Gardeners looking for flowers for a shade garden may be surprised by the number of options available. Many people assume that shade flower varieties will not be as brilliant and colorful as their counterparts who live in full sun, but the pallet for shade flowers is deep and varied. Some shade flowers are even more showy and stand-out spectacular when viewed in contrast to the dim light and rich foliage surrounding them.
Choices by Shade Level
One important consideration in choosing flowers is the amount of shade present in the location you hope to fill. Some flowers are able to tolerate only partial shade--requiring at least some exposure to the sun to do their best--while others can take full shade. Coneflowers can handle light shade, columbine and lady's mantle prefer partial shade, while hostas can stand full shade. Hostas are often valued for their large, shiny leaves--which come in a range of interesting forms and textures--but they also produce trumpet-shaped flowers atop tall stalks.
Annuals and Perennials
If you prefer to plant a bed that features a different color selection or arrangement every year, annual flowers are a good option. Choices such as petunia, violet and pansy enjoy partial shade and come in bold jewel tones, livening up any flower bed. Dahlia also likes partial shade. The bulbs can be planted, removed for winter protection, and then placed elsewhere if you want a change, making them easy to rearrange. For a more permanent planting, daylily will return year after year and periwinkle will form a tenacious, healthy ground cover to address any open spaces.
Deep Shade-Loving Varieties
Deeper shade invites the use of flowers such as caladium, forget-me-not and begonia. Impatiens offer height and color variety. All of these choices can bear full shade conditions. The University of Minnesota Extension suggests that gardeners use started plants in areas of full shade to give the plants enough of a start that blooming will not be hindered. Lily-of-the-valley makes a good ground cover in areas of lower light and it has delicate arching flower stems with small white blooms to supplement the its dark green foliage.
Gardeners can also look to native plants, already uniquely adapted to local area conditions, for hardy plants that can withstand weather extremes, microclimates and soil variation found in a particular area. Gathering plants from close to home, along roadsides or from public areas, can also save on the cost of planting. Daffodils are just one of many "found" flowers that can grace a shady spot with a dab of color.