Top 10 Perennial Flowers for Shade

Updated: Jun. 25, 2024

Shadows won’t stop these blooms from shining bright in your garden! Here are our top picks for perennial flowers for shade.

Many of these plants have dark burgundy or lime colored foliage or leaves that transform to bronze-orange in fall. Plant against light structures or with brighter colored plants to help the darker foliage stand out in the shade.

Pick a plant appropriate for the soil conditions: dry or moist. If you’re planting under a tree, it is likely a dry area, as the rain cannot permeate the canopy. Watering is critical when establishing plants under shade trees.

359856355 1 Kristin Bailey Wilson Bnb Pc 2023
Courtesy Kristin Bailey Wilson


Helleborus spp, Zones 4 to 9

Deer-resistant hellebores thrive under deciduous shade trees or woodlands, in well-draining soil with lots of organic matter. These perennial flowers for shade bloom in the late winter and early spring with double or single flowers. Topping out at 2 feet, the glossy green foliage is attractive and is largely evergreen in warmer climates.

Why we love it: Hellebores come in many colors and patterns such as spotted, speckled or dark-edged petals.

Courtesy Dena Mitchell


Aquilegia spp., Zones 3 to 8

Columbines are noted for nodding, pendulous blooms, rising above scalloped green foliage in late spring to early summer. Available in most colors and bicolor, too, these perennials are 1 to 3 feet tall, with equally attractive seed heads for dried flower arrangements.

Why we love it: The native eastern red columbine has delicate red and yellow flowers, attracting hummingbirds and pollinators.

Sweetshrub (calycanthus Floridus) Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Usa

Carolina Allspice

Calycanthus floridus, Zones 4 to 9

A large native shrub, Carolina allspice blooms 2-inch-wide flowers from spring to summer. Varieties can have white, pink or red flowers with a strong fruity fragrance that attracts butterflies and pollinators. These deer-resistant shrubs, 6 to 10 feet tall and wide, prefer well-draining soil and tolerate moist locations.

Why we love it: The big flowers can be admired from the window or cut for fresh arrangements.

bleeding heart, perennial flowers for shade
Courtesy Michelle Jamroch

Bleeding Heart

Dicentra spectabilis, Zones 3 to 9

An old-fashioned spring ephemeral, bleeding heart blooms pink-and-white pendant-like flowers on thin, horizontal stems. The plant has delicate green foliage (although there is a golden form) that will reach several feet tall by late spring.

Why we love it: Bleeding heart is a tough, long-lasting choice among perennial flowers for shade.

Black Cohosh: White Efflorescence
Giorez/Getty Images

Black Cohosh

Actaea racemose, Zones 3 to 8

A native perennial, black cohosh grows to about 4 to 6 feet tall and blooms spikes of tiny creamy white flowers high above the astilbe-like foliage. Deer resistant, black cohosh prefers rich, well-draining soil in medium shade and can be grown under hardwood trees.

Why we love it: These perennial flowers for shade are sweetly scented, attracting pollinating flies, beetles and bees.

Walters Epimedium Pink Champagne 0000 High Res, perennial flowers for shade
Walters Gardens, Inc


Epimedium spp., Zones 4 to 9

In the late spring to early summer, barrenwort blooms delicate flowers suspended on thin stems. Available in many colors, each blossom is shaped like a four-corner hat or a spider. This perennial ground cover has heart- or arrow-shaped foliage which can change to red or bronze in the fall.

Why we love it: Durable and tolerant of dry soil, it is ideal for planting under trees. Barrenwort also made our list of best year-round perennials.

Rhs Garden, Wisley: Close Up Of White Flower Of Actaea Simplex Atropurpurea Group Perennial, Summe, perennial flowers for shade


Actaea simplex, Zones 4 to 8

Preferring moist, well-draining soil, bugbane is a perennial with green or dark foliage varieties. Spikes of small, fragrant, creamy white flowers bloom in late summer and can reach 4 to 6 feet tall. The flower petals are slightly fringed, creating a bottlebrush effect.

Why we love it: The pale, delicate flowers are even more dramatic against the dark foliage, which goes well with light-colored plants.

Walters Spigelia Marilandica Little Redhead 0004 High Res, perennial flowers for shade
Walters Gardens, Inc

Indian Pink

Spigelia marilandica, Zones 5 to 9

This plant has bright red tubular flowers with yellow tips at the opening of each tube. Indian pink prefers moist, well-draining soil high in organic matter. Individual plants are only about 1 foot wide, so plant several for a show from late spring to summer.

Why we love it: Indian pink is a native perennial, attracting hummingbirds.

Check out 10 more nectar plants for hummingbirds that you aren’t growing yet.


Hardy Begonia

Begonia grandis, Zones 6 to 9

From summer to fall, hardy begonia has typical pink begonia flowers clustered on long, slender pink stems. Relatively bushy, this perennial is 1 to 3 feet tall and prefers rich, moist and well-draining soil.

Why we love it: The red backsides of the leaves have a stained-glass appearance when lit from the back.

astilbe, perennial flowers for shade
Courtesy Ashton Cillo


Astilbe spp., Zones 3 to 9

Although many varieties are 1 to 4 feet tall, astilbe look even taller when large plumes of feathery flowers bloom in red, pink, maroon or white. Preferring moist but well-draining soil, astilbes have fernlike foliage in green or bronze color.

Why we love it: These perennials add a bright punch of color all summer long and look great in large containers.