There are many plants that love full shade and lots of water. Plants with flowers in light colors such as white, cream or various shades of pink are more easily visible in the shade. Darker-colored flowers tend to recede in the dim light unless they are paired with a plant that has lighter colored leaves or flowers. Many blooming shade plants produce their flowers in spring, but a handful bloom the entire growing season. When creating a shade garden, take advantage of contrasting leaf colors and shapes, along with plants of varying heights for an interesting combination.
Impatiens are one of the most popular annual flowers grown in full shade. They grow about a foot tall and are a good choice for the front of the shade garden. Impatiens come in a variety of colors ranging from white to shades of orange to all shades of pink and red. They have attractive foliage and their flowers bloom all season until the plants are killed by frost.
Phlox is a tall perennial that provides vertical interest in the shade garden. Its flowers bloom along a tall central stem and come in white and all shades of pink and magenta. Although phlox are perennials and will come back from their roots every year, they are also prolific self-seeders. Remove faded blossoms to prevent them from spreading to unwanted areas of the yard or garden.
Columbine is a shade-loving perennial that produces flowers in a variety of colors in mid-spring that contrast nicely with their blue-green foliage. Plant them in groups of three or five for a greater impact. Columbines grow 12 to 36 inches high and are ideal for the middle of the shade garden. Be sure to remove spent flowers or they will re-seed themselves quite readily.
Perhaps the most popular of all perennial shade plants, the many varieties of ferns grow to many different heights but all prefer full shade and ample moisture. They can be planted in the front, middle or back of the border, depending on their height at maturity. They can also be planted in groups in their own garden bed. They reproduce by underground runners and will soon develop into a thick stand. Their lacy, spiked leaves make an excellent contrast to the foliage of most other shade plants.
Lily of the Valley
Widely planted in deep shade is the perennial ground cover lily of the valley. It produces tiny white, bell-shaped flowers along its flower stem. Its leaves are long and pointed, growing up from the base of the plant. Lily of the valley is tough and resilient and makes a good ground cover in areas that receive only light foot traffic. It spreads by underground runners called pips and will easily fill in an area within a few years. Lily of the valley is best planted in its own bed because it tends to overcome other shade-loving plants.