Selecting plants for areas that get little or no sun isn't always easy. Finding perennials that provide even a minimal flower display makes it even harder. Yet, there are plants that do well in shade. Often, providing a few hours of early morning or late afternoon sun is enough. Locations on the north side of a house, for instance, usually fit this requirement. Most shade plants like dappled shade--that found under trees.
Sometimes called False Spirea, this perennial has fern-like foliage and blooms June through July in red, white, purple and pink. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8, Astilbe is a suitable ground cover or border plant that prefers some morning sunlight and shade the rest of the day. Set plants out in spring or fall 15 inches apart in rich, well-drained soil. Remove debris in the spring before new growth occurs and plan to divide every three to four years.
These flowers include pansies and violets and do well in part shade or dappled shade areas. Depending on variety, they reach heights of two to 12 inches and bloom anytime from spring to fall. Viola may be perennial or half hardy perennial in USDA zones 2 to 9, again depending on variety. The one- to three-inch solid or multicolored flowers are available in a wide range of colors from nearly pure black to pure white and everything in between. They're perfect as edging plants.
Woodruff, or Sweet Woodruff, can be a hardy annual or hardy perrennial and does well in USDA Zones 3 to 9. The spreading plants make a good ground cover or rock garden plant. The tiny white or pink flowers are born in late spring or early summer. The plant does well in dappled shade. Good locations provide some morning sun and shade the rest of the day. Plant in early spring three to nine inches apart, depending on variety.
Few plants come in as wide a variety of sizes and shapes as the hosta. A native of the forest floor, Hosta thrive in areas that receive little direct sunlight. In full shade, they grow slowly, taking several years to reach maturity. Provide dappled shade and they quickly grow to full size, anywhere from a diminutive six inches to four feet across. Hosta is grown mainly for its blue or green foliage and is not usually known for its flowers.
Another plant seldom grown for its flowers, the coleus is a low growing bushy plant with showy, multi-colored leaves that rival many flowers. A half hardy perennial, it is usually grown as half hardy annual. Excellent for a shady edging or border plant, the coleus grows one to three feet tall depending on variety and length of growing season.
Occasionally called Alum Root, coral bells are hardy perennials suited as an edging, ground cover or woodland plant. Usually evergreen, this six to nine inch tall plant flowers in late spring or early autumn depending on species. The scalloped silvery, green or bronze leaves sit below sprays of tiny pink flowers born on slender stems. Coral bells prefer full dappled shade or some sun where summers are cool.