Plants for a Shady Patio

The shade patio area presents a challenge for a gardener. You want colored foliage and flowers to match the outdoor décor, but you don't want the extra effort of caring for tough plants. Plants for a shady patio need to complement this living space without intruding. Colors should be subtle and relaxing to keep the area blending appropriately with the landscape. Shade-loving plants perfectly fit the bill as accent pieces for the secluded patio.


The annual coleus offers dramatic foliage in a compact, upright plant. Coleus leaves include interesting variations of red, dark green, light green, pink and yellow. Foliage is slightly thick and textured to stand out in the shade garden. Coleus prefers partial- to fill-shade gardens and reach a mature height of up to 12 inches. Different cultivars feature large bushes that can reach 3 feet in height as well as creeping varieties that spread with a vine-like growth habit. Coleus likes rich soil and the best drainage available in the garden. Allow the top inch of soil to dry completely before watering.


The long-lasting flowers of the impatiens paired with easy cultivation makes this plant incredibly popular among gardeners. Impatiens feature flower colors in orange, rose, pink, violet, white and lavender. The flowers last for weeks and reach mature heights between 18 to 24 inches. These annuals don't require the common pinching back and deadheading that other annuals require. Impatiens thrive in partial-shade to shade locations and work especially well in container gardens.


The relaxing addition of foliage plants to the shade garden allows gardeners to create a frame for the brighter colored flowers in the garden. Few plants perform this function as well as the hosta. Hostas have arching stems and wide, rounded leaves that fan out from the center of the plant clump. Leaves can be solid green or variegated in a range of patterns in white, green or yellow. Hostas grow well in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8 and prefer partial- to full-shade garden beds. Stir in some compost for soil enrichment to give hostas a good start in the garden. This tough plant makes the perfect, restful backdrop when planted alone or paired with blooming flowers.


The dainty, feather-like flowers of the astilbe add just a light touch of color to the shade patio garden. This perennial shade lover features upright foliage in dark green with fine, wispy flowers in pink, red, lavender, white or cream. General growth produces a plant roughly 12 by 12 inches, although some cultivars can reach heights of 5 feet. Astilbe prefers organically enhanced soil and even moisture conditions. Astilbe can be used in gardens in zones 4 to 9.

Keywords: shade patio plants, shade perennials, shade annual plants

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.