Gardeners need not neglect shaded areas simply because there are fewer plants that thrive without receiving full sunlight. In fact, several plant varieties are better suited for shady spots in a landscape or seating area, and have positive aesthetic value. Aim for texture and color variety by combining hardy, shade-loving ferns with flowering plants that enjoy the same growing conditions. Plant them in the ground or grow them in hanging containers that can be brought inside during cold months.
This popular species, a cultivar of a wild Florida fern called a sword fern, is favored for its lush, bright green foliage. It requires two hours of direct winter sunlight and grows best in the shade during the spring, summer and fall. It is hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11 and favors a nighttime temperature no lower than 55 degrees F. The fronds, which droop as they mature, reach up to 4 feet long and 6 inches wide on larger varieties. Grow these ferns in pots with a mixed medium that aids drainage, or in rich soil that remains moist but not soggy.
Northern Maidenhair Fern
This plant enjoys lots of light, but not direct sunlight. Its dark green fronds, which grow on wiry stipes, are up to 15 inches long and 8 inches wide. They fan out horizontally in a circle and reach up to 3 feet tall. Dark red fiddleheads appear in the spring. It is native to the eastern half of the United States, to Alaska and to eastern portions of Canada. Northern maidenhair ferns are not drought tolerant and grow best in high humidity. Plant them in cool, shady areas with moist soil and northern exposures. They are not drought-tolerant, so keep them hydrated.
This large fern has dainty foliage but grows up to 3 feet tall. The fronds are light green with toothed leaflets, and the stems are greenish-yellow to red. Plant lady ferns in moist or wet soil and in places that are partially or fully shaded. It is native to most states and portions of Canada.
These tropical annuals thrive in shady spots, as long as they are planted in soil that drains well and is kept moist, but not wet. Impatiens grow up to 30 inches tall and wide in a mounding form. They come in colors ranging from white to bright red. Tuck them amid larger plants for color and in hanging baskets, beds, pots and window boxes.
Known for its showy red and yellow bell-shaped flowers that peer downward, these perennial woodland wildflowers, introduced from Europe and now growing east of the Rockies and in Canada, thrive in partial or full shade. They attract hummingbirds and other long-tongued animals that drink its nectar. They propagate by seed. Columbine grows up to 3 feet tall. Plant them in sandy, well-draining soil that is not too rich and in partial or full shade. This plant has a high drought tolerance, but likes moist conditions.