Tired of gloomy corners in your garden? Discover the magic of shade gardening with 10 stunning, low-maintenance shade loving plants that bloom.

Craving vibrant blooms but lacking the sunshine? Even the shadiest corners can burst with color with the right selection of shade-loving plants. From classic favorites to unique finds, this list offers 10 easy-to-care-for bloomers that will transform your shady space into a flowering oasis.

So often newbie gardeners assume that there are not many plants that bloom in the shade but I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth! There are lots of shade loving plants out there that do just that!

In today’s post, I’m sharing some of my favorite perennials and shrubs that are easy to grow, easy to care for, and well worth adding to your shade garden.

Wait until you see the beautiful perennials and ornamental shrubs that bloom well and provide season-long color to shade gardens.

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10 Easy-Care Shade Loving Plants That Bloom

While annuals offer bursts of seasonal color, shade tolerant perennials and shrubs provide a low-maintenance approach to year-round beauty. Unlike annuals, which require yearly replanting, these plants return faithfully each season, often requiring minimal care beyond initial planting and occasional pruning.

Perfect for busy gardeners or those seeking long-lasting impact, these shade-loving perennials and shrubs will reward you with stunning blooms year after year.

In my former garden, we did not have many shady spots. My home was south-facing and we had very few trees that shaded our property. I grew some shade tolerant plants, but not many. Since moving here to our new home a few years ago, we’ve got lots of plants that do well in the shade and bloom.

Do you have a shade garden or shady landscape where you want to grow flowers but aren’t sure what to plant? This list is for you!

So let’s go.

Shade Garden in the back border

Hostas

Hostas (plantain lilies) are an easy-care perennial that thrives in shade, flowers, and are easy to propagate. Hardy in zones 3-9, the plantain lilly is a clump-forming plant grown from rhizomatous roots that can grow from 1.5-2.5 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide.

Hostas prefer rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. There is such a range in hosta varieties, so they are worth looking into if you want to plant up a shady spot in the landscape. From variegated to blue and chartreuse foliage, you can brighten up a shady spot just from the foliage alone.

While mostly grown for their beautiful foliage and shade-loving tendencies, hostas bloom in late spring through summer with stalks that grow well above the foliage. I know several gardeners who aren’t into the blooms but I love them, and so do the pollinators like bees and hummingbirds.

To me, the only drawback is plantain lilies are NOT deer-resistant. And if you garden in an area where deer browse, you’ve got to protect these. I shared several deer proofing strategies in this post.

close up of hosta plant with lavender purple flowers
Hosta plant with lavender purple flowers

Brunnera

Brunnera is a new-to-me shade-loving plant that I discovered here at the new house. Of course, I’ve seen them before at the nursery and in other gardens, but I always bypassed them because I didn’t have the growing space or light conditions for them.

But not anymore.

Brunnera Macrophylla is another clumping perennial that spreads from rhizomatous roots that grows well in full to partial shade. Hardy to zones 3-8, it grows roughly 12–18″ tall and 18–30″ wide.

While it can have dark green heart-shaped leaves, other varieties have variegated foliage. It blooms in spring for about a month and is well known for its dainty blue flowers that resemble myostotis (forget-me-nots).

I discovered a few clumps in our backyard zen garden and am thrilled with their beauty. Brunnera is also a deer-loving plant, so while they are easy to care for, you’ll want to protect these from browsing.

beautiful brunnera is a shade loving plant

Lenten Rose

To me, the lenten rose (hellebores) is a must-have in any shade garden. Lenten Rose (Helleborus x Hybridus) is a perennial hyrbrid that comes from the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). It is not a member of the rose family, although the name seems like it might be. The blooms look rose-like, but hellebores get their name from when they bloom in the season.

Lenten roses flower in late winter/early spring with an extended bloom time, They have gorgeous leather-like evergreen leaves and grow to a height of maturity that is roughly 12-18″ tall and wide. It prefers partial shade to shade locations with moist, well-drained loamy soil that is slightly acidic to alkaline. Hardy to zones 4-9, the hellebore flower colors range from whites to pinks and purples.

I did not grow many in my former garden and let me tell you, hellebores are a new favorite perennial for me. They are deer-resistant, easy to care for and propagate, make beautiful cut flowers for arrangements, and have an extended bloom time.

What’s not to love about this shade loving plant that flowers?

lenten rose hellebores that are purple
pink lenten rose hellebore in front of green fence in backyard garden

Bleeding Hearts

I am a huge fan of bleeding hearts! They are another beautiful spring-blooming perennial that is easy to care for, looks amazing in the shade garden, and are deer-resistant.

Bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) are hardy to zones 3-9, grow roughly 6″-3′ tall and 1-3′ wide, and prefers partial to full shade with rich, moist soil that is slightly acidic.

If you’ve ever seen bleeding hearts bloom, you know why they are a shade garden favorite. They grow these beautiful heart-shaped flowers that dangle and look quite elegant.The foliage is beautiful as well and adds a lot of texture to shade gardens.

Bleeding hearts begin to turn yellow and die back after blooming so be sure to plant them among other perennials that will disguise the foliage as it dies back.

close up of dicentra bleeding heart - Top 5 Spring Garden Supplies

Virginia Bluebells

Another new-to-me perennial is virginia bluebells. Do you grow them? I had no idea of this plant’s beauty until they popped up here in my new gardens.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are grown from rhizomes and bloom in spring along with hellebores, bleeding hearts and brunnera. Hardy to zones 3-8, this stunningly beautiful perennial does well in partial to full shade and prefers rich, moist soil.

The flowers are trumpet-like and come in shades of blue. And it is a hummingbird favorite because I’ve been watching a few enjoy these beautiful blooms the last few weeks.

As far as deer resistance goes, they are considered to be seldom severely damaged so worth trying if deer are an issue in your area.

close up of virginia bluebells that is a shade loving plant
close up of virginia bluebells that is a shade loving plant

Astilbe

Astilbes are another easy-care perennial that is deer resistant and grows long plume-like flowers that bloom in shade. Hardy in zones 3-8, astilbes grow roughly 12-60″ tall and 12-24″ wide. They grow well in partial to full shade and prefer loamy, moist soil.

There are a variety of bloom colors including pink, purple, red, and white. Right now, I’m in love with Proven Winners Dark Side of the Moon which has beautiful dark foliage and pretty pink flowers.

Astilbes might be one of the easiest shade-loving plants to grow because they are pretty resistant to pests, are super simple to grow, and are easy to propagate.

I used to grow astilbes in the woodland garden along the side of my former home but they petered out after several years and I never replaced them.

close up of astilbe with green fence
close up of astilbes with red flowers in front of green garden fence in my early summer garden tour

Epimedium

Epimedium (barrenwort) is another shade-loving perennial that has beautiful foliage and the prettiest dainty flowers in shades of yellow, pink, purple, orange, red, and white. Known as a carpeting perennial, this plant does well under trees and shadier spots.

Hardy in zones 5-8, this perennial groundcover grows about 8-12″ tall and 12-36″ wide. It prefers partial to full shade in loamy, sandy, moist but well-drained soil.

This perennial is new to me and I think it is really pretty in the garden. It is not known to be invasive but you should check with your local garden extension to make sure it’s OK to plant in your locality as it does spread. Epimedium is super easy to care for and deer tend to avoid browsing.

close up of epimedium
close up of epimedium barrenwort is a shade loving plant that makes a great ground cover

Azaleas

Azaleas are a welcome sight when they bloom in spring. A member of the rhododendron family, this mounding spring-flowering shrub is hardy in zones 4-8 but varies depending on the variety. It can grow from 3-20′ tall and wide and prefers light well-drained, acidic soil.

There are lots of different varieties to choose from that can have variegated or non-variegated foliage. And the blooms come in red, white, pink, purple, peach, and orange.

Prune azaleas when they finish blooming (or after the first spring bloom for reblooming varieties) so you don’t cut off next year’s flower buds. Always remove branches that are dead, diseased or damaged. To promote better air circulation and increase sun exposure, thin out crowded areas of the plant.

Azaleas are NOT deer resistant so you’ll need to protect these from deer browsing. I grew a beautiful white flowering variety in my former garden, but I am seeing some bright pink flower varieties here in the backyard zen garden.

pink azaleas are a gorgeous shade loving plant that blooms in spring
close up of pink azalea flowers in a shade garden

Rhododendron

Rhododendrons are a gorgeous larger growing shrub that is evergreen and produces beautiful white, pink, or purple flowers in spring. Hardy in zones 4-8, this tree-like shrub can take more sun but does well in partial shade. It can grow to 12-25′ tall and wide and prefers low-nutrient, but well-drained acidic soil.

Since the foliage is evergreen, I enjoy incorporating them in winter container garden designs. Rhododendrons are NOT deer-resistant and will need protection from browsing.

We have several here in our new gardens that are within the fenced-in backyard. I grew one variety in the woodland garden at my former home. It did very well and was roughly 8 feet tall by the time we moved.

Pink rhododendron in zen garden with staddle stone in full bloom
zen garden pond with koi fish, staddle stone, pink rhododendron, and japanese maple tree

Oakleaf Hydrangea

If you’ve not grown an oak leaf hydrangea before, you should. We do not have one here in my new gardens and I will be planting one sometime within the next year. Oakleaf hydrangeas are a flowering deciduous shrub that makes a good specimen plant or as part of a foundation planting.

It grows these pretty panicle white flowers in late summer that turns a pinkish purple hue in fall. But I grow it for the foliage because those oak-like leaves turn a bright crimson red in fall and are beyond beautiful.

Hardy to zones 5-9, oakleaf hydrangeas prefer full to partial sun in moist, well-drained soil.

Mine was planted in my woodland garden in partial shade and it did very well there. However there were fewer blooms on the shadier side of the plant, so keep that in mind when planting them.

To learn more about their resistance to deer browsing, read this post.

close up of Oak Leaf Hydrangea flowers
Close up of oak leaf hydrangea leaves in fall - 9 ways to prepare the garden for winter
Oakleaf hydrangea foliage as it turns in fall.

More About Shade Loving Plants That Bloom?

Do you grow flowers in the shade too? What are some of your favorites? I would love to know more in the comments below.

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Garden Supplies I Use

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

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Close up of shade garden plants that include lenten rose and brunnera
close up of epimedium
Close up of lenten rose hellebores - 10 Easy Care Shade Loving Plants that Bloom
close up of rhododendron in shade garden
blooming rhododendron with bleeding hearts in the shade garden
My rhododendron in full bloom in my former garden. Cranesbill is blooming in front.
close up of astilbe flowers
Image by Gardener’s Supply
garden nj shade garden
summer night by the fire pit in the backyard garden
lenten rose, virginia bluebells and bleeding hearts in the shade garden

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24 Comments

  1. So many great ideas for the shade. We have a lot of azaleas and rhododendrons here in the Pacific Northwest.

  2. What a great list, Stacy. I have some shady spots that need some love, so I appreciate you sharing. I’d love to share a photo and a link to your post in my week in rewind recap tomorrow!

  3. Awesome pics Stacy! I’m planning my cutting garden now (a little late!) and I am loving your choices! Pinned 🙂

  4. I have se oral shady areas on our property and love to combine lots of Hellebores, a variety of Ferns and Heuchera in my shade with an edging of Caladiums interspersed with pots of shade loving annuals such as Begonias and i mpatients and creeping jenny for a hanging chartreuse bit of color.Love my shade gardens and am always trying new plants. Thank you Stacy for your suggestions and beautiful photos of your gardens.

  5. Hi Stacy! My husband and I recently moved to Northeast Oklahoma in zone 6b. We have a really nice screened in porch that we love but it needs some plants (doesn’t every space? 😅). Do you think these shade loving perennials would do well in pots?

    1. How dense is the shade there? Would you keep them there year round? In general, shade loving perennials do great in pots – they need to be zoned 2 zones higher than 6b to survive the winter (although being close to the house and more protected they could be ok with less than that). My only concern with them is they are in a screened in porch not getting rain, etc. so they’d be a lot more work to maintain and I’m not sure how dense the shade is.

      1. Hi again Stacy, Diana here. The screened porch is completely covered but some sunshine comes in the morning and late afternoon. It’s plenty light in there during the day to read a book with no problem if that makes sense. Since I’m retired now I don’t mind the extra watering. And I’ll try making sure they’re close to the house and maybe put some extra insulation around the pots and hope they make it through the winter.

  6. Just an fyi, if I try these shade loving plants on my patio and it doesn’t go well I definitely won’t blame you!! I just appreciate your input and ideas for plants that are possibilities!