Perennials for Shade

Using shade perennials in the garden adds dimension to the home landscape by incorporating plants that feature foliage different than their sun-loving cousins. Shade gardens require care because these areas exist under tree canopies or near foundations. Soil moisture and nutrient levels suffer because of the lack of direct rain and large trees drain nutrients. Amend the soil with organic additives to increase success with shade perennials. Many types produce gorgeous foliage. Choose plants with varying bloom times to have a succession of color.


Columbines feature unique flowers with rounded inner petals surrounded by dark-hued pointed petals extending beneath the flower center. These flowers bloom on long delicate stems that reach upward from a dense clump of bright green foliage. Columbines grow 1 to 2 feet high and produce an array of bloom colors in shades of purple, pink, yellow and white. This plant prefers moist, well-drained soil and will continue to boom in full shade. Columbine usually has a life span of two to four years in the perennial shade garden.


Hostas serves as one of the most well-know perennial shade garden plants. Gardeners adore this versatile, herbaceous perennial that showcases large leaves throughout the growing season. The value in this plant lies in the ease of growth and the stunning large leaves it produces. Leaves come in green, variegated white/green, green/gold or blue hues. Hostas can grow quite large to fill up significant portions of the garden. Transplanting requires minimal effort and should be performed in the spring when new growth appears. Choose a good location for the hosta to allow plenty of room for mature growth. The hosta never disappoints for dramatic foliage in the shade garden and produces long-stemmed pink and purple flowers late in the growing season.

Great Blue Lobelia

Envision a cluster of green leaves with straight flower stems pointing directly to the sky. A line of bright blue flowers marches neatly up this stem like a chain of vibrant bells. Lobelia grows to 2 to 3 feet in height in the shade garden and requires even moisture to be successful. Lobelia blooms in late summer and prefers a partial shade environment to deep shade. This plant attracts abundant butterflies because of the striking blue flowers.


If you've got a slightly damp location under the thick canopy of a tree, astilbe just might be exactly the perennial to dress up the garden. Soil should be fertile to encourage this lovely plant to produce a feather-like flower in white, pink or red. Astilbe grows 1 to 2 feet tall and the foliage clumps tend to retain a symmetrical, neat grouping in the garden. Astilbe blooms in the early summer but even the dry delicately plumed flowers look beautiful on the plant. Astilbe should be left alone with a light layer of mulch through the winter. Cut back dead foliage in the spring before the emergence of new growth.

Keywords: shade plants, perennials for shade, shade perennials

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.