Perennials for Shade Gardens

Updated: Apr. 24, 2020

Try these twelve perennials to brighten up your shade garden.

Shade gardens are the perfect opportunity to try new perennials in your garden. These twelve plants will thrive in your shady areas. Many plants have multiple cultivars, which can make it difficult to choose one variety from another. Diane Gustus of Bloomington, Minnesota has made it easier. She takes notes on all of the plants in her garden to keep track of which cultivars do better than others.

Diane shares her “Perfect Perennials” list with Birds & Blooms readers. Please note that Diane lists plants by their botanical name, followed by the specific cultivar. This should make it easier for you to find a specific plant.

12 Perennials for Shady Areas

  1. Adiantum pedatum. Plant ‘Maidenhair Fern.’
  2. Astilbe. Try these cultivars: ‘Visions,’ ‘Rheinland,’ ‘Bridal Veil,’ ‘Deutschland’ and ‘Ostrich Plume.’
  3. Brunnera. ‘Jack Frost’ is especially pretty with variegated foliage.
  4. Chelone. Plant ‘Hot Lips’ because the foliage looks great all summer, and it’s a nice late bloomer.
  5. Cordylis lutea. This plant blooms all summer and has pretty foliage.
  6. Dicentra eximia. The ‘King of Hearts’ cultivar blooms all summer.
  7. Dicentra spectablis. This is a bleeding heart plant with white blooms.
  8. Hosta. Try some of my favorites, including ‘Francee,’ ‘Sun Power,’ ‘Gold Standard,’ ‘Stiletto’ and ‘Krossa Regal.’
  9. Polemonium. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has beautifully variegated foliage.
  10. Polygonatum variegata. Try ‘Solomon’s Seal’ if you want striking foliage. It’s especially good under trees.
  11. Pulmonaria. Plant ‘Sissinghurst White’ because it’s a nice early bloomer.
  12. Trollius. ‘Lemon Queen’ has pretty buttercup-like yellow flowers.