Gardening In Shade: Best Annuals For Shade Gardens

By Amy Grant | April 29, 2020
Image by Nikki Tilley
by Amy Grant
April 29, 2020

As gardeners we face many obstacles – shade being a common one. If you have a shaded area of the garden, then you know what a challenge it can be to brighten the area. I’ve faced this same dilemma in my own garden. Yet, I have found a number of annual plants that like shade, many of which can add quick color or interest just where you need it.

What are Good Shade Annuals?

The great thing about flowering annuals is that you can change them up each year. One year you might want a specific color scheme and the next not so much. Also, most annuals are easy to grow and long blooming, a benefit for shaded regions of the garden. They are also often less expensive than perennials, although since they fade after a single season, the savings may be negligible.

What are good annual plants for shade? Here are my favorite shade annuals I feel everyone should try at least once:

  • Impatiens – The most popular shade-loving annual is probably the impatiens. It thrives in areas of average moisture in partial to full shade. They also come in a variety of colors and either single or double petaled. Their spreading habit perks up containers or shaded areas under trees or near buildings.
  • Fuchsia – The second most popular shade-loving annual in my garden is the fuchsia. It also does well in containers or hanging baskets in moist areas with partial to full shade.
  • BegoniaBegonias, with their bold to cool colors, are another excellent choice for annual plants that like shade. Wax begonias prefer things a bit sunnier than the tuberous begonias, however. While both prefer average moisture, wax begonias do well in sun to part shade while tuberous begonias prefer part to full shade.
  • Flowering tobaccoNicotiana, or flowering tobacco, is a versatile and easy-to-grow bloomer that thrives from sun to partial shade with average moisture.
  • FoxgloveFoxglove, with its stunning vertical blooms, does very well in a partial shade environment as does twinspur, although the latter prefers more consistent moisture than the former.
  • Colorful foliage plants – You don’t have to stick to blooming annuals for shaded areas, there are plenty of foliage plants that thrive in shade. Perilla prefers partial shade and fancy leafed caladium is a true shade-loving annual that prefers full shade. Coleus is another great annual plant for shade with endless color choices and patterns.
  • Ornamental grasses – Although they do beautifully in full sun, sedge and ornamental millet are two grasses that will actually flourish in part shade areas.

Other blooming annual plants that like shade include pansies, wishbone flower, Browallia, and lobelia. With such a variety of annual shade lovers, it should be easy to create some color and interest in even the darkest areas of the garden. Mix and match contrasting colors and textures and incorporate tall grasses to draw attention to the area.

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