Several varieties of plants flourish in the shade and wither in the sun. Rather than go by trial and error, choosing the correct shade plants ahead of time will save time and effort. Outdoor plants that like shade include hostas, ferns, and some ivy varieties. Shade-tolerant plants can be planted under shade trees for an interesting effect.
Hosta, or Hosta spp., is from the Liliaceae, or lily, family. It is a perennial. Hostas are mainly foliage plants with insignificant flowering. The plant ranges from 6 inches tall to 3 feet tall with different variegations of leaf color and styles. Flowers are on stalks and lily-like. Plant a hosta in shade or partial shade with regular watering. Propagate via division of root clumps every 3 to 5 years.
Purple Toadshade, or Trillium underwoodii, is from the Liliaceae, or lily, family. It is a perennial. Purple Toadshade gets 8 to 12 inches tall on the stem. Leaves are dark and light green with greenish maroon, brown or yellow flowers with a spicy fragrance in the early spring. Plant this plant in neutral to basic soil and in shade. Propagate via seed or by rhizome division.
Carpet Bugleweed, or Ajuga reptans, is from the Lamiaceae/Labiatae, or mint, family. It is a fast-growing perennial. It will get 6 to 10 inches tall with basal dark green leaves 3 to 5 inches long. Flowers are 1/2 inch and on 6- to 20-inch spikes. Colors bloom in various hues. Plant a carpet bugleweed in partial to full shade in moist conditions. Propagate via seed, cuttings in the summer, or separating the spreading stolon plants.
Caladium, or Caladium bicolor, is from the Araceae, or arum, family. It is a perennial. Leaves are 6 to 12 inches long with a varied shape and color depending on cultivar. Small white berries will appear later in season. Caladiums generally get 2 feet tall and 2 feet in width. Plant a caladium in rich slightly acidic soil in partial to full shade. Propagate via tuber division in spring or by seed.
Holly Fern, or Cyrtomium falcatum, is from the Polypodiaceae, or polypody fern, family. It is an easy-to-grow evergreen perennial. Fern mounds get 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide with glossy dark green fronds. Light green spores turn dark green when mature. Plant a holly fern in partial to full shade in rich acidic soil. Propagate via warm season clump division.