When it comes to shade plants, there are two definitions. They can be plants that people plant in shade or plants that people plant for shade.
Plants that grow well in shade: Shade plants are plants which don’t require full sun and can still grow while in the shade. They are considered to be shade tolerant. There are many reasons to choose plants that grow in shade. Perhaps you have a shady spot in your yard where nothing seems to grow, or you have large pots on the north side of your home that are shady the majority of the year.
Shade plants can grow well under trees. For example, consider planting a ring of hostas around a tree trunk or lily of the valley under lilac bushes.
Plants to provide shade: As these shade plants and trees grow, they provide shade and help cool the surrounding areas. Shade trees will grow a canopy and will help lower the temperature by blocking the sun. This can be important in hot climates.
Here, we will discuss plants that grow well in shady areas. Just as we have plants that flourish in greenhouses, some plants literally can’t handle the heat of direct sunlight and will, instead, thrive in shady spots. If you have a shady spot in your garden where nothing seems to grow, then it’s time to learn that shade-loving plants will help to breathe life into the area.
Shade plants come in all shapes and sizes. These include evergreen or deciduous shrubs, annuals, perennials, ground covers, and vines. There is sure to be one that is perfect for your needs and your hardiness zone.
Consider some of these rugged, hardy plants. According to Clemson University, some perennials to consider are:
- Bear’s Breech
- Bleeding Heart
- Blue Star
- Cardinal Flower
- Coral Bells
- Dead Nettle – grow well in hardiness zones 4 – 10
- Fairy Bells
- Ferns such as Japanese Painted Fern
- Great Blue Lobelia
- Hardy Cyclamen
- Hydrangea – perennials in hardiness zones 3 – 7
- Japanese Yellow Sage
- Lady’s Mantle
- Lily of the Valley
- Meadow Rue
- Plantain Lily
- Virginia Bluebells
- Wild Gingers
- Wild Sweet William
Shade Plants ~ Top Four Perennials
When it comes to having a beautiful garden, it’s good to have a bit of first-hand knowledge on which plants are shade-friendly, and which prefer full and direct sunlight.
This will help you plan your outdoor space appropriately, and you’ll experience greater success in your gardening endeavors. You’ll also benefit from a nicer looking garden.
So, what plants are good in the shade? There are actually many shade-loving plants available that will thrive when planted in your shady spot, as long as you plant them at the right time of year.
Perennial Shade Plants
That said, there are shade-loving plants that can grow any time of the year: the perennials. If you choose shade-loving plants that are also perennials, then you can enjoy the beauty of these plants year after year, without having to replant.
Today, we’ll share four of the prettiest shade plants you can plant easily to help give your indoor or shady garden a makeover. If you have no idea what to plant, here are our top four choices: Coral Bells, Astilbe, Andromeda, and Bleeding Heart.
Coral Bells: Best Shade-Friendly Plant for Beginners
Most gardeners will agree that it’s difficult to find a more reliable perennial plant than coral bells. Plant coral bells once, and they will flourish when the weather starts to get warmer, time and time again. They are hardy and do well in shade.
The colorful foliage found on this plant is usually what attracts most people to it, but some varieties also have colorful flowers on tall, showy stems.
Coral bells are easy to grow and maintain, which is great news for those of us who appreciate having a beautiful garden with the least work possible. They are also ideal perennials for beginner gardeners.
You can plant your coral bell seeds in early spring or late fall by sprinkling them straight onto the ground and covering them lightly with soil.
Hardiness zone for coral bells: Most varieties grow in hardiness zones 4 – 8. However, check the exact variety at your garden center or nursery.
Astilbe: Best Shade Plant for Butterfly Lovers
Although many plants attract butterflies, some of them require full sun. If you’re looking for a shade-tolerant perennial that attracts butterflies, as well as other beneficial insects to your garden, then look no further than the beautiful astilbe plant.
The astilbe plant also has the added benefit of being really easy to grow. It looks really good when planted along paths and in borders, as well as in pots. They are ideal in large pots in shady locations.
During midsummer, astilbe will brighten your shady spot with deep green, fern-like foliage, teamed with white, pink, red, lavender, or violet flowers, depending on the variety. You can plant your astilbe seeds in spring when the ground is cool and moist.
Hardiness zones : Growing zones 3 – 9 for most varieties of astilbe.
Andromeda: Best Shade-Loving Bush
If you’re wondering what bushes grow in the shade, then check out our favorite shade-tolerant bush: the andromeda. Bushes are also perennial, and some will even flower at various points in the year, including this one. This beautiful landscape plant is an evergreen shrub that does well in light shade.
The andromeda is a shade-tolerant bush that can offer the best of both worlds by sprouting fragrant flowers in the summer, as well as providing year-round evergreen foliage.
Also known as the lily of the valley bush, it doesn’t fare too well in alkaline soil, so you may need to adjust the pH of your soil before planting. It will thrive in sandy or peaty moist, cool soil.
It’s well worth the trouble, though, and we’re confident you’ll never get bored of the ever-changing face of this shrub.
You can plant your andromeda bush in spring or summer, but be sure to give it a bit of room since it can grow to around 10 feet tall. This can be a benefit to creating borders, various spaces, and privacy on your property. They can also work to keep animals out without fences.
Growing zone for andromeda plants: 5 – 9
Bleeding Heart: Best for Full Shade
An old gardener’s favorite, Bleeding heart thrives in heavy shade. Therefore, if you have a patch in your garden that is rarely in full sun, this plant will still work really well.
They really are stunning to look at, especially with their inch-long heart-shaped flowers dangling from their arched stems. Bluish-green foliage will emerge first, and then the pink with white or white flowers will appear in early spring. They will also attract hummingbirds.
The bleeding heart is a herbaceous perennial and will start to wither away as the full heat of summer arrives, storing energy in order to sprout again next year.
You can plant your bleeding hearts in spring or fall and fertilize in early spring to encourage a higher number and longer-lasting blooms. Bleeding hearts make a great shade border and filler plant. It requires well draining, moist soil.
Hardiness zone: They grow well in zones 3 – 9.
How Can Plants Grow in the Shade?
Most of us will remember learning about photosynthesis at school, but usually associate this process with direct sunlight. As an overview, photosynthesis is the process in which plants feed themselves by absorbing sunlight through their leaves and converting it into glucose.
In direct sunlight, though, plants face exposure to UV rays and desiccation, which is the state of extreme dryness.
Also, with direct sunlight, plants must expend energy to produce a waxy coating to help prevent the loss of water, as well as produce pigmentation to protect themselves from UV rays.
Shade plants have adapted to use far-red light more effectively, as opposed to those that have adapted to receive direct sunlight.
By growing broader and thinner leaves, they are more efficient when it comes to using energy. Also, they are usually also more efficient in the use of nutrients.
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Show Us Your Shade!
Shade plants can mean two things. First, they can be plants that thrive in shady areas. They are shade tolerant and don’t require full sun to grow. Shade plants can also be plants and trees that provide shade for your property.
Maybe you are looking for an interesting addition to your garden that will thrive in the shade.
Maybe your whole garden is somewhat shaded, or maybe, you just have a shady corner you want to brighten up. Either way, our favorite shade-loving plants listed above will help brighten the whole area up!
Look up the hardiness zones to see which will work best in your area. Some plants do better in full shade while some do better in partial shade.
Whether you want year-round foliage, or bright, seasonal summer flowers, we have the answer for you. All you need to do is buy your seeds or bulbs and work out the best time for planting them.
You’ll be able to enjoy your garden and property with plants that thrive without sunlight. It’s no secret that plants thrive in different environmental conditions; hence, landscapes look so different from one climate to another.
In conclusion, shade plants are a great way to add some color and life to any yard or garden. There are some plants that do well in partial sun versus full sun. There are also some that do well with shade the majority of the time.