Gardeners often view shady areas as difficult to manage, but there are many plants that not only thrive in shade, but also produce blooms to add color. Likely the most well-known small, evergreen, shade-loving plant is the azalea, which comes in hundreds of varieties, including the popular Gable, Glenn Dale and Kurume hybrids. These plants flower in mid to late spring and keep their leaves year round in most zones. In addition to azaleas, there are a number of other good, small, shade-friendly selections.
Cast Iron Plant
Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) grows to 2 feet and is a shade-loving evergreen shrub that grows slowly. This plant will die back in winter, but it is a perennial and will return the following spring, according to AggieHorticulture.com. A member of the Liliaceae family, cast iron plant is well-known as a tough plant that can thrive in low light or in bad soil. Long, narrow, glossy leaves grow to 2 1/2 feet on individual stems. For best results, it should be planted in porous, organically enriched soil and watered regularly. Leaves will be damaged by frost and may be cut to the ground. This plant is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 11.
Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) grows to 18 inches and is a shade-loving evergreen shrub that grows slowly. It works well as a potted plant and should always be planted in well-draining soil. Also known as the Japanese fern, holly ferns have elongated, triangular fronds that grow off yellow-green limbs. A member of the Dryopteridaceae family, the holly fern thrives in loamy soil and requires moist soil. It is hardy in zones 6 to 10.
Leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealii) grows to about 4 feet and is a shade-loving shrub that will add color to your landscape. This plant produces small, spiky yellow blooms in the fall and purple-blue berries in the late winter or early fall. This plant resembles holly, with long limbs and horizontal foliage of thick, leathery leaflets that may be grayish. A member of the Berberidaceae family, this plant will thrive in partial shade and rich soil. It must be watered regularly. If planted in a cool summer area, such as San Francisco, Leatherleaf mahonia can take full sun, according to the 1997 Sunset National Garden Book. This plant is hardy in USDA zone 6 to 9.