15 Beautiful Partial Shade Perennials

Partial shade perennials are low maintenance and come back year after year! Which ones should you consider?

Picking plants for partial shade areas can be challenging at times—the spot is too shaded for full sun plants, yet it might get too much sun for full shade ones. If you choose either option, your plants won’t thrive the way you hope. If you’re looking for part shade plants, the following fifteen are fantastic options and even bloom! 

What Does Partial Shade Mean Anyway?

Partial shade plants are a helpful classification for areas between full sun and full shade. The category is often interchanged with partial sun, even though the two are slightly different. Partial shade types like more shade than part sun and do best with three or four hours of direct sun a day, preferably in the morning.

Fantastic Perennials For Partial Shade Locations

Columbine ​​(Aquilegia spp.) 

Even though columbine plants look extremely delicate, these hardy perennials are great for partial shade gardens. They are known for bell-shaped blossoms that look like jester caps, blooming in pale pastels and bright reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and numerous bi-colors. Commonly known as Granny’s Bonnet, plants flower from mid-spring until early summer. 

Fully bloom purple flowers in the garden

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

The fuzzy velvety lamb’s ear leaves are a fantastic complement against darker foliage and bright blooms in your shade garden. Plants grow to about 18-inches tall with silvery-green foliage and pale pinkish-purple flowers. This low-growing plant creates a softly textured mat of dense vegetation. Add it to shaded borders, edges, or easily reachable garden beds where you can enjoy its softness.

Lambs ear leaves blooming and healthy

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

Bleeding hearts are quintessential plants for shade gardens, known for loving a reprieve from the bright sun in the afternoon. Putting them in a part shade spot causes them to bloom longer, so you can enjoy their iconic heart-shaped blossoms for an extended time. Their gorgeous green foliage and arching stems create a beautiful, distinctive look.

A closeup picture of a bleeding heart flower

Red-Leafed Mukdenia (Mukdenia rossii)

If you’re looking for something low-maintenance to add gorgeous foliage color to your landscape, the red-leafed mukdenia is a perfect choice! In the spring, this herbaceous perennial sports bright green leaves similar to maples and white bell-shaped flowers. The foliage ages to display bronze tints and bright red streaks for stunning visual appeal as the season progresses. 

A aceriphyllum mukdenia rossi full bloom

Bethlehem Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata)

Also known as lungwort or Bethlehem sage, this plant is often used for its ornamental, unusual foliage. The hairy, pointed leaves overlap to create a unique swirl pattern perfect for displaying their silvery splotches. Pink flowers open early in the season and deepen to purple as they mature, with plants growing 12 to 18 inches tall. 

Bethlehem Lungwort small flower

Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.)

Despite not being true lilies, daylilies are staple plants in perennial gardens because of their easy-going nature. Plants blossom for a handful of weeks in midsummer with flowers in various colors, with orange and yellow the most common varieties. Daylilies are hardy plants and quickly spread to fill an area. 

Red daylily full bloom in garden

Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

Also known as blue star, amsonia plants are known for their light blue clusters of star-shaped flowers. Individual flowers are small, but each flower stem is adorned with numerous blossoms to give the plant an airy, fluffy appearance. Flowers are one of the truest blue blossom colors, and they put on a beautiful show for several weeks in the spring.

Blue star amsonia blooming under the heat of the sun

Epimediums (Epimedium spp.)

One of the most charming woodland perennials is the epimedium, also known as horny goat weed, fairy wings, barrenwort, or bishop’s hat. Most plants have dramatic arrow or heart-shaped leaves adorned with variegation or mottling and boldly serrated leaf margins. Dainty spring flowers grow on arching stems, hovering above the plant in white, yellow, orange, red, pink, or purple. 

Yellow flower of a barrenwort bishop plant

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Similar to snapdragons, foxglove is a dramatic flowering plant. Tall flower spires arise from a rosette of foliage, full of tubular blossoms with speckled throats. Plants reseed easily and typically have white, peach, yellow, pink, lavender, red, or purple flowers. Most foxgloves are biennials but are grown as perennial plants because of their self-seeding nature. 

Fully bloomed pink foxglove flower

Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Similar in appearance to the shade-loving astilbe, goat’s beard, or bride’s feathers, is a sizeable shrub-like perennial in the rose (Rosaceae) family. It is a low-maintenance plant with few pest or disease problems and is deer and rabbit resistant. Plants spread slowly via rhizomes and put up feathery, white flower plumes that attract birds and butterflies to your garden. 

White Goats beard flower

Forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides)

While technically a biennial, forget-me-nots self-seed readily in the garden, so many people grow them as perennial plants, valued for their attractive flowers. Plants grow about 5” tall, putting out pink flower buds that open to typically display blue blooms, but other flower colors exist. Forget-me-nots have a medium growth rate and provide a great color display.

cute little blue flowers

Sedum (Sedum spp.)

While most people think of sedum or stonecrop as a full-sun plant, low-growing varieties also do well in partial shade. These groundcovers are jokingly said to need less care than stones making them great for novice and experienced gardeners. The low-growing varieties have foliage ranging from gently rounded leaves with touches of pink to stout, spiky, yellow-green. Avoid overwatering and overfertilizing.

yellow flowers growing out of rock cracks

Peony (Paeonia spp.)

A favorite in cottage gardens, and one of the most well-known flowering perennials, peonies are a great choice for partial shade. There are about three dozen types to choose from, with white, blush, and pink the most popular blossom colors. When taken care of correctly—and grown in the right conditions—peonies can bloom for upwards of 100 years! 

Fully bloomed white peony flower

Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum)

Spotted geranium—which isn’t to be confused with annual geraniums or Perlagoniums—is known as cranesbill, with the fruit resembling its namesake. This mounding plant has dark green, citrusy-scented leaves, and white, pink, purple, and blue flowers. Highly attractive to pollinators, plants are disease and pest free and bring autumn color to the landscape as foliage deepens to bronzes, yellows, reds, and browns. 

beautiful purple flowers geranium

Spotted Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum)

Spotted dead-nettle may be evergreen or semi-evergreen, depending on climate. This herbaceous plant is part of the mint family, where plants get their hardiness. Lamium maculatum is fast-growing, providing variegated foliage all season and colorful flowers in spring. Silver types thrive in part shade since they get enough sun to maintain their coloring, without full sun bleaching it.

hooded pink flower with beautiful leaves
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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