Plants That Prefer Shade

Almost every garden features a shady spot, particularly if your garden includes trees. While some gardeners find this a challenge, others find these areas offer perfect locations for shade-loving plants that thrive on limited sunlight. When deciding what plants work best in your shady garden spots, note how much water the area gets. You need to plan on watering frequently, even after rainstorms, since surrounding trees will likely soak up the water, leaving little for these plants.

Japanese Painted Fern

This showy perennial grows up to 18 inches tall and up to 24 inches wide. Sporting long, greenish-gray fronds with hints of red and blue, this fern requires almost no maintenance except for watering during the driest days of summer. It thrives in almost any climate except the hot desert. Consider planting a few of these ferns under your trees to create a pleasing layered effect. In the spring, divide this fern, and then plant the divisions immediately. The only fertilizer requirements for this plant involve adding some peat moss to each hole before planting since this fern thrives in slightly acidic soil.


Featuring lacy, green foliage similar to a delicate fern, this plant offers plume-like blooms in early to mid-summer in mild climates. Choose from a number of varieties with most growing to about 36 inches tall with the flowers ranging in color from pink and purple to red, peach and cream. It is perfect for adding texture and color to a shady garden as well as attracting butterflies. This plant prefers well-drained soil. Apply a slow-releasing fertilizer every three to four months during warmer months.


With more than 2,500 varieties of hostas available, this plant makes a great choice for shade-loving gardens in mild climates. While most hostas sport large, wide leaves in shades of green, they actually come in all shapes, colors, sizes and textures including some with variegated leaves. While hostas do feature spiky blooms of white, pink or purple flowers, the leaves seem to grab the most attention. To give your garden a rich, varied texture, try planting a variety of hostas in the same shady area. Plant hostas in slightly acidic soil, and water thoroughly as these plants love the moisture. While you can add fertilizer every few months in the summer, many hostas just need a layer of compost applied in the fall to replace nutrients.

Keywords: Shade-loving plants, Ferns, Astilbe, Hosta, shade plants, shade garden plants

About this Author

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer whose articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business," "The Mortgage Press," "Seattle: 150 Years of Progress," "Destination Issaquah," and "Northwest," among others. Wagner holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Eastern Illinois University.