19 Top Shade Plants to Brighten Your Garden
Tired of growing the same few plants every year in your shade garden? Here are shade-loving plants to help you brighten up your space with showy flowers and fantastic foliage.
1. Polka Dot Plant
Polka dot plants are always a crowd pleaser because they are so colorful and easy to grow. Their pink, red or white-patterned leaves shine all season in sun or shade, hot or cool weather, even indoors as a houseplant.
You could grow Hippo polka dot plants as a thriller or filler in your patio containers, or plant them in the landscape anyplace you could use a bright spot of color. Other than water, they require little to no maintenance through the growing season.
Height: 16-22”, Spread: 8-14”, Sun or shade, Grown as an annual
2. Pineapple Sage
Shade garden plants with fun foliage are always popular because they provide lively color and textural interest all season. ‘Golden Delicious’ is a large plant that you could grow as a bright filler in the landscape or a thriller in extra-large container recipes. Since its aromatic foliage is deer resistant, you can safely plant it out in your flower gardens, too.
Think of this salvia like a heat and humidity tolerant, disease resistant replacement for chartreuse coleus. In warm climates where the growing season is long and frost comes late, it may produce fire engine red flowers in fall.
Height: 3-4’, Spread: 2-3’, Part sun to sun, Commonly grown as an annual but is hardy in zones 8-11
Surefire Begonias are a surefire hit in landscapes and containers. They’ll grow and flower in just about any degree of shade and don’t require as much water as impatiens.
Use them as a flowering thriller in large combination containers and window boxes, or to plug the holes left when bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) go dormant in the landscape in midsummer.
Height: 12"-2', Spread: 18"-2', Sun or shade, Grown as an annual
Shade gardeners know that it’s not all about the flowers when sunlight is limited. Instead, they rely on fabulous foliage to keep their garden in color from spring through fall.
If you don't want to fuss much with your annuals, grow ColorBlaze Coleus, which are super strong growers and set few to no flowers, so you won’t have to keep pinching them to keep the plants looking great all season.
Height: 14"-3'4", Spread: 16"-3', Sun or shade, Grown as an annual
5. Wishbone Flower
One of the most commonly overlooked annuals for shade are Torenias, commonly called the Wishbone Flower because of the unique markings on the flowers’ throat. They may not be as flashy as impatiens, but they do offer fun snapdragon-like flowers in cool purples, whites, pinks and yellows all summer long in partial to full shade.
The more sun you can give them, the more flowers you’ll see. Use Catalina Torenias as fillers in containers or as an annual groundcover in the shade.
Height: 8-16", Spread: 8-12", Sun or shade, Grown as an annual
Are you struggling to find something unique for your shade garden? Add an exotic look to shady areas with the large heart-shaped leaves of caladium. Choose from a wide array of patterns and colors.
All types of caladiums grow well in part shade (4-6 hours of sun). However, some varieties can tolerate full sun (6+ hours) and others can tolerate full shade (<4 hours).
Height: 15-20”, Spread: 8-10”, Sun or Shade, Annual
Light up any shady area with masses of blooms that resemble miniature rosebuds. Rockapulco thrive in the hottest, most humid deep shade. Like inside a brick-walled courtyard in the Midwest or South.
Plant this reliable shade lover alongside brightly hued varieties of coleus, caladium or sweet potato vine for an extra pop of color.
Height: 10-20”, Spread:12”-2’, Part Shade to Shade, Annual
Want to learn more about shade gardening?
- Browse our database of shade articles.
- Save pins from our Pinterest board featuring shade plants.
- Watch how Laura from Garden Answer plants up a shaded window box.
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