11 Partial Shade Hanging Plants

Hanging plants that thrive in partial shade can add much needed color in dark areas. Are you planting the right ones?

Full sun, part sun, part shade, full shade—sometimes it’s hard to remember the differences between the various requirements, but it’s important to put plants where they’ll get the sun exposure they need. Partial shade plants are on the lower end of the sun-requirement spectrum, making them excellent options for patio baskets or hanging under arbors or trees.

What Does Partial Shade Mean?

Partial shade and partial sun requirements are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference between the two. Partial shade plants need slightly less sun, preferring to get at least three to four hours of direct sun throughout the day. Partial sun plants like to get a little more and are happy with four to six hours of sunlight.

Benefits of Hanging Plants that Tolerate Shade and Sun

  • Partial shade plants have lower moisture requirements than full sun varieties because the light intensity is lower, and they lose less water from the foliage.
  • Baskets hanging in partially shaded spots retain soil moisture better.
  • Plants add color and brighten areas shaded and dark when they are shaded during parts of the day.

11 of My Favorite Hanging Plants That Thrive in Partial Shade

Many plants that prefer partial shade settings are native to woodlands or are classified as wildflowers. These types of plants are well-adapted to the mottled shade that filters through the tree canopy. Partial shade plants are great for areas in your yard that don’t get full sun but have too much sunlight for full shade ornamentals.

Columbine ​​(Aquilegia spp.) 

Also known as Granny’s Bonnet, columbine plants are known for their bell-shaped flowers that are said to look like jester caps with their spurs. Blooms come in pale pastels to bright purples, reds, oranges, yellows, and many bi-colors. This herbaceous perennial has over 70 species and flowers from mid-spring to early summer. Even though plants look delicate, they are very hardy. 

Beautiful columbine flowers under the sun

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

Lamb’s Ear plants are commonly used as a ground cover, but their fuzzy, velvety leaves also make a great addition to hanging baskets. Leaves come in shades of silvery-green and send up a flower spike adorned with delicate blooms in pale purplish pink. Plants reach 18” tall at max, and their light coloring complements plants with darker foliage and bright blooms.

Lamb's ear plant as ground covers

‘Bella Blue’ Self-Heal (Prunella grandiflora ‘Bella Blue’)

A member of the mint family, self-heal is also known as “allheal” and “heal-all” because of its purported medicinal properties. This easy-to-grow long-blooming groundcover blooms from late spring through the summer. The 6-8” tall plants have short spikes of deer-resistant violet-blue flowers that attract butterflies and other beneficial pollinators to your yard. 

White achillea distans flowers on a garden

Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)

Also called Japanese or Chinese bellflowers, balloon flower plants bring a sense of whimsy and fun to your garden. Before the flower buds blossom, they look like miniature hot air balloons in bluish-purple, white, and pink shades. These low-maintenance plants have few pest problems and are fantastic for attracting pollinators like butterflies and bees.

Fully bloomed blue balloon flower

Dwarf Bellflowers (Campanula spp.)

Related to bluebells, bellflowers are another cheery perennial in the Campanula genus. The genera has over 300 plants spanning sizes and colors, offering annuals, biennials, and perennial plants. The dwarf bellflowers grow 4-6” tall with pure white to blue or violet-blue flowers from early summer to autumn. Plants are native to areas with moderate daytime temperatures and cool nights. 

purple campanula flowers in the garden

Scotch Bluebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

For centuries, gardeners have loved Scotch bluebells for their lovely blue, purple, white, or pink flowers. Clusters of the bright paper-thin, bell-shaped flowers bloom from late spring until early fall on 12” tall plants. Some stems remain upright, and some hang over or lay down, to create a beautiful cascading effect in a basket.

A paper thin flowers of a purple scotch bluebell

Dwarf Astilbe (Astilbe spp.)

The dwarf astilbe is a spunky ground cover that only grows to 10” tall with dozens of pink blooms from summer to fall. Plants look appealing with their dark green fern-like leaves, even when they aren’t in bloom. The upright fuzzy flower plumes don’t need to be deadheaded. Dwarf varieties tolerate more sun and less moisture than standard astilbes.

Beautiful baby pink flowers of dwarf astilbe

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

Bleeding hearts are known for thriving in shady spots, but they will bloom even longer when hung in a partial shade or partial sun location. This classic perennial plant is stunning when potting in baskets, with its heart-shaped pinkish-red flowers dangling off arching stems. Blooms have a single hanging droplet—usually in white—to create a one-of-a-kind, distinctive look.

A closeup picture of a bleeding heart flower

Red-Leafed Mukdenia (Mukdenia rossii)

With season-long texture, red-leafed mukdenia adds gorgeous foliage color to your yard. This herbaceous perennial creates bright green maple-like leaves in spring (with white bell-shaped blooms) that age to display bronze tints. By the end of the summer, the fanned leaves mature with bright red streaks across the green. Plants are relatively low maintenance and easy to care for.

A closeup picture of a red leaf mukdenia

Bethlehem Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata)

Frequently called lungwort or Bethlehem Sage, Bethlehem lungwort is typically planted for its unusual, ornamental foliage. The pointed leaves are hairy, with splatters of silvery splotches. As the plant matures to its final height of 12-18”, the leaves overlap one another to create a swirl pattern. Flowers open in pink and change to purple later in the season.

A bethlehem lungwort flower on gloomy weather

Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Surprisingly, the lenten rose is not a rose but a perennial hellebore that belongs to the buttercup family. It gets its common name from its blooming season, which falls in late winter around the Christian Lent, and its flower buds which resemble roses. Flowers come in white to a light rose-purple or pink, nestled amongst leathery evergreen foliage.

A white lenten or christmas rose flower

Special Considerations for Raising Your Hanging Plants

  • Try to position plants, so they get early morning sun, and they are shaded during the afternoon when the sun is brightest. Partial shade plants have thinner leaves that are more prone to sunburn or scorching in direct sun.
  • Be cautious when watering your plants. They need more water than full shade plants, but you can’t water them as often as full sun ornamentals, or you can cause rot and fungal problems.
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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