Finding plants that will thrive in your yard's shady areas is made even more frustrating because shade levels change from hour to hour and season to season. The University of Illinois Extension, however, defines partial shady locations as those that get only dappled (tree-filtered) shade for a few hours daily and no direct sun. With some effort, you'll find plants to bring color to your partly shady spots from spring to fall.
Hybrid Tuberous Begonias
Hybrid tuberous begonias (Begonia tuberosa) are partial shade plants hardy to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. One foot to 18 inches high, they have large, pointed green leaves and thick, tender stems. Their July-to-September, waxy blossoms may be single or double, with smooth or ruffled edges. Begonias grow as low bushes or as trailing container plants. They're available in a host of colors, including pure white and various deep or pastel shades of yellow, orange, pink and red. Some are bicolored.
Use tuberous begonias, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden, in borders, containers or window boxes. They perform best where summers are cool. Give them organically rich, well-drained soil and partial shade. Space in-ground plants 1 foot to 18 inches apart. Feed and water regularly for best blooms. Plants in overly wet soil may rot.
Bigleaf Hydrangea "Lemon Wave"
Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), a deciduous shrub standing 3 to 6 feet high and wide, is hardy to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In late summer, it has showy flowers against large, medium-green leaves for up to two months. The "Lemon Wave" bigleaf hydrangea cultivar provides a colorful foliage display even when not flowering. Dark green, toothed elliptical leaves have swirls of white and shades of yellow.
In July and August, "Lemon Wave" produces large, flat lacy flower clusters. Their color ranges from pale blue--in acidic soils--to pale pink in neutral or alkaline locations. Use "Lemon Wave," suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden, as an accent plant or shrub border grouping. It's happiest in partial shade and well-drained, averagely moist soil.
Persian violet (Cyclamen hederifolium) is a fall-blooming cyclamen native to southern Europe. Hardy to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, this primrose family perennial stands just 3 to 6 inches high and spreads up to 1 foot. Its ornamental, ivy-shaped greenish-gray leaves have white and silver markings. The foliage appears in late summer and lasts through the winter.
In September and October, Persian violet has white, pink-tinged--or solid pink--flowers rising on leafless stalks above its foliage. Petals of the 2-inch blooms curve up and back from darker centers. Plant the corms in spring, in partial shade and dry to averagely moist, well-drained soil, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden. Persian violet benefits from afternoon shade in hot weather.