Because the north-facing wall of a home generally receives little sun, shade plants are recommended for planting beds on that side of the house. However, not all so-called "shade plants" necessarily have to avoid the sun like Count Dracula, giving you the option of planting the same varieties in multiple areas. You can also find shade-tolerant species in many different types of plants, from annuals to perennial climbers.
Some "Shade Plants" Can Take Some Sun
Many shade plants can take quite a bit of sun, provided that they are watered adequately. Beautiful displays of the annual impatiens have grown in relatively sunny areas. Usually associated with shady spots, impatiens will still thrive in partial sun, as long as their watering requirements are met in the given location. The same holds true for some of the other annuals usually found at garden centers in the shade section, such as wax begonias.
It is important to recognize the distinction between plants that are described as shade-tolerant and plants that truly require shade. Plants in the former category simply offer you more options: they can be grown in full shade, but they do not need constant shade (or at least low light) to survive.
Other North-Facing Options
If you're not interested in annuals, consider bleeding heart, a shade-tolerant perennial grown for its flowers. This plant also can receive varying amounts of sunlight. Try to supply those subjected to the most sunshine with more water (to compensate), but, because bleeding hearts are early-season plants, you don't need to be overly concerned with them receiving too much sunlight.
Bleeding heart is a medium-sized perennial; if you need something shorter, you could grow Vinca minor. Or if you do not mind a foliage plant (as opposed to a type grown for its flowers) for your North-facing wall, try that long-time favorite perennial, the hosta plant. An example of a fairly short type is 'patriot' hosta. Increased sunlight changes their leaf colors, but hostas would still be a good low-growing ground cover for your north side.
But there is another growing condition to consider here, besides the amount of sunshine: the moisture content of the soil. The ground under the eaves of a house can be notoriously dry because the eaves intercept rainfall. For areas that are well-protected by roof overhangs, consider plants that are good in dry shade, such as lilyturf, foxglove, bugleweed, and Stella de Ora daylily, as well as hostas.
Shrubs and Vines for Shade
If you wish to grow larger plants against a north-facing wall, you have a narrower variety of choices, but still plenty (unless you are really fussy). Do note, however, that Northerners seeking a perennial climbing vine that blooms nicely, is well-behaved, and does well in a shady area will not have many plants from which to choose. Climbing hydrangea (which is variously classified as a vine or a shrub) is probably your best bet.
You have a greater number of options with shrubs. Yew bushes are a classic choice for shade, but they do not offer a floral display. If you want flowering shrubs, be aware that, while some tolerate shade, they may not blossom as profusely in a spot with low light levels.