Perennials for Partial Shade
Choose perennials for partial shade based on whether the plant can thrive with three to four hours of sunlight per day. A perennial plant will come back every year. Choose plants for the partial shade garden based on both their flowers and foliage. Brightly colored flowers and variegated or colored foliage can liven up an otherwise boring section of the garden. Some outstanding perennials for partial shade include Astilbe, Epimedium and Heuchera.
Astilbe are great perennials for partial shade because they are easy to care for, have flowers in a variety of colors and are available in heights from 6-inches tall to 5-feet tall. Flower colors include peach, pink, red, white and purple. Some varieties of Astilbe have variegated foliage.
Astilbe plants need rich, moist soil with good drainage. These plants are heavy feeders, so be sure to add plenty of compost or a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. It is a good idea to mulch the area around Astilbe roots to help hold in moisture during the summer and help protect the plant during the winter. Depending on the variety of Astilbe, these perennials for partial shade are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 11.
Epimedium, also known as fairy wings, is a great ground cover for partial shade gardens. Carefree, other than the once-yearly cutting back of the foliage in late winter before the flower buds begin to emerge, this drought-tolerant plant offers year-round interest.
Epimedium are evergreen, however, if the foliage is not cut back in late winter, the tiny flowers may not be as visible. The mottled foliage offers interest even when the plant is not in bloom. In spring, the foliage will have a red tint to it and in fall, the foliage will take on a bronze tint. Most varieties are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9.
This showy foliage plant comes in a wide array of colors including chartreuse green, black with pink dots, purple, caramel, peach and many more individual colors or combinations of colors. Use the tiny bell-shaped flowers that emerge in spring in cut flower bouquets as a filler material, or simply leave them in the garden to enjoy.
The brightly colored foliage lights up the shade garden during the warmer months of the year. These perennials for partial shade are perfect as edging plants due to their size. During the winter months, these evergreen plants continue to define the border of the partial shade garden.
Heuchera are very drought tolerant and carefree once established. It is a good idea to mulch them in the winter. If you live in an area with numerous freeze and thaw cycles during winter, look for signs of heaving, or signs of the plant roots being pushed out of the ground. If this happens, simply push the plant back into the ground and mulch well. Heuchera is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9.
- The Natural Shade Garden; Ken Druse; 1992
- Heucheras and Heucherellas: Coral Bells and Foamy Bells; Dan Heims and Grahame Ware; 2005
- Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden that Lightens up the Shadows; Larry Hodgson; 2005