Full-shade garden areas are those where the shade lasts all day, according to the University of Missouri Extension's Christopher J. Starbuck, Ph.D. Receiving no--or very little--direct sun, these spots may benefit from reflected light. Full-shade areas include those beneath densely leaved trees, decks or stairways. Full-shade plants may not flower as profusely as sun plants, but they'll bring subtle color and textural interest to your light-deprived garden areas.
Eastern Round-leaved Violet
Perennial eastern round-leaved violet (Viola rotundifolia) is an early spring blooming plant hardy to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Growing 4 to 6 inches high and up to 9 inches wide, it has a basal clump of oval, green leaves. As its foliage emerges in March and April, the plant's stalks bear yellow, brown-veined blooms. This insect-and-disease-resistant violet is common in woods from Georgia to the northeastern United States.
Group round-leaved violet in native plant or woodland gardens where it will have room to spread, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden. It grows best in full shade and consistently moist, humus-rich soils. Plants perform best where summers are cool.
Columbian monkshood, a buttercup family perennial, grows wild along stream banks and in damp thickets and woods throughout the Western and Pacific Northwestern United States. Standing form 2 to 6 feet high, it has thick, upright stems and lobed, green leaves. In July and August, Columbian monkshood brightens full shade with loose spikes of hooded, blue-violet blooms. Opening in ascending order, the flowers bring hummingbirds and bumblebees to the garden. Plants like consistently moist, fertile soil. Note that ingesting any part of this plant may be toxic to humans and animals, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Bugbane 'Black Negligee'
'Black Negligee' is a bugbane (Actaea simplex) cultivar hardy to minus 20 degrees F. Growing 4 to 5 feet high, this buttercup family perennial has dark, branching stems with dark purple, bordering on black, lace-like leaves. The foliage provides continuing shade area interest . In August and September, 'Black Negligee' has up to 2-foot, fluffy spires of dense, fragrant white, purple-tinged blooms. The flowers may bend toward light.
Like other bugbane varieties, 'Black Negligee' has insect-repelling properties. Use this plant, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden, at the back of shady borders or in woodland gardens. Most impressive in groups, it likes consistently moist, humus-rich soil. Plants in dry soil are vulnerable to leaf scorch.
Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), a borage family perennial, bring early spring color to shady wooded areas and river floodplains. Between 18 and 24 inches high and up to 18 inches wide, it has oval, bluish-green leaves. In March and April, its loose clusters of pinkish buds open into 1-inch, trumpet-like light blue flowers. Hardy to minus 40 degrees F, Virginia bluebells makes an impressive spring display grouped in woodland or native plant gardens. It goes dormant, by midsummer. Plant it in shade and moist, well-drained rich soil, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden.