The following article is part of a series geared toward entry-level gardeners. For deep dives into many of the plants that we have sold over the years, visit our archive of in-depth perennial articles written by Tony Avent, Dr. Patrick McMillan, and other Plant Delights and JLBG experts. We also have transcripts of our Gardening Unplugged vidoes, recorded during our Open Nursery and Garden Days, that have great information for gardeners of all experience levels.
If you're a beginner gardener looking to add some color and life to the shaded areas of your yard, perennial plants can be a great choice. These plants come back year after year and require less maintenance than annuals. However, not all perennials thrive in shady conditions. In this article, we will explore some of the best perennial plants for shade that are easy for beginners to grow. Whether you have a small shaded corner or a large shaded garden, these plants can add texture, color, and interest to your outdoor space.
About Sun Requirements and Light Conditions
Here is a brief primer on the light conditions mentioned in this article. For a more comprehensive list with pics, click here.
Part Sun to Light Shade: Areas that receive a couple of hours of direct sun per day to indirect dappled light throughout the day.
Light Shade: Light shade occurs where there is a smattering of large and small trees, where indirect rays of light can filter through the canopy of limbs. This can be artificially accomplished by selective removal of trees in a forested area, and through removal of many of the lower tree limbs.
Light Shade to Shade: Filtered light to full shade throughout the day.
Shade: Dense shade is by far the most difficult type of shade in which to garden. Since plants need light to photosynthesize and produce food, only those plants with low metabolism can survive.
Flowering Perennials for Shade
These perennials are some of our all-time favorites for adding a spot of color to a shady or partly-shady area in the garden. Try picking varieties that bloom in different seasons so you have interest year-round.
Lobelia cardinalis (sun to light shade) This impressive late-summer to fall bloomer grows scapes of red, hummingbird-attracting flowers and requires virtually no maintenance.
Myosotis palustris 'Southern Blues' (part sun to light shade) We love this forget-me-not for its spring-thru-summer sky-blue flowers and ability to thrive in warm climates. Expect this deer-resistant patch to be 3' wide in two years.
Acanthus 'Summer Beauty' (part sun to shade) This summer bloomer thrives in part-sun, light-shade and will grow 6' tall scapes of white flowers surrounded by purple calyces. The deer-resistant foliage is also interesting year-round and acanthus require little-to-no maintenance making them great for the beginning gardener.
Lycoris radiata var. radiata 'Fire Engine' (part sun to light shade) When it comes to adding a pop of color to the shade garden, it's hard to beat these bright red surprise lilies. These easy, low-maintenance, winter-blooming perennials are truly a set-it-and-forget-it plant guaranteed to "surprise" you when they pop up in late winter.
Evergreen Perennials for Shade
Aspidistra elatior 'Asahi' (light shade to shade) An incredible variegated version of cast iron plant that keeps it's interesting foliage coloration all year long. The very definition of low-maintenance, aspidistra are a must-have for the shade garden.
Danae racemosa (part sun to shade) The tough, slow-growing, poet's laurel has long been a favorite of gardners and florists and we love it too. The waxy-green leaves stay green all year and the brightly colored, reddish-orange berries add interest to the garden during the fall.
In conclusion, perennial plants can be a wonderful addition to any shaded garden, and they are especially great for beginners due to their low maintenance requirements and longevity. By choosing the right plants and providing the necessary care, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden even in the darkest corners of your yard. Whether you prefer colorful blooms, interesting foliage, or a combination of both, there is sure to be a perennial plant that fits your needs. So, get out there and start planting – you'll be amazed at the beauty you can create with just a little bit of effort!