Shade Growing Summer Plants

Save yourself the frustration of trying to grow sun-needy plants in shady locations. Maximize the shady spots in your yard by growing plants that thrive in those conditions. Choose several shade-growing summer plants--many of them species that originally came from woodland ecosystems--and enjoy the beauty and variety they bring to your garden.


The hosta plant, a hardy, easy-to-grow perennial, comes in hundreds of varieties. With so many choices, you should be able to find one with the leaf color and shape, flower characteristics and height to suit your tastes. Consider hosta cultivars such as Guacamole, with its gold shiny leaves with irregular green margins; Regal Splendor, with blue-green edged creamy white leaves; or Sum and Substance, with large, puckered chartreuse- to gold-colored leaves. Plant hostas in well-drained soil high in organic matter. Water during dry periods for optimal growth.

Purple Trillium

Herb hunters seek out purple trillium, but you might as well if you need a shady plant to grow in rich, damp soil. The plant has three leaves arranged in a circle near the top of the stem. Three-petal flowers appear on the purple trillium April through June, ranging in color from dark purple or pink to green or white. Flowers are followed by red berries.

Lily of the Valley

Offering fragrant, waxy, bell-like flowers each spring, lily of the valley makes a nice spreading ground cover. Flowers are followed by reddish orange berries. Lily of the valley grows best acidic soils and does well under trees. The plant reaches a height of 6 to 8 inches. When planting, space lily of the valley plants six to eight inches apart.


With one or two long-stalked, three-part leaves, jack-in-the-pulpit is native to woodlands. It blooms in early spring, producing flowers that resemble the calla lily in shades of green or green and purple. Flowers are followed by bright red berries. Jack-in-the-pulpit prefers moist humus-rich soil. Propagate the plant by separating tender offshoots from the tuberous rhizome.


Foamflower prefers rich, moist soil in light to dense shade. It creates a dense ground cover, growing to about 10 inches tall. Its heart-shaped leaves may be variegated, while flowers appear similar to bottle brush. Foamflower produces most flowers in spring but may continue sporadic flowering through the summer. Water foamflower three to four times per week or as needed to keep soil moist.

Keywords: plants for shade, shade-growing plants, shade garden

About this Author

Ann Wolters, who has been a freelance writer, consultant, and writing coach for the past year and a half, has had her writing published in "The Saint Paul Almanac," and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a master’s degree in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota and taught English as a foreign language for nearly seven years.