Just because an outdoor area is shady doesn't mean that nothing can grow there, and many West Coast landscapes prove this. Plants that grow best in full sun often receive more attention, but there are many plants that thrive out of the way of warm rays, and which can be just as aesthetically pleasing as their sun-loving counterparts. Consider native plants that grow in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10 to attract wildlife.
A Brazilian native, Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia elegans) is a perennial vine that grows in zones 8 to 10 in areas that receive partial sun or full shade. In zone 8 it usually dies to the ground but returns in the spring. It grows well in average to sandy soil that remains moderately moist. Stems coil tightly and grow up to 15 feet tall. The flowers are greenish-white on the outside and a mottled purplish brown on the inside. The flower shapes resemble a 19th century Dutch pipe.
Night Blooming Jasmine
Night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) is a large shrub, which grows up to 4 feet tall, is known for its fragrant blooms. It grows well in full sun, but can tolerate some shade. Small, white, tubular flowers bloom throughout the summer. The plant is a native of tropical America and the West Indies, making it suitable for growing along West Coast regions blanketed by USDA growing zone 8 and higher. It enjoys moist, sandy soil. The perennial plant dies back if it is exposed to a freeze, but returns in the spring.
Rhododendrons prefer to grow in partial shady. Morning sun is fine because it helps moisture evaporate, but dappled afternoon shade is ideal. There are many varieties of these shrubs that produce many showy flower clusters that come in several colors. They proliferate along the West Coast. Grow them in well-drained, acidic soil and plant them so that the root ball is 2 inches higher than the soil level.
The harvest lily (Brodiaea congesta) features deep-purple, cone-like flower clusters perched atop slender stems. These Washington state natives grow up to 3 feet tall. The flowers on this herb, which also has thin, grass-like leaves at the base, bloom in May and June. Harvest lilies thrive in dry, gravelly soil at low elevations.
Wood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) is a ground-cover plant that thrives in full shade, usually in forests. It is a Washington state native and is considered an herb. It has clover-like foliage and small white and pink flowers that bloom from April through September. It prefers organic, rich soil and spreads rapidly.