Shade is a common problem in small spaces like city gardens, courtyards or containers on porches and patios. Just because your planting site doesn't get at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day, doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful, thriving garden. There are some plants that grow in full shade.
Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) is a perennial that almost qualifies as an evergreen. It does well in partial sun but can survive in full shade. Because it is an invasive plant it is actually hard to kill. It does well as a ground cover in the shade. Most varieties have green variegated colored leaves with touches of bronze and purple. It produces small, blue flowers in the summer.
Astilbe is a herbaceous perennial best suited for the south, but not the sub-tropics as it does poorly in excessive summer heat. It has leafy green foliage reminiscent of fern leafs, and late spring sends up spikes of cockscomb-like feathery floral plumes in shades of white, pink or red. It's easily propagated in the fall by splitting the roots and replanting.
Though it is commonly called "deer fern," Blechnum spicant is not a true fern. The plant features dark, fern-like leaves that are smaller and slightly more rounded than true ferns, but make a pretty display. These low-maintenance plants will grow just about anywhere. They like moisture, but are drought tolerant and they do well in the southwest.
Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), or "Plant of Merit," has blackish-green, heart-shaped leaves. The plant puts on a the real show in the summer with a spray of intense blue flowers resembling forget-me-nots. A herbaceous perennial, it is not susceptible to many pests or diseases, though it doesn't tolerate drought and should always be kept moist.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), is a perennial wildflower related to the dogwood and looks like a miniature dogwood tree. It prefers northern climates and rich, moist soil. The beauty of this plant is how it dresses for the seasons. In the spring it sports white flowers, red berries in the summer, then white flowers return in the autumn which will eventually turn light purple and last through the winter.
Sometimes known as "butcher's broom," Ruscus aculeatus is a low, evergreen shrub with spiky green stalks that sport bright red berries in the fall. Ideal for coastal regions, these plants will grow in just about any soil quality. The only condition they won't tolerate is too much moisture, they prefer it on the dry side.
An evergreen with maple-shaped leaves, tiarella (Tiarella cordifolia) will grow in virtually any growing zone as long as it has rich, moist soil. In the spring and summer it produces white feathery spikes, and as cool weather sets in it's green leaves begin to turn a shade of bronze.