Subtropical Shade Plants

Subtropical regions, like those found in the Southern United States, have a wide variety of vegetation that grows well in the sun, such as swaying palm and flowering vines. But there are plenty of plants that thrive in partial to completely shady spots too. These varieties can be beneficial to gardeners seeking to fill empty places in their landscapes that may have been ignored in favor of colorful sun-loving plants.


Impatiens are annual flowers that come in several colors, from hot pink to white. Several varieties exist that feature different foliage, bloom color patterns and flower shapes. These East African natives grow in low mounds that reach up to 2-feet tall, and spread moderately. They grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-10 in partial shade and in moist, well-drained soil.

Palm Grass

This evergreen grass variety can grow up to 10-feet tall in partially shaded areas. A native of India, it has pleated leaves and pale fronds atop stems. It prefers to grow in soil that is moist and is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 11. If it experiences a freeze, it will die to the ground but return in the spring.

Lady Palm

Grow lady palm in full to partial shade for the best leaf color. This bush, featuring fan-like foliage, has been grown for centuries as an ornamental in Japan and China, where it originated. It can grow to more than 14-feet tall in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11 and adapts to most soil conditions. It is drought tolerant once it is established. Its dense foliage makes it a good cultivar for screening, and it can be grown in containers.


Hostas, which grow best in shade and partial shade, come in more than 1,400 varieties that feature different leaf colors and sizes. Lily-like flowers bloom on spikes in the summer, reaching well above the foliage. Some dwarf types are as short as 6-inches tall while larger varieties can grow up to 3-feet tall and wide. They grow wild in Korea, China and Japan, but Japanese hybridizers have grown them for centuries. They grow well in fertile, moist soil in Hardiness Zones 3 to 9.

Purple Toadshade

Purple toadshade, also called sweet Betsy and Trillium, grows best in full shade. They are distinguished by groupings of three found with each plant part. Broad, green leaves lay flat with the ground and surround a central stem that reaches up to 1-foot tall and includes a magenta flower. The flowers bloom in early spring and the plants are dormant in the summer. They grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 and 8 but does not do well in acidic soil.

Keywords: subtropical shade plants, shade plants, Southern shade plants

About this Author

Joy Brown is a newspaper reporter at "The Courier" and in Findlay, Ohio. She has been writing professionally since 1995, primarily in Findlay and previously at the "Galion (Ohio) Inquirer" and "Toledo City Paper." Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and history from Miami University.