers sit in complete darkness under your deck. They prefer to be in indirect sunlight or “dappled” light.
Hosta features lightly-lined leaves of various colors that are beautiful on their own. It also sees a period of bloom in the summer, featuring small, fragrant white flowers. There are many varieties of Hosta, and some will grow very large (a couple feet wide). Some varieties need more sun than others. The rule of thumb, in the case of Hosta, is the darker the leaf, the less sun it needs.
One of the best reasons to include Monkshood in your garden is its blooming season. It blooms late in the summer and continues to bloom through the fall. Its vibrant purple or blue hood-shaped blossoms cap a long stem that will fill any gaps in your garden. It’s especially useful as fall starts to take a toll on surrounding plants. Monkshood will need a good bit of shade in most regions, but this hardy, deer- and slug-resistant plant can withstand full sun in the coolest regions.
There is an incredible variety of Sedums, with wildly different appearances. They are actually succulents, though they may not always look it. There are two main varieties, tall and creeping. Tall Sedums look much more like most other plants, with long, upright stems ending in blossoms of many colors. Creeping Sedums come in many forms, some draping while others will grow low to the ground in small clusters. Their appearance is like most other succulents you might recognize.
Because of their diversity, it is especially important that you pay attention to what variety of Sedum you’re selecting. You can find tall, mat-forming, drought-tolerant, woodland, rain-loving, or sun-loving perennials among the Sedum varieties. If you’re looking for perennials for shade that bloom all summer and can last into winter, Sedum ternatum, Sedum ellacombianum, or Sedum spurium are great choices.
Heart-Leaved Bergenia is a class of low growing perennials that form in clumps. Bergenia features 12-inch stems that topped with purple, pink, or white flowers. Yet it’s really the leaves that make this such a brilliant choice for the garden. Large, glossy, dark green leaves are heart-shaped at the base and either stay evergreen or turn bronze in the fall. If you’re looking for color and texture year-round, Bergenia is the right choice for you.
Shade perennials are often low maintenance, requiring very little direct sun. They can often brighten your garden longer than other plants. With so many varieties, it would be hard not to find several shade-loving perennials for your garden, no matter its climate.
For more information about fall perennials, full sun perennials, gardening tips, and much more, follow us at Flower Glossary. We care about your garden.