21 Shade-loving Plants to Inspire – Gardening Tips
Are you fed-up with trying to coax life out of your sun-loving plants in a less-than-desirable location? Do you love the trees in your yard but wish you could have the colorful garden your sunny neighbors seem to grow effortlessly?
It might be that you need to embrace your shade and grow something different. Don’t try to fight nature. Instead, dig into these unusual and marvelous shade-loving plants to find inspiration for those tough spots in your yard.
Shade-loving Plants to Dazzle Your Yard
1. Lady’s Mantle
If you want a simple green vine that will spread and create a nice backdrop for flashier plants – this is it. It’s a groundcover, so keeping it in a tight formation will take regular pruning. Let it go where it will, however, and it will come back year after year to soften those shady spots. You can even use the vines to make wreaths!
2. Dead Nettle
Another ground cover – this one topped with purple, white or yellow flowers in the spring – will grow and fill all your shady spots. It’s also an edible and medicinal herb! You can use the silvery leaves when fresh to treat external wounds or cuts. Dead nettle comes in a variety of colors and
A perennial, astilbe is a shade-loving flower that is bound to impress. With huge, feathery, bright cone-shaped flowers that come in a variety of hues, plant these bulbs to create drama under your trees. Even better- astilbe attracts butterflies. Who doesn’t want more butterflies coming to their yard?
4. Coral Bells
This perennial – a plant in the saxifrage family – has gorgeous large leaves and sends for shoots of light pink or white flowers once a season. The leaves come in many colors: rust, yellow, green and even almost white. They are easy to plant and maintain and need very little care. Coral bells are perfect for a time-crunched modern person who still wants a nice yard.
5. Japanese Forest Grass
This little pompom grass is a perennial. If you want something interesting that’s not a ground cover, this plant is for you. You can plant it where you want little tufts of green that won’t spread everywhere like some of the other shade-loving greenery.
This perennial – like many of the shade-loving plants – gets its name for the properties people believed it had. They believed it could treat lung diseases. It doesn’t do that, but it does provide a nice groundcover for shady areas – especially near black walnut trees. Most other plants can’t take the toxic effect of this tree, but Lungwort has no problem.
Primrose plants are cultivated from wildflowers. Wild primrose plants are usually illegal to pick. However, the cultivated kind can usually be found on store shelves after the winter holidays to be enjoyed indoors for a short period of time. They can be planted as annuals or enjoyed as perennials – where they will bloom in early spring. They’re usually one of the first flowers to bloom with bunches of brightly-colored simple-petaled flowers atop a small bush.
8. Foam Flower
This is one of the more unique shade lovers. They have nicely-shaped leaves and send up delicate little stalks with many tiny flowers. These are also not ground cover, so you can add them in clumps where you want to without worrying they’re going to take over the whole garden. It’s a perfect splash of color!
These guys are interesting in that they re-seed themselves and come back so they aren’t a perennial, but they act like one. Foxglove plants are also impressive and beautiful. They send up large stalks covered with downward-facing cone-shaped flowers that come in bright colors. They instantly make you think of mountain passes in Switzerland dotted with wildflowers.
Spurge plants are perennials in frost-free zones, but they won’t tolerate cold. Plant these among your other shade lovers for a pop of yellow.
Impatiens plants have the potential to be perennials, but most people in the U.S. grow them as annuals. These colorful, mounding flowers do love shade, though, so if you do choose to add them to your shade plot, they can add some depth and dimension if only for the summer.
12. Creeping Jenny
Creeping Jenny is another shade-loving perennial. It stays green all year in some zones. This iconic ground cover offers a beautiful bright spring green shade and lovely round leaves along trailing vines. It makes a nice border when the vines drape and cascade down the edges of a raised bed.
13. Browallia Hybrid
I’ve seen these mounding flowers with pink, purple, and blue blooms, but the most common are purple. They are great for window boxes and patio displays where you can basically plant them and let them be for the summer. Browallia hybrid are pretty and very tolerant of just about everything – including shade.
14. Copper Plant
Copper plants are an annual. True to its name, the foliage turns a bright copper the more it gets exposed to the sun. It will tolerate shade, however, so if you have dappled shade it might be perfect for this plant. This plant is truly stunning – definitely worth a try.
Coleus is a simple plant, just leaves, that comes in many dark, rich colors. It is perfectly paired with other leafy plants to add some variation. It’s technically a tender perennial and needs “pinching” in order to grow back bigger and stronger year after year.
16. Meadow Rue
Meadow rue is a perennial that loves swamps and wooded areas. It has pastel flowers and is very hardy – it’s not prone to attracting pests or getting diseases.
17. Fancy-leafed Caladium
Fancy-leafed caladium are grown from bulbs – which may take a bit of learning – or can be purchased every year from a nursery. Just like the coleus plant, this one has beautiful, colorful leaves that add depth and beauty to a shady spot, or when interspersed between other green plants. The leaves can come in variegated purples, pinks, whites, reds, and greens.
18. Flowering Maple
Flowering maples have many big, bell-like blooms. They can be orange, yellow, red, pink or combinations thereof. For cold zones, this one is an annual and prefers filtered sunlight. In addition, it needs a narrow range of temperature, so it might be best to be grown in a pot and wintered indoors. The unusual flowers are worth the extra work!
19. Geranium Cranesbill
This geranium is a perennial you should only have to plant once. It also blooms all season, keeping a continuous color and richness.
20. Mirror Plant
Mirror plants are accent shrubs. They have unusual shapes and waxy-looking leaves to add interest to your shade garden. If you’re looking for a bush that’s not an evergreen to add depth, this traditional cottage-style plant is for you.
Lastly, hostas are the favorite shade-loving plants of many gardeners. They have been referred to as the “queen of the shade garden” and are available in thousands of varieties. Hostas thrive in rich organic soil that is drained well and has a slightly acidic pH. For more on growing hostas, see Everything You Need to Grow Stunning Hostas.
These are not the only shade-loving plants around. However, this list will get your gardening juices flowing. Hopefully, those shady areas of your lawn will be just as beautiful as your sunny spots next year.