Top 10 Shade Plants

It's easy to find plants that require a lot of sunshine, but there are a fair number that thrive in shade. Plants that grow well in partial shade can thrive in areas where mature trees keep the yard shady most of the day, if they get bright sunlight early or late in the day. Plants that can grow in full shade live under thick tree canopies or under patios or decks.


Hostas thrive in partial shade, but they require some direct sunshine. With more than 2,500 varieties to choose from, hostas are a hit with gardeners, who love them for their hardiness and beautiful foliage. The leaves' colors come in various combinations of green, white, blue and gold. In the summer, many varieties produce light purple flowers that attract hummingbirds. They range in size from less than 1 foot to 8 feet tall.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding heart, or Dicentra spectabilis, grows to be 2 feet tall or more. It has small, pink heart-shaped flowers. Bleeding hearts grow in full to partial shade.

Lilies of the Valley

Lilies of the valley, or Convallaria majalis, grow in full or partial shade. They have tiny white flowers with a strong, sweet scent. Lilies of the valley grow to be 8 inches tall. They tend to spread over time.


Columbine, or Aquilegia x hybrida, blooms in the spring and is a favorite of the hummingbird. It grows in partial shade. Columbines grow from 15 inches to 3 feet in height. Their flowers may be red, pink, blue, yellow or white, and they have gray-green leaves that turn reddish as the season progresses.

Serviceberry Tree

The serviceberry tree, or Amelanchier canadensis, grows to be 25 feet tall. Its oblong, dark green leaves turn red in the fall. In the spring, the serviceberry has small white flowers, and later produces red berries that turn black. The fruit is edible and sweet.

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia bluebells, or Mertensia virginica, are native woodland plants, but they do well in the shade garden. Virginia bluebells' trumpet-shaped blue flowers bloom in early to mid-spring. They grow to be 1 to 2 feet tall.

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder, or Polemonium, grows to be 15 to 18 inches tall and produces lavender flowers in the spring. It has delicate, fern-like leaves that can be green or green and white.

Japanese Barberry

The Japanese barberry, or Berberis thunbergii, grows in partial shade. It grows to be 3 to 6 feet tall. The Japanese barberry has small yellow flowers in the spring, leaves that turn orange, reddish or purple in the fall, and red berries in fall and winter.

Bayberry Bush

The bayberry bush, or Myrica pensylvanica, grows to 9 feet in height. Bayberries grow in partial shade. They have aromatic, glossy dark green leaves and light blue berries that can be used for making candles. In the spring, the bayberry produces small white or greenish flowers.

Orange Daylily

The orange daylily, or Hemerocallis fulva, produces orange-red flowers that bloom in mid-summer. The flowers grow on 6-foot tall spikes. Daylilies grow in partial shade. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Keywords: shade garden, shade plants, plants for shade

About this Author

Janet Clark has worked as a professional writer for nine years. She has had more than 400 articles published. Her work has appeared in The Iowan, Iowa Gardening, Friends Journal,The Des Moines Register, Today Magazine, Fort Dodge Business Review,The Messenger, and She has also written a novel, Blind Faith. Clark has received several awards from the Iowa Press Women for her work.