20 Best Shade-Loving Flowers for Your Shade Garden

pink astilbe

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Ample sunlight is essential for many flowers to bloom, but there are some shade-loving flowers that are perfect for a shade garden. These plants can handle a spot that doesn't get full sun, and they will still bloom with dazzling, vivid colors. Plus, many of these shade-loving flowers come in a wide variety of colors and other characteristics. Some of the plants grow relatively large while others stay petite and close to the ground.

Here are 20 of the best flowers for shade.

  • 01 of 20

    Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.)

    Heuchera

    National Garden Bureau

    Blooming in the summertime, coral bells come in many shades of flowers and foliage. The leaves are traditionally green but also can be purple, gold, and more. These flowers can grow in full sun, but they prefer partial shade. Too much light can burn the foliage. However, make sure not to overwater them, as shady, damp conditions can cause disease. 

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–8 (USDA)

    Color Varieties: Red, pink, coral, orange, white

    Sun Exposure: Full, partial

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

  • 02 of 20

    Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)

    Hydrangea
    Field Outdoor Spaces

    Hydrangeas are a favorite among gardeners for their variety of flower colors and appearances. Some bloom in large, round clusters, and others have a smaller, flatter appearance. Hydrangea species tend to do quite well in the partial shade under tall deciduous trees (i.e., trees that lose their leaves in the winter). Too little light will reduce their flower output, but too much sun and heat can wilt the plant. Ideally, they should get morning sun followed by some shade in the afternoon. Make sure to give them some extra water on particularly hot days.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

    Color Varieties: White, blue, green, red, pink, purple

    Sun Exposure: Full, partial

    Soil Needs: Well-drained

  • 03 of 20

    Astilbe (Astilbe spp.)

    Pink Astilbe
    LordRunar / Getty Images

    The secret to cultivating a thriving astilbe is water and lots of it. These plants must never dry out, so a site near a pond or stream is ideal. Astilbes are slow-growing and produce plume-like flowers on stalks above the foliage in the spring and summer. They do best in partial shade but also can tolerate heavier shade. However, they likely won’t achieve their maximum size in full shade.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Pink, red, white

    Sun Exposure: Partial

    Soil Needs: Loamy, well-drained

  • 04 of 20

    Impatiens (Impatiens spp.)

    Caladiums and Impatiens
    Gregory Garnich

    With their brightly colored blooms in a multitude of hues, impatiens are popular annual shade-loving flowers. There are dozens of species in this genus, but the most commonly grown ones remain under 1 foot tall. They flower in the spring and summer. These plants will bloom to their fullest potential even in heavy shade, and too much light can wilt them. So if your impatiens are in a sunny spot make sure to give the plants extra water.

    USDA Growing Zones: 10–11

    Color Varieties: Red, pink, violet, coral, purple, yellow, white

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • 05 of 20

    Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

    Bleeding Heart Flowers in Springtime
    skhoward / Getty Images

    Bleeding heart blooms in the spring with arching stems of heart-shaped flowers. Even though they are some of the best flowers for shade, these plants will tolerate some sun in cooler climates. However, too much sun and heat can interfere with flowering. In addition to shade, select a planting site that’s protected from strong winds as the flowers are delicate. Also, when watering, make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Pink, white

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

  • 06 of 20

    Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)

    Rhododendron bush blooming in spring
    Marcus Lindstrom / Getty Images

    Gardening under trees isn’t always easy due to the shade and competition with tree roots for soil moisture and nutrients. Where many other plants would die under the cover of trees, rhododendron species thrive. These flowering shrubs bloom in the spring to early summer, and their root system doesn’t like to be exposed to heat. Thus, planting them in a shady spot is ideal. Adding some mulch around your shrub also will help to keep the roots cool and retain soil moisture.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

    Color Varieties: Pink, lavender, white

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

  • 07 of 20

    Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana)

    Pansies
    Toru Watanabe

    With their large, multicolored, flat flowers, pansies are a harbinger of spring for many gardeners. They appreciate cooler temperatures, blooming in the spring to early summer. Some plants might repeat bloom in the fall. While pansies grow in full sun, too much light and heat can prevent them from flowering to their fullest potential. So a spot that gets partial shade is best to keep them blooming for as long as possible.

    USDA Growing Zones: 7–11

    Color Varieties: White, yellow, purple, blue

    Sun Exposure: Full, partial

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

  • 08 of 20

    Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.)

    Pulmonaria; Lungwort Plants
    speakingtomato / Getty Images

    A nice attribute about pulmonaria, or lungwort, plants is they spread steadily but not invasively over the years to form a large colony. These plants bloom early in the spring when most other plants are just barely waking up from the winter. The blooms are bell- or funnel-shaped and grow in clusters. Lungwort prefers to grow in partial to full shade, but it also can tolerate more sunlight when the weather is still cool. Too much light can burn the foliage while too much shade can minimize flowering.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Pink, violet, white

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    Fuchsia (Fuschia spp.)

    Fuchsia Flowers
    Perez Vicente / Getty Images

    Fuchsia plants are prized for their bright, teardrop-shaped blooms on trailing stems. As shade-loving flowers, fuchsias thrive in spots that get limited light. They definitely should be protected from strong afternoon sun. Plus, a spot that's sheltered from winds is ideal. What fuchsias don't like is hot summer wind blowing on them like a hairdryer. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and feed your plants once a month with a basic fertilizer for annual flowers.

    USDA Growing Zones: 10–11

    Color Varieties: Red, pink, white, purple, bicolors

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained

  • 10 of 20

    Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)

    Siberian Bugloss
    ZoomTravels / Getty Images

    Siberian bugloss is a long-lived and low-maintenance plant, making it one of the best flowers for shade. Its tiny, vivid blue flowers with white centers bloom in the springtime and resemble the flowers of forget-me-nots. Siberian bugloss prefers a shady spot and needs more frequent watering if it’s grown in sunnier conditions. Too much light can burn the foliage and cause the plant to go dormant.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Blue

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained

  • 11 of 20

    Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)

    wax begonia

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Wax begonias are a versatile little plant with leaves that appear waxy in either green, bronze, or maroon. These plants do well in containers, as well as in a variety of climates as annuals and perennials. Too much heat and direct sunlight can stress the plants, so they will be appreciative of some shade especially during the warmer months. Also, be sure to keep their soil lightly moist but not soggy, as they can easily succumb to root rot.

    USDA Growing Zones: 10–11

    Color Varieties: Red, pink, white

    Sun Exposure: Full, partial

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained

  • 12 of 20

    Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

    Lily of the valley is a hardy ground cover with arching medium green leaves and petite, fragrant, white flowers that bloom in the spring. These plants tend to spread quickly and are notoriously shade-loving flowers. They can tolerate direct morning sun but should be protected from strong afternoon sun. Full shade is ideal in warm climates. Water to keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • 13 of 20

    Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri)

    Wishbone flowers are annuals that should be planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Their trumpet-shaped blooms will appear in the early summer and stretch until cold weather arrives in the fall. These plants don’t need much sun to bloom at their best. They ideally should get some morning light followed by afternoon shade. But in hot climates, they will need a fairly shady spot.

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 as an annual

    Color Varieties: Blue-purple, lavender, pink, rose, white

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Loamy, well-drained

  • 14 of 20

    Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)

    Lamb’s ear is an interesting, low-growing ground cover plant. Its silvery green leaves are thick and have a fuzzy texture. The plant can thrive in poor soil and has good drought tolerance. Be careful not to overwater it, as it’s susceptible to root rot. Partial shade is best for lamb’s ear, especially in hot and sunny climates. In cool climates, it can be grown in full sun. However, the attractive foliage might scorch under strong light.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–7

    Color Varieties: Light purple

    Sun Exposure: Full, partial

    Soil Needs: Well-drained

  • 15 of 20

    Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

    Foxgloves have a tall, slender growth habit and bloom in the early summer with clusters of tubular flowers. Climate will determine how much light these plants need. In warm climates, they require a shady spot to protect them from wilt. In cool climates, they can handle full sun, though they still will perform best in partial shade. Make sure not to overwater these plants, as they are susceptible to rot.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–10

    Color Varieties: Pink, purple, red, white, yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full, partial

    Soil Needs: Loamy, well-drained

  • 16 of 20

    Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sylvatica)

    With their delicate, five-petal, bright blue blooms with yellow or white centers, forget-me-nots make a beautiful addition to any garden. These plants have a wide growing range. And if you live in one of the warmer areas where they grow you should give your plants some shade, especially from strong afternoon sun. Forget-me-nots can tolerate more sun in cooler climates. Be sure to deadhead your plants (remove the spent blooms) to cut down on self-seeding if you want to control their spread. 

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Blue

    Sun Exposure: Full, partial

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    Liriope (Liriope spicata)

    Liriope plants are a quite hardy and drought-tolerant ground cover. They have a grassy appearance, spread readily, and send up flower spikes in the late summer to early fall. These plants can handle a range of soil conditions as long as there is good drainage. And they can tolerate various light conditions, including near full shade. They ideally should grow in partial shade, especially in hot climates. Conditions that are too shady can result in slower and more leggy growth.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–10

    Color Varieties: Lavender, white

    Sun Exposure: Partial

    Soil Needs: Well-drained

  • 18 of 20

    Dogtooth Violet (Erythronium albidum)

    The dogtooth violet produces delicate-looking flowers with curved petals in the springtime. The blooms open with morning light and close in the evening. As one of the best flowers for shade, this plant thrives in woodland settings under the dappled light of trees. It needs protection from harsh sunlight and heat. A layer of mulch around the plant will help to keep the roots cool and retain moisture. 

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–9

    Color Varieties: Violet, white, yellow

    Sun Exposure: Partial

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained

  • 19 of 20

    Hellebore (Helleborus spp.)

    The Helleborus genus contains several species of shade-loving flowers. They are among the earliest plants to bloom in the spring with flowers that look similar to roses. These plants thrive in partial to full shade, though they can tolerate more sunlight in the spring when the weather is cool and the sun isn’t strong yet. But make sure they will have shade once the temperature rises. Also, be sure not to overwater and allow the plants to sit in soggy soil.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White, pink, purple, yellow

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained

  • 20 of 20

    Primrose (Primula spp.)

    Primula is a large genus of shade-loving flowers. There is considerable variety within the genus. Many of the plants feature dark green leaves and colorful flowers that rise above the foliage on stalks. They’re fairly low-maintenance plants aside from liking consistent watering but not soggy soil. Some species prefer a spot with partial shade but morning sun. However, others do best in a spot that has full shade.

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–8

    Color Varieties: All colors except green

    Sun Exposure: Partial, shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained