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Hardy, Shade-Loving Plants

By Michelle Wishhart ; Updated September 21, 2017
The graceful and beautiful common bleeding heart thrives in shade.

Finding plants that do well in shade is difficult enough, but finding plants that are low-maintenance, hardy and able to do well in shade is even more of a challenge. Finding the ideal shade plant for your garden can be a tiring task, but well worth the reward of having a plant that flourishes in a dark corner of the yard.


A native of the southeastern United States, coontie (Zamia pumila), also called arrowroot or comfort root, is a clumping evergreen perennial that resembles a cross between a fern and a palm. The easy-to-maintain plant offers dense green foliage and a pleasing round shape. Coontie is extremely low-maintenance, requiring almost no attention at all. Well-suited for full-shade locations in USDA zones 8 to 10, coontie grows best in sandy, well-drained soils. The plant is also tolerant of high saline levels, though it can't be grown directly on the beach. Excellent as a border or container plant, coontie should be watered occasionally and then left to its own devices.

Common Bleeding Heart

Common bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), also called Japanese bleeding heart, is a sprawling, shade-loving perennial that is notable for both its broad, green leaves and for its demure heart-shaped flowers, which are a combination of pink, red and white. The spring blooming plant prefers cool weather and will grow best in full shade or partial shade in USDA zones 3A to 9A. Common bleeding heart is quite hardy and is perfect as a container, border or specimen plant. For best results, plant common bleeding heart in a well-drained, neutral loam and water frequently. Wildlife lovers will especially appreciate the plant, as it tends to attract birds.

Iron Plant

Versatile and practically impossible to kill via neglect, iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), also called barroom plant, is a popular shade perennial native to China. The evergreen plant sports broad, glossy leaves that can grow up to 20 inches long. Iron plant does best in full or partial shade in USDA zones 7 to 10 and isn't picky about its living conditions beyond those few basics. A well-drained, fertile soil is ideal, but iron plant will also grow in dry, infertile soils, with or without frequent watering. Iron plant is commonly used as an outdoor or indoor container plant, or as a low-maintenance border plant.


About the Author


Michelle Wishhart is a writer based in Portland, Ore. She has been writing professionally since 2005, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for City on a Hill Press, an alternative weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, Calif. An avid gardener, Wishhart worked as a Wholesale Nursery Grower at Encinal Nursery for two years. Wishhart holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts and English literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.