About Plants That Need Shade


Every garden presents challenges. Most have sunny and shady areas that require special attention. Many plants that like sun survive in the shade, but they will develop long, thin branches as they seek sun and might not bloom the way you expect them to. There is a wide selection of plants that thrive in shady garden areas. Most shade plants like some morning sun and filtered light. Afternoon sun is too strong and can damage the leaves. They prefer moist, well-drained soil.

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

The Genus Rhododendron includes rhododendrons and azaleas. These perennial shrubs thrive in cool, rainy areas of the Pacific Northwest in the United States. Azaleas grow in the south and southeastern United States and along the Gulf Coast. Hybrid plants are extending the growing area of some varieties. In addition to their showy flowers, rhododendrons have large, glossy dark green leaves. The azalea has smaller leaves. Both grow in forested areas and cooler gardens. When you plant a group of these shrubs, you will have a beautiful flower show in the spring. Always plan for the taller varieties to be in back by learning the growing habits before you place them.

Japanese Anemomes

The Japanese anemone is one of the few plants that bloom in the fall. The flowers are white or pink and appear on tall stems (2 to 4 feet) that emerge from a base of large, dark green leaves. These anemones spread by sending out shoots underground that produce new plants. The shoots will invade planting areas if they are not removed. Japanese anemones grow in most climate zones dying back in areas with winter frost and emerging in the spring. Japanese anemones grow well with ferns and other plants that love shade and moisture.


Hostas are plants that require shady garden areas, have beautiful foliage and are easy to grow. The leaves are both variegated and solid green or blue-green. The blue-green varieties require shade to grow well. Hostas with leaves that have yellow, white or gold leaf colors will grow best in areas with morning sun or filtered light. Hostas bloom in the summer. The flowers are lavender or white spikes and sometimes fragrant. Hostas need regular water and soil that drains well. Spring bulbs are good companion plants for hostas because they flower early and the hosta leaves will grow during the summer filling the garden space.


Hydrangeas are flowering shrubs that like filtered light or morning sun. They will not do well planted under trees or in heavy shade. The large, showy blossoms of the mophead or lacecap varieties are white, pink, purple or blue. In moist, well-drained soil, hydrangeas grow as tall as 5 to 6 feet. Oakleaf hydrangeas prefer drier soil and warmer summers than other varieties. They like more sun than the mophead or lacecap varieties. The summer flowers are large, white clusters. In the fall the leaves turn red, orange, yellow and burgundy.


Trillium plants are native to the United States. Most varieties are found in the east and Midwest. They are deciduous perennial plants that grow in shady woodland areas with rich, moist soil. A species can be endangered in one state and not in another. Check the U.S. Department of Agriculture website (plants.usda.gov) for information or check with the native plant society and nurseries in your area for the best species to plant. Trilliums are woodland plants that have three leaves, three sepals and three petals. Their common name is trinity flower. The blossoms vary in size and color, but most are white or red.

Keywords: rhododendron, Japanese anenome, hydrangeas, perennial plants for shade, trilliums

About this Author

Kathleen Sonntag lives in Carmel, California, where she is a writer, teacher and editor. She is a Master Gardener and writes articles for gardening publications. Sonntag has written and edited reading test passages and has edited children's books, cookbooks and memoirs. Her articles appear on GardenGuides.com. Sonntag holds a Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Berkeley.