The Top 5 Shade-Loving Plants for Your Garden

It’s easy to grow pretty plants in those sunny spots outdoors, but what about the shadier areas in your garden? These five shade-loving plants don’t need a lot of sunlight, but they certainly shine brightly just the same.

1. ASTILBE

This graceful perennial has an old-fashioned look, and thrives in partial sun or shady spots, where the soil is moist and rich. Astilbe’s tall feathery plumes bloom in spring and summer in pink, purple, white or red. The blossoms make lovely cut flowers in your home, but look nice even left to dry out on the stem. Depending on the type, astilbes can grow anywhere from 1 to 6 feet tall. Zones 4 to 8.

2. COLEUS

Available in a rainbow of colors and patterns, coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) is grown for its fabulous foliage, rather than the insignificant flowers. Combine several different coleus plants with wildly contrasting colors for a dramatic effect in containers and garden beds. This attractive perennial is only hardy to Zone 11, so it is typically grown as an annual in cold climates. Coleus makes an pretty, low-maintenance houseplant during the winter.

I like to grow mine on a patio, where the coleus pots receive plenty of dappled Southern California light. Newer varieties have greater tolerance for full sun, but too much harsh sun will fry these plants.

3. CORAL BELLS

It’s hard not to love coral bells (Heuchera). The tiny flowers that bloom on this perennial in late-spring and early-summer are insignificant, but the foliage more than makes up for it.

From warm-orange ‘Caramel’ to nearly black ‘Obsidian,’ the leaves come in many wonderful colors. The young foliage on ‘Peach Flambe’ starts out peachy yellow, turns redder over time and ends up almost plum by late fall. Plant this pretty foliage plant under deciduous trees or in semi-shady areas, where you want more color than just plain green. Zones 4 to 9.

4. IMPATIENS

This highly popular flowering annual (Impatiens wallerana) thrives in the partial-shade garden. From singles to doubles and semi doubles, impatiens flowers come in a wide variety of shapes and colors from pink to orange and red.

Easily found at local garden centers, impatiens look great planted in bunches in garden beds, hanging baskets, window boxes or along walkways. These easy annuals grow best in moist, rich soil that drains well.

Please note: Do proceed with caution when planting Impatiens wallerana, as these plants are showing signs of downy mildew disease in some parts of the U.S.

5. POLKA DOT PLANT

Also known as freckle face plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya is an attractive annual, famous for its freckles and splotches on white, red, green and pink leaves.

This plant thrives in rich, well-drained soil in partial sun with plenty of humidity. Indoors, this houseplant benefits from regular mists from a spray bottle to increase the air moisture. Polka dot plant adds a whimsical touch to garden beds and containers, but the deer usually won’t touch it. I have mine growing alongside coleus in pots on my back porch.

Polka dot plant, impatiens and coleus are just some of the interesting plants you can grow in your shaded outdoor areas. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at the number of shade-loving plants available to enhance your gardens.