The Top Ten Perennial Shade Plants

Perennial shade plants are those that will thrive in spots under a tree or landscape plots that have little to no direct sunlight. Shade perennials can be foliage plants or flowering plants depending on the cultivar. Choosing the right perennial for the shade location is up to the gardener's likes and dislikes.

Broadleaf Woodsorrel

Broadleaf Woodsorrel, or Oxalis latifolia, is from the Oxalidaceae, or oxalis, family. There are over 800 different species of this plant to choose from. Most have triangular leaves about 2 inches wide and white to pink flowers 1 inch wide. Plant a broadleaf woodsorrel in partial shade with moisture retentive soil. Propagate via dividing off the bulbils it produces.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise, or Strelitzia reginae, is from the Strelitziaceae, or bird-of-paradise, family. It is an evergreen perennial that gets 3 feet tall with leathery paddle like leaves 8 inches long. Flowers are orange and blue and look like a bird. Plant a bird of paradise plant in rich acidic soil in bright sun for flowers or shade for better looking foliage. Propagate via clump division or by seed.

Surprise Lily

Surprise Lily, or Lycoris squamigera, is from the Amaryllidaceae, or amaryllis, family. It is an easy growing fragrant perennial that will attract butterflies. It will get 2 feet tall with six to eight lilac or pink flowers. Leaves are 1 foot long and strap-like. Plant in any soil with full sun or can grow in partial shade. Propagate via bulb division.

Carpet Bugleweed

Carpet Bugleweed, or Ajuga reptans, is from the Lamiaceae/Labiatae, or mint, family. It is a fast-growing perennial that reaches 6 to 10 inches tall with dark green 3- to 5-inch-long leaves and flowers 1/2-inch long in blue or purple. Plant this plant in poor soils in partial to full shade. Propagate via stolon separation, summer cuttings, or by seed.

Appalachian Sedge

Appalachian Sedge, or Carex appalachica, is from the Cyperaceae, or sedge, family. It is an evergreen perennial that gets 1 to 2 feet long and is a great lawn replacement. Plant in average well drained soil with full shade to partial sunlight. Propagate via division.

Green Wandering Jew

Green Wandering Jew, or Tradescantia fluminensis, is from the Commelinaceae, or spiderwort, family. It is a fast and easy growing perennial with 1- to 2 1/2-inch long leaves and white clusters of small flowers. Plant a green Wandering Jew plant in rich, well-drained soils with low light or full sun. Propagate via stem fragments or cuttings.

Bird's Nest Fern

Bird's Nest Fern, or Asplenium nidus, is from the Aspleniaceae, or bird nest fern, family. It is an easy growing evergreen perennial that has 5-foot-long fronds that are bright green and hairlike. Plant this plant in a low light and a humid environment (mist with rain water). Propagate via spores.

Grand Crinum Lily

Grand Crinum Lily, or Crinum asiaticum, is from the Amaryllidaceae, or amaryllis, family. It is a fragrant evergreen perennial that is drought-resistant. Leaves are dark green and 3 feet long, clumping to 5 feet tall by 7 feet wide. Flowers are tubular and white. Plant a grand crinum lily in any well drained soil in sun or partial shade. Propagate via offset division.


Cardamom, or Elettaria cardamomum, is from the Zingiberaceae, or ginger, family. It is an evergreen perennial that gets 12 feet tall with smooth leaves. White or yellow flowers with bits of lilac and pink are on loose panicles. Plant a cardamom plant in filtered shade and constant moisture. Propagate via rhizome division.

Leopard Plant

Leopard Plant, or Farfugium japonicum, is from the Asteraceae/Compositae, or aster/daisy, family. It is an evergreen perennial with shiny green leaves 4 to 10 inches wide and 1- to 2-inch-wide flowerheads in yellow. Plant a leopard plant in partial shade and moist well drained soil. Propagate via spring clump division.

Keywords: perennial shade plants, shade perennials, Perennial for the shade

About this Author

Tina Samuels has been a full-time freelance writer for more than 10 years, concentrating on health and gardening topics, and a writer for 20 years. She has written for "Arthritis Today," "Alabama Living," and "Mature Years," as well as online content. She has one book, “A Georgia Native Plant Guide,” offered through Mercer University; others are in development.