Best Plants for Shade

Photo courtesy of the Baird Family.

Rain or shine, these Northwest window boxes look fabulous!

Hostas and ferns have long been the staples of shade gardens everywhere, leaving gardeners looking for more sha-bang in their shady spots with little in the way of options. Luckily, today’s shade garden plants include many colorful varieties that have been specially bred to function in lower light conditions. Everything from annual grasses to perennial flowers can be added to a shady garden border or bed to create a truly remarkable landscape. The best plants for shade gardens depend on what sort of garden you want to create and your local growing conditions. Popular perennial choices for window box recipes include the many varieties of coral bells, bleeding hearts, helleborus and columbines; annual shade plants like pansies, forget-me-not and phlox will add color to your shade borders.

Decorating with Shade Plants

Photo Credit: Dan Malec

Built from scratch or left to the professionals, one thing is for sure – raised bed gardens are the best way to give flowers and plants healthy soil and nutrients. Photo Credit: Dan Malec

With the many size, shapes and colors of shade plants available through garden catalogs and nurseries, there’s no limit to the possibilities. It’s great to spice up a raised garden in the shade with color, but you can also add interesting shade plants in containers to covered patios or porches without worrying they won’t be getting enough light. Unlike their light-loving cousins, shade plants fade and die when there’s too much sun. While you’re at it, dress up your home’s shadiest side with window boxes filled with tuberous begonias, coleus, fuchsia or monkey flower. These small, bright flowers will add texture and a unique touch to areas that many gardeners consider otherwise off-limits. Of course, shade-loving plants aren’t limited to the smaller flowers and perennials, there are lots of trees and shrubs to complement your shady landscape.

Shade-Loving Landscape Plants

Photo Credit: Jim Capaldi

This Countryside vinyl window box is brimming with begonias! Photo Credit: Jim Capaldi

Create a shaded hedge or background with yews – they appear in many varieties, from shrub to tree-sized and grow dense, feathery foliage. Yews can tolerate even deep shade, making them great for any part of the shaded landscape. Hydrangeas and azaleas provide abundant flowers to the shade gardener, but cannot tolerate the deepest shade in the yard. Like yews, these shrubs can be grown into a thick, tall hedge if you need a little privacy. It’s difficult to grow large trees in the shade, but you have a few knock-outs to choose from if you’re looking for a smaller tree. Japanese maples are a common go-to, but red buds, dogwoods and witch hazel are native trees that have a huge wow factor. Not only do these shady ladies offer brightly colored flowers in pinks, whites, reds and yellows, they all have interesting foliage and great fall leaves. Landscaping in the shade or adding plants to a shaded patio doesn’t have to be a dull experience, especially if you take advantage of the many interesting shade plants on the market. No matter what look you’re trying to evoke, there’s a special shade plant to make it a reality.

The best plants and flowers to grow in the shade.

The Best Shade Plants and Flowers & Where They Grow Best

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