While some plants demand the sun’s full attention to endure, others thrive in the low-key light of the shade. Like all plants, shade perennials need water and the appropriate soil for survival, but they require little to no sun to reach and maintain their full potential. Whether you’re looking for hearty-leafed greenery for a lush landscape or colorful-petaled flowers for a more romantic vibe, there is a perennial to suit your style and needs. We tapped our favorite experts to share with us which shade perennials you should use to transform your sun-deprived plot into a gorgeous garden.
“The name is French and means caterpillar, which the flower resembles,” says Keith Williams of Palm Beach–based landscape-architecture firm Nievera Williams and author of The Graphic Garden. “The chenille plant can get ahead of itself and start to look scraggly as the summer progresses. Cut the faded flowering tassels back 12 inches, and you will be rewarded with double the flowers on a compact, multibranch plant. Maintain moderate water throughout the season.”
“This is an amazing plant with tons of great varieties and sizes,” says Mario Nievera of Nievera Williams. “It is shade-tolerant and can grow to three feet tall. Its fragrant lavender flowers bloom in mid- to late summer, and a weekly watering will maintain its beauty.”
“Meadow rue comes in tons of sizes and colors,” Nievera says. “Most are deer-tolerant, and a few varieties are native to North America. We love the late-blooming flowers and natural look when planted en masse, especially when combined with perennial grasses.”
”Give this plant a hard pruning in spring for size, then let it grow up to form a nice, natural shape. It also attracts hummingbird and butterflies,” says Williams.
“Hardy perennials like geraniums are partial shade lovers!” Williams says. “They’re not all that heat-tolerant, but they’re worth it for their long blooming time. They can also be used in pots.”
“The Persian shield has uniquely colored leaves year-round,” says Williams. “You can either let this plant reach its full height and then allow it to spread outward or pinch it back, sacrificing height but achieving a compact bush. This bright beauty thrives in humidity.”
“The dwarf azalea blooms on and off all year round. It can be pruned to maintain a more compact shrub look at two to three feet high, or it can grow into a tall man at six feet high,” says Williams.
“Beacon Silver is one of our all-time-favorite perennials that can work as a groundcover in many garden locations,” Nievera says. “It has the most delicate white leaf demarcations and a lavender flower. It’s also deer- and rabbit-resistant. It can be placed in shade and partial shade beds.”
“There’s nothing like the hint of fall, when anemones bloom!” says Nievera. “The delicate flower heads and stems rise above medium-green leaves. The leaves turn brown after blooming, so cut it all back and fertilize in late fall.”
“This can be a great source of color year-round in shady areas. Water it regularly, but give the plant time to dry out a bit between waterings,” says Williams. “Less is more with this plant.”