Plants that Grow in the Shade


Plant Ideas for Shady Landscape Areas

Every landscape has a challenge or two that a gardener must overcome, a shady area is one such challenge. Not to be outdone by the shade or leave the area undeveloped, try some of these plant ideas and beautify the shady area with these flowers, trees, shrubs and vegetables.

Shade Loving Flowers


Hellebores – Helleborus

Hellebores (Helleborus), also known as the Lenten or Christmas Rose, is an evergreen flowering plant that will grow in moderate to heavy shade and love cold weather. Blooms appear in late winter and early spring and vary in color, depending on variety of hellebores planted.


Hostas - Hosta x. tardiana

Hostas – Hosta x. tardiana

Hostas (
Hosta x. tardiana) are well-known shade-loving plants that produce large leaves and send up several tall flower spikes in mid-summer. Depending on variety planted, hosta leaves may be pale green, dark green or green and white variegated and the plant will reach a mature width of three feet across. Small purple flower blooms are borne on a three feet tall spike that will emerge from the center of the hosta in late June.


Japanese Spurge - Pachysandra terminalis

Japanese Spurge – Pachysandra terminalis

Japanese spurge (
Pachysandra terminalis) is a shade-loving evergreen that bears tiny white flowers in spring. Japanese spurge is usually grown as a ground cover in shaded landscape areas, like under trees, but it can be kept trimmed and used as a border plant.

Non-Flowering Shade Lovers


Ginger Plant - Zingiber officinale

Ginger Plant – Zingiber officinale

Ginger (
Zingiber officinale) doesn’t produce a bloom, but it’s a pretty plant that grows well in shade and it’s root have several uses in the kitchen. Plant ginger in a shady location for aesthetic purposes, then harvest the plant roots for use in tea, stir-fry and home remedy concoctions.


Lady Fern - Athyrium filix-femina

Lady Fern – Athyrium filix-femina, bilogical names may not be what’s shown

The Lady Fern (
Athyrium filix-femina) or any other fern that is native to your growing zone will do well when planted in the shade, as long as the soil is kept moist. Lady Ferns produce a multitude of delicate fronds that can reach a mature size of three feet wide and three feet tall under the proper growing conditions.

Under-Story Plants

The landscape areas under tall trees is referred to as ‘under-story’ areas and certain plants, trees and shrubs are called under-story plants because they thrive in the protective shade of taller trees.

Dogwood trees are a popular ornamental tree that will only live in the shade of taller trees. Dogwoods are the first trees to bloom in the early spring, producing a four-petal white, pink or red bloom with a center crown. These flowering ornamental trees also put on a brilliant show in the fall with their deep reddish-purple foliage follwed by clusters of bright red berries after leaf-drop. Birds and squirrels feast on the red berries during early winter.

Azaleas and rhododendrons are two more under-story shrubs that thrive and bloom in the shade of other trees. Azaleas and rhododendrons produce various colored blooms in spring and love acidic soil. These shade-loving shrubs will do their best when planted under pine trees.

Two flowering annuals that grow well in shade are the multi-colored impatient and begonia. These two flowers love to be planted around the base of a tree or on the north side of a home or other structure where they will only receive dappled sunlight during the day.

Shady Vegetable Gardening

Not many edible plants will grow in full shade, but if the landscape area receives a couple hours of full sun each day you can still do a little vegetable gardening in the space. Plant cool season vegetables in the shady space, like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and spinach. Use this trick to increase the sunlight these vegetable plants receive by painting nearby surfaces with bright white paint to reflect the sunlight that does hit the area. You can also apply aluminum foil to surrounding surfaces to reflect the sunlight onto the growing vegetable plants.