Top 10 Hardy Perennials For Shade

Shaded areas needn't be unloved. There are plenty of plants that will positively thrive in lower light conditions.

Top 10 Plants for Shade

Shaded areas needn't be unloved. There are plenty of plants that will positively thrive in lower light conditions.

Some people think that growing plants in the shade can be tricky, or that nothing will grow there at all. There is always a little area beside the shed, under a tree or a darker corner on the patio that ends up feeling neglected and unloved because of a lack of sunlight.

With this list you may be able to find some plants for shade to fill those places. We've chosen our Top 10 perennials for shade which will thrive and brighten up any darkened area.


1. Brunnera

Brunnera is an herbaceous perennial with heart shaped leaves and clustered sprays of small, bright blue flowers appearing in spring.

Brunnera 'Jack Frost' forms neat clumps of silvery foliage, patterned with a tracery of dark green veins. It will look great in the shade of deciduous trees and shrubs or in a container on a shady patio.


2. Hardy Geraniums

Hardy Geraniums are wonderful herbaceous perennials which come in a variety of colours and are easy to grow. They form spreading clumps and come back bigger each year.

Geranium sanguineum 'Pink Pouffe' has pale pink flowers with darker pink veins. It grows well in partial shade and flowers between May and July. The foliage is a glorious green and makes a loose mound. Removing faded flowers and old foliage early in the summer will encourage new growth to be produced which will keep them looking fresh and tidy.


3. Hostas

Hostas have grown largely in popularity over the years. There are a wide variety of different foliage colours, shapes and fragrances available.

Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans likes most soils but if planted in pots it needs to have regular watering. The large ribbed leaves are a fantastic back drop to the white spires of flowers. They flower mid May to mid July.

Hostas are easy to grow and are particularly good for ground cover in shady areas. Slugs and snails love eating but there are plenty of means of snail and slug control available.


4. Foxgloves

Foxgloves are a delight to have in the garden! They add height to the planting schemes and give that lovely cottage garden feel.

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids' grows well in shaded areas under shrubs and trees. Pollinators love them with their spotty throats and soft pink, white, yellow and mauve flowers, and they also make a stunning cut flower. They will tolerate almost any soil apart from waterlogged or excessively dry conditions.


5. Hellebores

5) Hellebores are a stunning addition to shady borders and also look great in winter containers. The green glossy foliage is evergreen, bringing year long interest. Hellebores tend to flower from December to March.

Hellebore x sahinii 'Winterbells' is an intriguing new interspecific hybrid. This Hellebore will get better each year and is a 'must have' plant for winter and early spring. Early pollinators love them too!


6. Pulmonaria

Pulmonarias create fabulous ground cover in shady areas.

Pulmonaria 'Moonshine' is a particularly pretty variety for its silvery, mottled foliage. It grows well under trees and shrubs. It has beautiful pale blue flowers throughout the summer and they are nectar rich which bees and other pollinators love. A useful perennial plant which can be used in a woodland setting or just a dark corner in the garden.


7. Ferns

Ferns are often regarded as woodland plants, growing the dappled light conditions of deciduous tree canopies. There are many different species, but some are particularly well suited to shade!

Dryopteris wallichiana 'Jurassic Gold' has colourful new fronds starting at a rose bronze in spring, maturing to a stunning yellow and then to green as the summer moves on. Planted in a sheltered position it will remain as a semi evergreen, proving to be hardy and low maintenance. It will also look good as a container plant on the patio.


8. Heuchera

Heuchera foliage comes in a variety of different colours and when planted in a semi shady position, the colours stand out and make the area shine. Why not try Heuchera 'Mosaic' for its patterned leaves with dark veins on a silver background. During the summer you will be treated to cerise delicate flowers which appear on thin wiry stems.

Heuchera 'Caramel' is another beauty with rich orange-pink foliage. Perfect for planting in pots, at the front of borders or a woodland, shady position.


9. Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is a tough ground cover plant. It likes growing under trees and grows well in dappled, part and full shade. This perennial will grow well in moist, rich and well drained soils. Convallaria majalis makes a wonderful cut flower. It has delicate arching stems which have white bell shaped blooms.

This tough little plant requires very little maintenance. It looks good in a pot near a doorway so you can take in the fragrance. Lily of the valley is grown from 'pips' which are rhizomes; when planted will develop a strong underground root system.


10. Vinca

Vinca is perfect for planting in those tricky areas of the garden where little else grows. Lesser Periwinkle thrives in a variety of positions in the garden especially in the shadiest of places.

Vinca minor will flower with delicate denim like blue flowers from May to October and has glossy evergreen dark foliage. It is less vigorous compared to Vinca major, making it perfect for ground cover in smaller gardens.

For a bright splash of colour try Vinca major 'Varigata' with its gold edged leaves!

For more top plant recommendations, and the best advice for transforming the shady areas of your garden, head to our plants for shade hub page.

Sue Sanderson T&M horticulturalist

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.

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