If your garden is sunny, your plant selection options are wide but areas with minimal sunshine can, with the right plants, bloom with the best of them. Before choosing your shade-loving perennial flowers, study your planting area. Light shade is bright but may be shaded for several hours per day. Medium shade may get only early morning or late afternoon sun and deep shade gets no direct sun at all.
Light shade is the least challenging condition for gardeners. Many plants that thrive in full sun can tolerate some shade, particularly in hotter climates. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) blooms reliably from July through September. The bright red flowers appear on 3-foot tall plants. Slightly smaller (up to 2 feet), Coralbells (Heuchera sanguinea), also known as rock geranium, send up flower spikes from June through August. Both of these plants can tolerate full sun, so if your gardening conditions change, they will adapt.
For naturalizing on lightly shaded slopes, consider orange daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva). Hardy and prolific, these common roadside natives send up orange-red flower spikes that can reach 6 feet tall. Individual blooms last only a single day but the plants produce in profusion.
Medium shade is a common to most landscapes. Trees, fences and building block the sun for most of the day. These areas may get bright morning sun or intense afternoon sun.
Astilbe (Astilbe species and hybrids) are available in a variety of colors, including white, pink and purple. Astilbe develops a 2- to 3-foot tall plume-like flower spike in early summer. Add a border of yellow corydalis (Corydalis lutea), a low-growing (6 to 12 inches) perennial. Corydalis produces bright yellow flowers from spring through late summer. The bell-shaped flowers of columbine (Aquilegia hybrids) may be purple, red or white. Easy to grow in moist, rich soil, columbines are a favorite nectar source of hummingbirds.
Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) and periwinkle (Vinca minor) are more commonly used as groundcovers, but both produce flowers. Pachysandra's small, white flower spikes contrast with the dark green, glossy foliage and periwinkle produces simple blue flowers in early spring.
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) is a small (8 inch) native woodland plant. It produces fragrant white flowers in spring and spreads contentedly in deep shade. Grow lily-of-the-valley in the dense shade of pines and other acid-loving evergreens.