13 Full Shade Perennials

Perennials that grow in full shade are low maintenance and can be beautiful. Which ones should you choose?

Consider yourself lucky if you don’t have any shaded spots that are tough to grow plants. Full shade spots are tricky to landscape, and homeowners often feel they don’t have ornamental options. But this isn’t true! There are quite a few perennials that grow well in full shade spots, allowing you to add beautiful foliage and even gorgeous flowers. 

The following thirteen plants do well in full shade, and since they are perennials, you won’t need to plant new ones every year.

Understanding Full Shade Classification

All plants need sun for photosynthesizing, and every plant has a sunlight classification—full sun, partial sun, partial shade, or full shade—based on how much light it needs daily. These classifications range from plants that require very little light to ones that need a minimum of eight hours each day. Full shade plants need no more than four hours of direct sunlight.

Why Consider Growing These Plants?

  • Perennial plants are low maintenance and less labor-intensive overall.
  • Perennials have deep root systems, making them excellent choices if the area is prone to soil erosion.
  • Shade plants have lower moisture requirements. They lose less water from their stomata with less bright sun on their foliage.
  • The soil in shaded areas retains soil moisture for more extended periods, reducing how often you need to water.
  • Full shade plants add color and interest to shaded areas in the yard.

13 Perennials to Consider For Full Shade

Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

Grown in warmer climates as perennial plants and in cooler climates as annuals, impatiens are classified as tender perennials and thrive in full shade. These compact plants are staple bedding plants in many yards with brightly-colored blooms and glossy green foliage. Impatiens bloom continuously through the season until it frosts in pink, red, white, purple, lilac, orange, red, and bicolor.

Beautiful pink flowers of impatiens plant

Hostas (Hosta spp.)

Without a doubt, hostas are one of the go-to choices for shady landscape spots and are perfect for inexperienced gardeners. Plants are very low maintenance and easy-going, thriving under your favorite shade tree or brightening up the shadows along your house’s foundation. Their stunning leaves come in either solid green and blue hues or white and cream variegation. 

varieties of hostas plants growing in the forest

Fuschia (Fuchsia spp.)

Fuschia plants are among the few flowering ornamentals that do best when kept from direct sun. They produce the fullest blooms when grown in dappled sunlight (and lower temperatures). This delicate-looking plant is low maintenance and hardy, needing very little care. They bloom all summer, displaying bright pink, white, or purple pendulous flowers against dark green foliage. 

Blooming flowers of a fuchsia hybrid

Ferns (Tracheophyta spp.)

Native to dark, wet woodlands and forests, ferns are perfect for full shade spots in the yard. They like dappled sunlight that filters through tree branches, and very few species can handle any direct sunlight. You have many different types of ferns to choose from in different colors and sizes. Pick one that fits your climate’s relative humidity.

A large fern leaf growing in the forest

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

Bleeding heart plants are a stunning addition to your perennial garden and add gorgeous color to shaded spots. These classic garden plants do well in various sunlight but bloom longer in full shade. Each heart-shaped, deep pink flower has a single white droplet hanging from the center of the bloom. Arching stems can grow up to three feet long.

pink flowers of a bleeding heart plant

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the valley is an incredibly easy-going plant and adapts to a wide range of light conditions, as long as the soil moisture is suitable. The 6 to 12-inch tall plants bloom in spring and summer and are known for being one of the most fragrant garden blossoms. They perform best in cooler climates and will spread.

flowering lily of valley plant

Blue Cordyalis (Corydalis flexuosa)

If you’re looking for that elusive deep blue shade gardeners crave, look no further than the blue cordyalis. Its blossoms and blue-green leaves contrast with pretty red stems that grow about 8-inches tall. Plants thrive in full shade with consistently moist soil and bloom from late spring until the middle of summer. Flowers may appear all summer in cooler regions.

Blue flowers of a cordyalis plant

Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis)

Japanese anemones are perfect for late summer and fall garden colors with pansy-like flowers. The deer and rabbit-resistant plans grow about 18 tall and wide. Single, semi-double, or double flowers in white to dark purple and pink perch atop long stems that seem to dance in the wind above the dense, clumping foliage.

growing and blooming pink japanese anemone

Bergenia (Bergenia crassifolia)

Bergenia plants put on a multi-season show, bringing color to shade areas from spring until after the first fall frost. Spring brings the arrival of bright pink flowers beckoning hummingbirds and other pollinators. The first fall frost brings out stunning red tones in the leaves, and the color stays strong in warm climates where plants are evergreen.

Pink frankincense bergenia flowers under the sun

Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)

Flowering rhododendron shrubs have been a garden mainstay with their bright flower clusters in spring and foliage that stays green all year round in warmer climates. With thousands of varieties, you can choose from low-growing types that only reach five feet tall to shrubs that climb twenty feet in the air. Plants need acidic soil to develop their vibrant colors.

A hot pink rhododendron flowers

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta)

Toad lilies remind gardeners of orchids, with their beautiful speckled flowers blooming in early autumn as other shade plants are winding down for the season. Plants grow about two feet wide and slightly taller, with graceful arching stems of spotted or variegated foliage. The blooms of these hardy perennials come in colors from sugary white to bright raspberry. 

A closeup picture of a toad  lily flower

Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)

Easy to grow and maintain, the white, pink, purple, and blue flowers on Jacob’s ladder plants sit atop delicate, fern-like foliage. The tiny leaflets attach to the stem and rise like the ladder in the Biblical dream of Jacob. Plants thrive in well-draining, shaded spots where the foliage darkens compared to plants in sunnier areas. 

A purple polemonium blooming in the garden

Bunchberries (Cornus canadensis)

Also known as the creeping dogwood or bunchberry dogwood, bunchberry is a lush, flowering groundcover featuring rich green leaves, showy white flowers, and bright red berries. Plants bloom in late spring or early summer, and the foliage turns a beautiful wine-red or purple come fall. Bunchberry spreads via creeping roots to form colonies.

A closeup picture of  blooming cornus canadensis flowers
Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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