Plants that Grow Well in the Shade

Vego Garden
Vego Garden

Bold bright blooms that reach towards the sun are adored by gardeners and non-gardeners alike. But those that dwell in the shade can be just as lovely. Before starting, it can be helpful to understand the different terms regarding lighting requirements. While partial sun and partial shade are used interchangeably, there are slight variations between the two. Partial shade denotes plants that require between 2 – 4 hours of sunlight a day; partial sun means 3 – 6 hours of sun. After you have figured out the light requirements your plants need, it’s time to grab some tools and start gardening.

Shade Garden Designs and Ideas

Shade plants are versatile and can be used for a variety of purposes: filling crevices between rocks, adding visual interest to a stark space beneath a canopy of taller plants, and enhancing dull spots in garden beds. At night, add dimension to your garden by lighting the way with solar garden lights. Whether you prefer a darker palette or a pastel look, there is something for everyone. The intricately-shaped flowers of dahlias, whose towering stalks shoot skyward, pair well with violas and evergreen hellebores to create a striking display of dark color. From quaint English gardens to evocative gothic-themed gardens, shade plants continue to dazzle in all seasons. 


Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

Though it’s colloquially known by some unsavory monikers – puke weed, gagroot, and vomitwort – its common name, lobelia, recalls that of a medieval lady of the aristocracy. A cool-season plant that can be grown in full sun or partial shade, lobelia blooms in prolific bursts of true blue that has a trailing tendency, making it an ideal candidate for planters and cascading raised beds. The North American variations of Lobelia inflata have been used by Native Americans to treat a host of ailments, most notably to induce vomiting. However, you should never try to induce vomiting yourself, with the use of natural remedies or otherwise. 


Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

In Japan, hydrangeas bloom during the rainy season from June to July and can be seen dotting schoolyards and shops with their pastel-hued splendor. Though they symbolize “cold-heartedness” or “fickleness” in the Victorian language of flowers, their profuse, regal blooms overshadow any negative connotation. All species of hydrangea prefer partial shade, with some being more favorable towards more sunlight. Whether as part of a hedge or an addition in a perennial bed, hydrangeas present a captivating display that captures a cool ‘old-money’ aesthetic. 

3.Bleeding Hearts            

The aptly bleeding heart is a woodland plant that prefers shady areas. Often described as delicate, its heart-like appearance belies a hardy, resilient nature. Like other spring ephemerals, they bloom for only a brief period before going dormant and disappearing for the rest of the summer if exposed to too much heat. To ensure continuous bloom, plant them near other plants that will emerge later.

Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

Bleeding hearts prefer to be planted in a shady or part shade area, making them an ideal plant to brighten drab or dark areas. Keep the soil consistently moist through watering. 


Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

Bring a touch of the tropics into your yard with those brilliantly colored flowers of hot pink and deep purple. Keep in mind that fuchsias require certain climatic conditions that mimic the foggy coastal areas of South America, their native habitat, though some cultivars have been grown to tolerate sun. To emulate those conditions, plant them in moist soil in partial or full shade. Not only are they attractive to gardeners – hummingbirds, seeking the nectar deep within the tubular flowers, are frequent visitors. 

5.Toad Lily   

Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

The toad lily is a humorously named flower that resembles a cross between a lily and an orchid. And like toads, it prefers shady areas with moist, well-drained soil. Despite its mottled coloration, which bears resemblance to the common toad, it is far more appealing than its amphibious namesake. With colors ranging from pale white to lilac, it brings a splash of color as summer comes to an end. 

6.Brunnera (Siberian Bugloss) 

Known as Siberian bugloss and false forget-me-not, this perennial features tiny sprays of periwinkle blue flowers amidst foliage that ranges from verdant green to variegated hues of silver, such as the cultivar ‘Jack Frost.’ Choose a traditional brunnera to pair with other colorful plants or a pale variety to lend a subtle elegance to shady places bereft of color.

Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

Their whimsical appearance makes it a wonderful addition to shade gardens or woodland borders. 


Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

A classic Southern plant that conjures lush images of a bygone era, azaleas produce striking blooms of white, yellow, and magenta. More traditional varieties of azaleas prefer morning sun and afternoon shade while varieties can tolerate full sun. Azaleas grow well in moist, slightly acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. If your soil is heavy clay or you live in a cold climate, a good option is to grow them in elevated rolling beds, which allows you to wheel them inside once the threat of frost approaches. 


The feathery plumes of astilbe appear during late spring to early summer. Typically planted in partial shade – hot sun can cause them to wither and die – those perennials create a dreamy effect when grown in clumps as natural borders or paired with other shade plants.

Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

For an intriguing contrast, choose 'Dark Side of the Moon' astilbe, whose textured pink spikes contrast well with its near-black foliage. 


Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

Foxglove is an enchanting, ephemeral flower often seen adorning informal or English garden paths. Despite its beauty, it contains toxins that can result in severe poisoning. All parts of the plant can cause allergic reactions, and caution should be exercised when handling these flowers. Like other classic cottage garden plants, it is popular with beneficial pollinators. Bumblebees flock in droves to the vibrant purple flowers, lured in by the rich, fragrant nectar. Although its blooms tend to be more abundant in full sun, it can tolerate partial shade. 


Plants that Grow Well in the Shade | Vego Garden

A colorful plant with compact butterfly-like blooms, violas are related to pansies – all pansies are violas but not all violas are pansies. While the more traditional varieties have a subdued, old-fashioned feel suitable for cottage gardens, modern violas come in a dazzling array of colors that makes it a versatile addition to any garden. Flower color ranges from saturated swirls of violet to rusty reds to a dusky black. Violas are cool-season annuals that flower over an extended period, from early summer to early fall.

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