Gardeners can choose from plants that not only tolerate shade, but need it. Full sun, especially the hot afternoon sun can damage some plants to the point where they burn. Give the plants the shade they crave and be rewarded with a variety of flowers and ornamental leaves that make shade bright and colorful.
Toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta "Miyazaki") grows from 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. White to light purple, orchid-like flowers with darker purple splotches measure 1 inch long and bloom in August and September. Oval or oblong leaves grow from 3 to 6 inches long. Plant toad lily in partial or full shade and a soil that is rich and moist. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
Beech fern (Phegopteris decursive-pinnata) is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9. It likes partial to full shade and a soil that is organically rich and moist to wet. The plant grows from 1 to 2 feet tall and 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide with light green fronds.
Spring vetch (Lathyrus vernus) grows up to 12 inches tall and about the same in width. Red-purple flowers resembling a sweet pea bloom in April, growing in clusters of five to eight. The flowers turn violet-blue as they age. Compound, light green leaves have from four to six oval-shaped leaflets, each one 3 inches long. Spring vetch is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9 and likes partial or full shade and a soil that is moist and well-drained. Full sun can burn the plant.
Yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) is also known as false lamium. The plant grows to 1 foot tall and 1 1/2 feet wide. Give yellow archangel partial or full shade and a moist, rich, well-drained soil. Full sun will damage the plant. Medium to dark green, egg-shaped leaves appear in March. Yellow flowers bloom in April and May, growing in clusters. Flowers are followed by brown fruits. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
Italian arum (Arum italicum) grows up to 1 1/2 feet tall and wide. Cream flowers bloom in April and May and are followed by orange-red berries in the summer. Italian arum is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9 and likes partial to full shade and a soil that is rich, organic and moist. Arrow-shaped, gray-green leaves grow from 8 to 12 inches long. Leaves appear in the fall, stay through the winter in warm zones and die back in the winter in cold zones with new leaves appearing in the spring. Leaves go dormant in the summer.