Here are 24 excellent perennial flowers for shade gardens I think you will find both easy to grow and provide a great appearance. All are hardy in my USDA zone 4 garden. I’ve grown each of these plants, in fact with one or two exceptions they all exist in my current garden.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
- Actaea rubra or baneberry is a classy shade-loving perennial flower that deserves to be hunted down and used for the great foliage and magical blooms. (Yeah, I love this plant)
- Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) has green-yellow (chartreus) flowers but the incredible foliage sparkles when filled with morning dew.
- Aruncus or Goatsbeard is more like an Astilbe on steroids with largel leaves and tall white flowers.
- Astilbe is a tough shade garden perennial. One of the truly hard to kill plants – it will only weaken if you put it in dry shade (it prefers a damp to regular watered soil)
- Athryium (Japanese painted fern) a terrific small ferns with different leaf colors
- Bergenia is an early spring blooming perennials with evergreen foliage in mild gardens.
- Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian Bugloss) is one of my favorite spring charmers with blue forget me not flowers)
- Caltha palustris or Marsh Marigold (sun or shade) is a North American Native with yellow spring blooms.
- Corydalis lutea is one of the best small shade garden plants but it is also one of the perennials that bloom almost all summer.
- Dicentra or Bleeding Heart is a classic shade garden perennial. Grow both the old-fashioned bleeding heart or the newer (longer-blooming) hybrids.
- Ferns are one of the best garden-worthy plants for shadier gardens.
- Heuchera or Coralbells are essential members of shade to part-shade garden. Avoid noon sun and pick from hundreds of varieties in all colors of leaf. I’ve never been a fan of the flowers but design for their leaf color.
- Heucherella is a cross between Heuchera and Tiarella – and makes a great shade garden plant.
- Helleborus or Christmas rose is one of the earliest and longest blooming perennial for the shadier garden. You’ll fall in love quickly with the new flower colors.
- Hepatica is one of my favorite shade garden perennials because of its early blooms in either white or shades of blue.
- Hosta are one of the classic plants for the perennial garden with (literally) thousands of varieties in all sizes from tiny to massive with leaf colors in combinations of blues, yellows, whites and green.
- Lunaria or money plant is an excellent shade plant but every one of those seedpods will produce hundreds of weedy plants.
- Primula is relatively easy to grow if you give it a shady, damp spot. Do make sure you’re buying a perennial because many of the Primula sold in garden centers are really only biennials. If they’re in bloom, they don’t do it again (or perhaps for one more year)
- Polemonium will “melt” away if it’s unhappy (too much sun or not the right amount of water. Some of the newer varieties are much better at sticking around.
- Polygonatum or Solomon’s seal blooms early in the spring but it’s mostly grown as a foliage plant. Get the variegated variety, it adds a season-long interest.
- Pulmonaria or lungwort has fantastic leaves and those blue flowers are to die for in the mid-spring garden.
- Symphytum or Ornamental Comfrey is mostly grown in the sun but if you get the varieties with fancy leaves, you’ll want them in the shade.
- Trollius belongs in the part-shade garden with its yellow blooms. Wants regular watering and resents drying out.
- Tricrytis blooms very late in the season so is definitely a problem in colder shorter-season gardens where you’d like it to grow better and produce flowers.