Minnesota falls into United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 3 and 4. For shade gardening in Minnesota, you have many choices, including annuals, bulbs and perennials. Annuals are flowers you plant every year; they don't live through the winter. Perennials include plants that can winter over in Minnesota, as well as plants that you may need to dig up and bring inside for the winter.
Annuals tend to have a lot of color and are generally showy. Annuals that grow best in the shade in Minnesota include impatiens, wax begonias and dwarf salvias. Plant your annual flowers in beds of soil that drain well, and augment your soils with between 20-and-30 percent compost both for nutrients and to help hold water. In some parts of Minnesota, especially in the north, you may need to start annual seeds inside or buy young nursery plants.
Due to the potential for deep, bitter cold in Minnesota, treat bulbs as annuals. Plant the bulbs in the fall and allow them to flower in the spring. Although you can winter over the bulbs, the leaves may not get enough sun during Minnesota's short growing season to flower in following years. The University of Minnesota recommends digging up the bulbs and discarding them after they flower. Bulbs that grow well in the shade in Minnesota include tuberous begonias, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, scillias and tulips.
Many perennials do well in shady locations of Minnesota. Evergreen ground covers, like periwinkle and Japanese spurge, can winter over under an insulating snow cover. Other shade-tolerant plants like wild violets, lily of the valley, wild ginger and goutweed can easily winter over with almost no protection. As opposed to annuals, perennials tend to only flower for a few weeks of each growing season. The remainder of the season, they are green leafy plants.