Shade Loving Plants

Shade Loving Coral Bells and Other Plants

If your yard is filled with trees that limit sunlight, choose shade loving plants that require little sunlight to brighten up your landscape.

Learn a Lesson From Mother Nature

Many times people choose a beautiful wooded lot to build their home and it isn't until they settle in that they realize the challenge of getting things to grow under that leafy canopy. If you find yourself in that situation, don't think about cutting down those trees. Instead, take a lesson from Mother Nature. Woodlands provide a lush canopy too, and yet when you walk through the trees you'll see all kinds of shade loving plants thriving at your feet. That's the key. They love the shade. These plants include:

  • Ferns
  • Flowering bulbs
  • Flowers
  • Herbs
  • Shrubs
  • Trees

Selection of Shade Loving Plants

Believe it or not, the number of plants and flowers that will grow in partial or full shade are numerous. Take the following list into consideration as you plan your shade garden:

Lady's Mantle

Lady's Mantle makes a nice addition to your shade garden and is a culinary herb that earned its name because of the scalloped-shaped leaves, which historically people thought looked like the mantle of the Virgin Mary. It provides an attractive silver-gray ground cover that features sprays of dainty chartreuse flowers June through August. If you don't collect dead flowers before they fall, they will drop seeds and spread. Lady's Mantle grows best in moist, fertile soil that is shaded in the afternoon. It grows 6-24 inches in height.


Hydrangea are available in a number of varieties and can be grouped into four categories that help you know which variety will work in your climate. They thrive in well-drained, rich soil, and need plenty of water.

  • Mophead Hydrangeas - These are the most popular hydrangeas grown in home gardens and landscapes. Their full round flowering "mopheads" are blue or pink with a few white varieties.
  • Annabelle -- Annabelle sports stunning white heads of blooms often more than 10 inches in diameter. It blooms every year even after severe pruning or harsh winters.
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea -- The Oakleaf Hydrangea is named for the shape of its gorgeous big leaves. It can tolerate and even thrive in sunnier areas than the mophead and if you plant them in a sunny location that gets afternoon shade, the leaves often turn to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows in the fall.
  • Paniculata Hydrangeas - This variety grows and blooms in a wide variety of climates and unlike mopheads, they need several hours of sun to grow well.

Coral Bells

Also known as Alum Root or the Rock Geranium, this versatile, low-growing plant, provides color and contrast for your shade garden. Along with the wispy sprays of little flowers, the leaves also come in a variety of colors including:

  • Rose-purple
  • Mahogany red
  • Purple-metallic
  • Copper
  • Silver
  • Lime-green
  • Chocolate-black
  • Brick red

Coral Bells grow best in well-drained but moist soil with light shade.


This biennial plant has been a part of gardens throughout history. Not only has it been grown for cut flowers but also for medicinal purposes too. Foxglove grows on stalks 3-6 feet high and usually flowers in July. It's important to note though, it won't bloom until the second season.

Lenten Rose

This hardy perennial sports nodding bell-like flowers in a pleasant palette of colors and they stay colorful for several months because they are an evergreen perennial. The plant can grow up to two-feet tall and have 50 or more flowers.


Lupines grow well in poor soil because of their ability to create high levels of nitrogen. This along with their vast color range makes them a desirable addition to your garden. Colors include:

  • Violet
  • Blue
  • Red
  • Pink
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • White

These flowers grow to 2-3 feet and prefer afternoon shade.

Preparing to Plant

Just like any garden, preparing the area you have in mind for your shade garden is important if you want to grow vibrant, healthy plants. Needs differ from one variety of plant to another, but the main criteria to take into consideration includes:

The plants mentioned in this article are just a handful of the many shade plants available. Use them like colors on a painter's palette to create a landscape you enjoy.

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Shade Loving Plants