Some varieties of annuals, perennials and shrubs with flowers love the shade, especially if they are kept well-watered. Most bloom better in light or partial shade but will grow in dense shade. Large trees, walls and other structures create dense shade with no direct sun and little light. Partial or filtered shade receives little direct sun but is brighter than dense shade. Light shade receives early morning sun or late evening sun, but no sun through the middle of the day.
Few annuals grow or flower well in dense shade, but impatiens will if kept evenly moist. White, pink, red, coral or purple flowers cover 8- to 24-inch tall mounds of impatiens. Wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens) grow 6 to 12 inches tall with succulent waxy green or bronze leaves, and red, pink or white flowers. Torenias (Torenia fournieri) also grow 6 to 12 inches tall, but they have white, pink or purple flowers similar to snapdragons. Small white, blue or purple flowers bloom on low-growing delicate lobelias (Lobelia erinus). All of these annuals bloom throughout the summer.
Perennials need light to partial shade for the best growth and flowering. Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) grow 24 inches tall and bloom in mid-summer with pink or red flowers. Blood red geraniums (Geranium sanguineum) have purplish red to magenta flowers on 18-inch tall plants. Japanese astilbes (Astilbe japonica) grow 3 feet tall and have feathery red, pink or white blooms in late summer. Lilies-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) have fragrant bell-shaped flowers in early spring on 8-inch stalks.
Shrubs provide flowers and fruit, as well as structure to shady areas. Glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora) grows 5 feet tall and has pink blooms in late summer. It is semi-evergreen, with some foliage turning bronze in the winter. Large clusters of white, blue or pink flowers bloom in the summer on hydrangeas. The dried flowers remain on the deciduous shrubs through the winter. Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium) has evergreen holly-shaped leaves, yellow flowers in late summer and blue berries in winter. Fragrant yellow-red flowers bloom in early spring on witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis) and the foliage turns bright yellow in the fall.