Best Plants for Shade: Essential Selections and Care Tips


Plant Reference



November 8, 2023

Best Plants for Shade: Essential Selections and Care Tips

Shade gardens can be a sanctuary of calm and a celebration of understated beauty. Designing one requires understanding which plants can not only survive but truly flourish in low light. Here's a deeper dive into the perfect flora for shadowed spaces.

Understanding Shade in Gardens

Before selecting plants, recognize the nuances of shade:

  • Dappled Shade: This is a mix of sun and shade, as sunlight filters through the leaves of a deciduous tree.
  • Partial Shade: These areas receive 2-4 hours of direct sunlight daily, often during the morning or late afternoon.
  • Full Shade: Receiving less than 2 hours of direct sunlight, it's the most challenging, yet still holds great potential for beautiful foliage.

The Best Plants for Every Shade Condition

Pink flowers growing from the ground

1. Hosta

Varieties: ‘Patriot,’ Variegated Hosta, Miniature Hosta.

Description: Hostas boast broad leaves and occasional summer flowers. They can range from the large-leaved 'Sum and Substance' to the dainty 'Blue Mouse Ears'.

2. Ferns

Varieties: Maidenhair Fern, Boston Fern, Cinnamon Fern.

Description: Ferns add elegance and a sense of age, evoking images of ancient forests.

3. Astilbe

Varieties: 'Fanal', 'Bridal Veil', 'Purple Candles'.

Description: With feathery plumes atop fern-like foliage, Astilbes are especially stunning when planted en masse.

4. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)

Varieties: 'Alba', 'Gold Heart', 'Valentine'.

Description: Their unique flowers, reminiscent of dangling hearts, provide a dramatic spring display.

5. Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Varieties: 'Raspberry Splash', 'Majeste', 'Silver Bouquet'.

Description: Beyond their spring flowers, their silver-spotted leaves offer year-round interest.

6. Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra)

Varieties: 'All Gold', 'Beni-kaze', 'Nicolas'.

Description: Graceful and eye-catching, they sway beautifully with every breeze.

7. Heuchera

Varieties: 'Black Pearl', 'Georgia Peach', 'Green Spice'.

Description: Known for their diverse foliage colors, from deep purples to bright greens.

8. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Varieties: 'Albostriata', 'Rosea', 'Flore Pleno'.

Description: Their sweet scent complements their delicate appearance.

9. Impatiens

Varieties: 'Accent Premium', 'Beacon', 'Candy Box'.

Description: Flowering abundantly, they can transform a gloomy patch into a lively color spot.

10. Brunnera

Varieties: 'Jack Frost', 'Sea Heart', 'Alexander's Great'.

Description: Their heart-shaped leaves create a dense foliage carpet, punctuated by sky-blue flowers.

Essential Care for Shade Plants

Girl gardening in the soil
  • Soil Quality: Shade plants often thrive in rich, well-draining soil. Regularly enrich it with compost or organic matter.
  • Watering: Most shade plants prefer consistently moist conditions. Check the soil frequently and water deeply.
  • Fertilizing: Opt for a balanced, organic fertilizer, applied in early spring and again in mid-summer.
  • Mulching: A 2-inch layer of mulch helps conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds.
  • Pruning: Besides removing dead parts, some plants benefit from occasional thinning, allowing better air circulation.


Shade gardens, with their serene ambiance, are a testament to nature's adaptability and diversity. By choosing the right plants and providing them with proper care, even the most shaded corner can transform into a verdant retreat. From the robust Hosta to the delicate Impatiens, there's a shade-loving plant ready to make your garden its home.

Frequently Asked Questions on The Best Plants For Shade

Can I mix different shade plants in the same garden bed?

Yes, many gardeners mix and match shade plants based on aesthetics and growing conditions. For instance, you can pair Hosta with Ferns or Astilbe with Lungwort to create a layered look with varying textures and colors.

Do shade plants require less water than sun-loving ones?

Not necessarily. While they might be shielded from direct sunlight, many shade plants originate from woodland settings where soil remains consistently moist. It's essential to check the specific water needs of each plant and adjust accordingly.

How often should I fertilize my shade garden?

Most shade plants benefit from a balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in the spring. However, always follow the specific recommendations for each plant species and avoid over-fertilizing.

Are there flowering plants that can thrive in full shade?

Yes, several plants bloom beautifully even in full shade. Examples include Bleeding Heart, Lily of the Valley, and Impatiens. However, ensure the chosen area isn't too dark, as even shade-loving flowers require some light for blooming.

Can shade plants survive in pots or indoor settings?

Certainly! Many shade plants adapt well to container gardening or indoor environments, provided they get the necessary care. Ensure the pots have proper drainage and place them where they can receive indirect light, like near a window with sheer curtains.