6 Best Plants for Your Garden’s Shady Spots (Slideshow)

By Bonnie Alter, TreeHugger

Mid-August is when gardeners start to get depressed. The best time for the garden is over and all its failings are starting to show. Like the shade areas: these are always tricky. But for next year, forget about jamming in Impatiens and instead think shade perennials that will grow slowly, spread on their own, and last and last.

Shade perennials are less showy, more subtle. They are all about appreciating different shades (!) of green, different textures and shapes. And don’t forget: now is the best time to buy them. They are on sale at most nurseries, and if planted now, will have time to establish themselves over the winter. (Of course, you should also seek out native plants whenever possible!)

Here are five of the best.

1. Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis) above

A perfect plant for the edges of the shady parts of the garden. The plants grow between 8 and 14 inches high, with leaves that get larger over the summer. There are long, leggy chartreuse flowers that appear in early summer and last for weeks on end. The plant spreads every year. (Plant it with care, as it can become invasive.)

Photo Credit: A. Barra (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. European Ginger (Asarum europaeum)

European ginger has glossy, shiny leaves that are rich and dark green in color. It grows as a low, slow creeping ground cover that sweeps around other plants, catches and reflects the light. Understated, interesting and spreads in clumps.

Photo Credit: Algirdas [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

3. Foam Flowers (Tiarella sp.)

Tiarellas like woodland conditions: rich, moist soil, and dappled to full shade conditions. They come in so many different varieties: their leaves are multicolored and different shaped. They are delicate and last the whole season. They even have an early flower. Look for them at garden centers.

Photo Credit: Jerzy Opioła (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus)

This is tricky to find but well worth the hunt. It blooms in mid-August to early September, a time when there is little else flowering. The delicate little white flowers look like daisies. They grow on long runners which look luxuriant. It gets bigger every year and likes shade.

Photo Credit: User:BotBln (Own work: User:BotBln) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5. Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum pictum)

The Japanese painted fern is very showy, with soft gray-green and silvery dark maroon foliage. It is a lovely contrast to the greens around it and keeps on spreading and re-seeding, given the right conditions. Don’t forget to look at other ferns as well.

Photo Credit: Photo (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) (Self-photographed) [GFDL 1.2 or CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

6. And One for Good Luck: Hosta

But don’t think of your grandmother’s garden–there are gorgeous, huge, and beautifully colored choices as well. Like this gigantic Hosta plantaginea that almost looks like lily pads.

Photo Credit: Matasg (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons



Late Summer Sowing
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Bonnie M.
Bonnie M.3 years ago

Thank you- yes, there are a good selection of perennials for shady part of the garden. I have these in my garden, love the tiarellas, the colors get very colorful in the fall. Solomon`s seal also tolerated shady areas.

Elisabeth T.
Elisabeth T.3 years ago

Beautiful plants, thank you for the information

Jeni G.
Jennifer G.3 years ago

Thanks for the info!

Nicole Gorman
Nicole Gorman3 years ago

Great info!

rene davis
rene davis3 years ago


Tammy Andrews
Tammy Andrews3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W.3 years ago

thanks. I'll look into some of them

Marianne B.
MARIA B.3 years ago

good info..thanks

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


Linda Greene
Linda Greene3 years ago

Great list. Do they do well in a drought?