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Shade plants, leaf and flower plants that thrive in the shade

Plant in the shade with a single ray of light

We’ve all learned that plants need proper growing conditions to thrive: healthy soil, a little water, and light.

Water and soil you can influence, but for a garden facing away from the sun, what can you do about light?

Nothing to worry about, there’s an easy fix. All you have to do is select plants that prefer shade over sun. And there are plenty to choose from! Here is a selection of perennials and shrubs to help you out.

Heath plants: Lords of the Dark lands

Shade plants like heather don't need sunHeath plants are, without a doubt, all-out champions when it comes to populating a shaded bed. The family boasts a wide range of colors for flowers and leaves. Shapes and fragrances are also varied and appealing, too. A single drawback requires attention: they only truly thrive in acidic soil.

Among the most common heath plants, you’ll find: azalea, rhododendron, bog-rosemary, Japanese maple, skimmia, the omnipresent hydrangea, the winter-blooming camellia, and of course heather itself, the namesake for this broad family. There are many more plants in this family, much more than this short list contains.

Shade plants


Blooms will lighten up the shadeAn evergreen perennial, bergenia blooms in winter and at the very beginning of Spring. An easy plant to care for, it makes for an excellent ground cover at the foot of a tree or shrub, for instance.


Saxifrage plants and flowers in the shadeActually a tiny, low-lying covering perennial, saxifrage is a very refined addition to a shade-covered flower bed thanks to its numerous small air-born flowers.

The species that are most often recommended for shade areas are: Saxifraga urbium, Saxifraga stolonifera (which bears very unique flowers) and Saxifraga umbrosa.


Hosta grows fine in shadeSimilarly to heath plants, hosta is also known to naturally grow very well in shade. Leafage is what makes these shade princesses stand out. Gardeners have even created entire flower beds with only hostas of varying colors and sizes, and it still looked amazing!

They also have a weak point, and not an easy one to counter at that: slugs go haywire over them and will eat them up!


Blue flowered omphalodes in a shade portion of the gardenGrowing in perennial bunches, omphalodes won’t need any care at all.

It’ll bring light to dark areas of your garden thanks to its bright green leaves and small blue flowers that resemble those of forget-me-nots.

  • These stay low and won’t grow very high, just as the beautiful bulb wood anemone they often compete with.


Red leaves of this heuchera species even appear in shadeAlso settles right in darker, shade-covered spots of the yard, heuchera presents a wide palette of colorful leaves. It’ll only be a question of what to choose to set your growing bed up.

A few varieties that are particularly remarkable: Heuchera sanguinea, Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace purple’ and Heuchera ‘Caramel’.


Hellebore is a famous flower for shadeSome among these are deciduous, others keep their leaves even below freezing. Blooms are shaped like large bells that hang down from their stem.

Hellebore strikes a home run when it comes to shade: it loves shady corners and also blooms from December to April depending on the species. There is no better choice to embellish your garden in winter.

Shade-loving shrubs

Fortune’s spindle ‘Emerald’n’Gold’

Yellow and green leaves brighten up the shade in the gardenDense, tight bearing, grows covered in leaves that have a green a center and a luminous yellow border. All in all, a hardy evergreen shrub that is easy to care for to enlighten dark spaces.

Cotoneaster dammeri

Red berries, green leaves of cotoneaster growing in the shadeA crawling shrub that is also extremely hardy, it bears an abundance of flowers. Even in Winter, it’ll enhance your flower bed thanks to its many red berries.

Note : since they’re part of the Rosaceae family, Cotoneaster are vulnerable to fire blight. You’ll have to check on it from time to time.

Gaultheria procumbens

Gaultheria, a discreet shade plantThis smallish shrub creeps and crawls around, keeping its leaves all winter long. It blooms in Summer with either white or pink flowers. After fertilization, they turn into cute bright red berry fruits.

Leaves of Gaultheria also have a nice peculiarity: when you wrinkle them, a powerful fragrance fills the air.


Shade plant that loves forest underbrush, fernsHard to write an article about shade plants without mentioning ferns. Even though they never bear flowers, they’re still very much worthy of interest. Shape of their leaves, lush green color, and coming in all sizes, they’re perfect to fill in shaded gardens.

A few that stand out from the rest are Phyllitis scolopendrium which has smooth, uncut leaves, Adiantum pedatum with delicately chiseled fronds, the original Cyrtomium fortunei and the classic but ever-hardy Dryopteris.

Images: CC BY 2.0: Jason Hollinger, Maja Dumat, Ibby Wederzijds; Pixabay: Hans Braxmeier, Elena, Monika Schröder, Monika Schnabel, Petra Fischer, Sister M.Jutta, Sarah Tevendale, Rudy and Peter Skitterians, Stanisław Tobolewski
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