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10 Easy-Care Shade Loving Plants That Bloom

Want to grow flowers in the shade? Here are 10 easy-care shade loving plants that will bloom and brighten up a shade garden.

I’m often asked about what to plant to brighten up shady spots in the garden. And there are lots of shade-loving plants out there that do just that.

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

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-loving plants, but not many.

Since moving here to our new home in December, I’m seeing lots of plants emerge that do really well in shade and bloom.

I shared what the gardens looked like when we first moved in HERE.

And today, I am in awe of what is popping up in the beds because a few of them are new to me from the standpoint that I didn’t grow them because I lacked the light conditions to properly care for them.

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 lillies) are an easy-care perennial that thrives in shade, flowers, and is easy to propagate.

Hardiness zones 3-9, the plantain lilly is a clump-forming plant grown from rhizomatous roots that can grow from 6-48″ tall and 10″-6′ wide.

Hostas prefer rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic.

There is such a range in hosta varieties, so they are totally 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.

summer night by the fire pit in the backyard garden

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.

For deer proofing strategies that work, CLICK HERE and HERE.

garden nj shade garden

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.

Hardiness in zones 3-8, it grows roughly 12–18″ tall and 18–30″ wide.

While it can have dark green heart-shaped leaves, there are other varieties that have variegated foliage.

It blooms in spring for about a month and is well known for it’s 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

As I recently wrote about lenten rose a few weeks ago, hellebores are a must-have in the 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 rose hellebores that are purple

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.

pink lenten rose hellebore in front of green fence in backyard garden

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?

To learn more about lenten roses and why you should grow them, CLICK HERE.

lenten rose, virginia bluebells and bleeding hearts in the shade garden

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding hearts are another beautiful spring-blooming perennial that is easy to care for and deer resistant.

Bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) are hardy to zones 2-9, 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.

close up of virginia bluebells that is a shade loving plant

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

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 6-24″ tall and 6-60″ wide. They grow well in partial to full shade and prefer loamy, moist soil.

There are a variety of bloom colors that include pink, purples, red, and white.

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

As I’m walking the gardens here, I see them popping up all over and can’t wait to see the bloom color!

close up of astilbe flowers
Image by Gardener’s Supply

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.

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 6b-8a but varies depending on the variety.

It can grow from 3-20′ tall and wide and prefers light well-drained, acidic soil.

pink azaleas are a gorgeous shade loving plant that blooms in spring

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

To learn how to properly prune this shrub, CLICK HERE.

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 varieties here in the backyard zen garden.

close up of pink azalea flowers in a shade garden

Pacific Rhododendron

Pacific 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.

blooming rhododendron with bleeding hearts in the shade garden
My rhododendron in full bloom in my former garden. Cranesbill is blooming in front.

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.

To learn how to properly prune a rhododendron, CLICK HERE.

close up of rhododendron in shade garden

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.

close up of Oak Leaf Hydrangea flowers

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, CLICK HERE.

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.

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Stacy Ling

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10 Comments

  1. 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!

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