Top 10 Plants for Shade Gardening

By Mary H. Dyer | September 3, 2016
by Mary H. Dyer
September 3, 2016

Shade gardening can pose a challenge to those just starting out. But just because your landscape has a bit of shade doesn’t mean you can’t fill the space with beautiful plants. Here are our top 10 plants for shade gardens:


1. Astilbe (Astilbe spp.) – Also known as false spirea, astilbe produces lacy, fern-like foliage and showy, plume-like, midsummer blooms. Flowers, which vary in size from 6 inches to 24 inches, are available in rich shades of red, pink, purple and white.

2. Bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.) – This old-fashioned woodland plant may look delicate, but it’s actually a sturdy, trouble-free bloomer that produces dangling, white or pink, heart-shaped blooms in late spring and earlier. The foliage of bleeding heart plant adds beauty in spring, but often goes dormant when temperatures rise in summer.


3. Wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri) – Wishbone flower is an abundant bloomer that does a great job of brightening up a dark corner. Wishbone flower is also known as clown flower for its bluish-purple flowers market with dark purple and bright yellow – also available in rose, pink, burgundy and white.

4. Impatiens (Impatiens spp.) – Reliable flowering plants for shade, impatiens are available in eye-catching shades of pink, blue, orange, red, pure white and bi-colors, in both double and single forms. Height ranges from 12 to 36 inches, depending on variety.


5. Caladium (Caladium spp.) – This gorgeous tropical plant is famous not for its blooms, but for its spectacular, heart- or arrow-shaped leaves. Caladium colors include amazing combinations of chartreuse, pink, red, rose, bright green and snowy white.

6. Grecian windflower (Anemone blanda) – A true wildflower, this anemone flower produces cherry, daisy-like flowers in a huge range of bright, jewel tones. This plant is most impressive when bulbs are planted close together, in large drifts.


7. Camellia (Camellia spp.) – This familiar evergreen shrub is beloved in the southern states, but it grows in mild climates across most of the country. Camellia displays an abundance of big, showy pink, red, white or multicolored blooms. Flowering time may be spring or fall, depending on variety.

8. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) – Also known as sweet pepperbush, summersweet is a deciduous shrub that blooms in late summer when most flowering shrubs have given up for the season. As an added bonus, the long-lasting blooms fill the air with a spicy aroma for four to six weeks.

Ornamental Grass

9. Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) – With its graceful, arching leaves, Japanese forest grass adds a touch of class to a shady corner. The color of the chartreuse leaves is intensified in shade, and becomes more pale yellow when exposed to sunlight.

10. Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) – Tufted hairgrass is a low-growing, clumping grass that works well as an accent or ground cover. Flower stems of purple, gold, silver or green rise above the grass in summer.

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