24 Best Plants That Grow in Full Shade

Lenten rose shrub with light green and fuschia-colored flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

A location is considered to be in full shade for plants if it receives less than three hours of direct sun daily and receives filtered sun the rest of the day. But many plants that require full shade still need a bit of sunlight. Plants for full shade span from showy annual and perennial flowering plants to shrubs, vines, and ground coverings. Here are 24 of the best examples of full-shade plants that will thrive in low-light conditions in your garden.


Some of the full-shade plants listed here may be toxic to humans and animals.

  • 01 of 24

    Hetz's Japanese Holly

    Closeup of Hetz Japanese Holly berries

    undefined undefined / Getty Images

    It's easy to overlook shrubs when planning a shade garden but they provide structure and background for planting beds that have showier plants. Grow evergreen shrubs, like Hetz's Japanese holly (Ilex crenata 'Hetzii' ), for its small oval leaves that resemble boxwood foliage. Hetz’s Japanese holly is evergreen, so it will stay green all year. It grows in full sun and partial shade, but it will struggle in heat or hot afternoon sun.

    • Name: Hetz's Japanese holly (Ilex crenata 'Hetzii')
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil: Moist, well-drained, acidic
    • Mature Size: 3–6 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No


    Japanese holly is a non-native species on invasive plant lists, including in Georgia and Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek National Park.

  • 02 of 24

    Inkberry Holly

    Inkberry holly shrub with bright green leaves near pathway

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra), also known as gallberry, is another easy evergreen shrub to grow around damp, woodland gardens, bogs, and ponds that have partial shade. This is one shrub that offers good winter color because of its dark berries and greenery. The leaves and berries are toxic to humans and pets.

    • Name:  Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-11
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil: Average rich or clay, moist, well-drained, acidic
    • Mature Size: 5-10 ft. tall, 5-8 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 03 of 24


    Hemlock shrub


    AndrisL / Getty Images

    Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) includes cultivars in shrub form that make excellent shade-loving hedges where the taller tree may not be feasible. For shrubs, try the 'Gentsch White', 'Aurea Compacta', or 'Pendula' and Sargentii' which are both weeping hemlocks that grow only to about 12 feet.

    If you prefer a hemlock tree, it is unlike other large trees and prefers to grow in full to partial shade though it does like full sun in colder northern regions. Hemlocks have tiny fragrant needles and oval-shaped seed cones. This stately tree looks beautiful throughout the seasons and grows about 1 to 2 feet annually.

    • Name: Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-7
    • Light: Full to partial shade
    • Soil: Moist, well-drained, acidic
    • Mature Size: 70 ft. tall, 25-35 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 04 of 24


    Japanese yew

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Yews (Taxus spp.) are adaptable evergreen trees and shrubs that tolerate many growing conditions. The bush is useful wherever it is shady whether it's in front of a sun-dappled house as a foundation plant or used as privacy hedges in a shady yard. Yews can be grown in all types of light conditions, including full and partial shade but a few hours of sun every day will result in a lush growth. Too much shade may make a yew grow thin and less robust. You'll find over 400 cultivars of yew that all grow at different heights and widths. Yew bark, needles, and its fruits are toxic to humans and animals.

    • Name: Yew (Taxus spp.)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-7
    • Light: Full, partial shade
    • Soil: Loamy, moist, well-drained, neutral
    • Mature Size: 4-60 ft. tall, 4-20 ft. wide, depending on the variety
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 5 of 24 below.
  • 05 of 24

    Bleeding Heart

    closeup of pink and white bleeding heart flowers in garden against tan stems and green leaves

    Photos from Japan / Getty Images

    Perennial plants, such as bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) make up for the color variety and drama that evergreen shrubs can't provide. The plant gets its name from its blossoms, which are dangling, puffy, heart-shaped, and pink with a dangling white "droplet." Because the flowers are delicate, the plant does best in partial to full shade because direct sun and the heat of summer can diminish its bloom. Consider other types of flowers in the Dicentra genus, such as fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) with the addition of fern-like leaves and Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) with white breech-shaped flowers and feathery ferns.

    As whimsical as these flowers look, plants in the Dicentra genus are toxic to humans and pets.

    • Name: Bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Light: Partial to full shade
    • Soil: Moist, well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 1–3 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 06 of 24


    Jack in the Pulpit
    KenWiedemann / Getty Images

    Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), also called bog onion, is an unusual perennial wildflower with a hooded striped spathe surrounding a tiny flower. Sparkling berries catch visual interest throughout the seasons in a shade garden. The plant thrives in the shade and even better in deep shade that mimics its native damp forest-like habitat. The plant is mesmerizing to watch but its also highly toxic to humans and animals.

    • Name: Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Light: Partial to full shade
    • Soil: Moist, humusy, acidic
    • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall, with a similar spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 07 of 24

    Lenten Rose

    Lenten rose shrub with light green and fuschia flowers and buds

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis), though not a rose, is an easy perennial for the shade that blooms late winter and early spring and has rose-like flower buds. The flowers have various markings, such as freckling or veining, and the sepals look like petals that can have either smooth or frilly edges depending on the type. Lenten rose is toxic to humans and animals.

    • Name: Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Light: Partial to full shade
    • Soil: Loamy, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic to alkaline
    • Mature Size:12-18 in. tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 08 of 24

    Leopard Plant

    Green leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum) in bloom
    DigiPub / Getty Images

    Leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum), also known as tractor seat plant, is a shade-loving perennial with clusters of golden daisy-like flowers that bloom in early spring or summer depending on the climate. The plant is known for its huge disk-like leaves that span about 12 inches across and look like tractor seats. Other than plenty of shade and water, this plant is trouble-free. Leopard plant is toxic to humans and animals.

    • Name: Leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Light: Shade
    • Soil: Moist, acidic to alkaline
    • Mature Size: 1-4 ft. tall, 1-3 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 9 of 24 below.
  • 09 of 24

    Virginia Bluebells

    pink and blue Virginia bluebell flowers with green stems and leaves

    ballycroy / Getty Images

    Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are maintenance-free ephemeral plants that will grow well under the sun-dappled shade of a tree. The plant is aptly named for its clusters of buds that open to display delicate, frilly blue trumpet-shaped blossoms. The faintly fragrant flowers bloom for three weeks in the early spring and are gone by the summer.

    • Name: Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
    • Light: Partial shade
    • Soil: Moist, neutral
    • Mature Size: 2 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 10 of 24

    Toad Lily

    Toad lilies with pink spotted flowers and buds in leaves

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Toad lily (Tricyrtis) can stand out in a shade garden as this hairy perennial looks almost like a Phalaenopsis orchid. It's known for purple or white petals with vibrant purple spots and speckled stamens bursting forth from tall arching stems. The lily prefers shade or partial shade but a lot of regular water. Toad lily is toxic to cats.

    • Name: Toad lily (Tricyrtis)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Light: Partial sun, shade
    • Soil: Loamy, moist, well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 11 of 24

    Siberian Bugloss

    Brunnera macrophylla jack frost or siberian bugloss plant
    skymoon13 / Getty Images

    Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) is a long-lasting perennial that brings a delicate-looking, yet durable ground covering to a shady area. It's also a long bloomer with small, airy blue flowers with white centers topping dark green and sometimes variegated heart-shaped leaves. Note that the plant will fail to profusely bloom if it gets too much sunlight.

    • Name: Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
    • Light: Full to partial shade
    • Soil: Moist, well-drained, any pH
    • Mature Size: 12–18 in. tall, 18–30 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 12 of 24



    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Supplement the flowers provided by your perennials with well-placed and brightly colored flowering annual plants, like impatiens (Impatiens spp.). Impatiens are long-popular bedding plants in North America for adding color to shady areas. Gardens will be filled with profuse and delicate blooms in colors from white to red, pink, violet, coral, purple, or yellow from spring to fall.

    • Name: Impatiens (Impatiens spp.)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11
    • Light: Partial to full shade
    • Soil: Well-draining, acidic
    • Mature Size: 6–36 in. tall; 1–3 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
    Continue to 13 of 24 below.
  • 13 of 24

    Wax Begonia

    Wax begonia with pink, white, and red blossoms

    Maljalen / Getty Images

    Wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens) can be grown as an annual in cold climates and perennial in warm regions. In shady areas, they stand out for their glossy, waxy-looking leaves that are green, bronze, or maroon with white, pink, or red flowers. This low-maintenance-free plant (though it needs adequate water) grows best in shady areas if you live in very sunny and hot regions.

    • Name: Wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-11
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil: Rich, moist, well-draining, neutral to slightly acidic
    • Mature Size: 6-18 in. high and 6-12 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 14 of 24


    pink, green, and yellow leaves of coleus plants

    Sutthiwat Srikhrueadam/Getty Images

    Coleus is grown for its exquisitely patterned and variegated foliage. The fast-growing plant creates a stunning swath of vivid color in a shady area. Foliage often looks as though shades of purple or red paint have been strategically splashed onto greenery. Outdoors, coleus is grown as an annual. It is toxic to animals.

    • Name: Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 11
    • Light: Partial shade to full shade
    • Soil: Rich, moist, loose soil, well-drained, slightly acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 6-36 in. tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 15 of 24


    Fuchsia flower closeup. Large fuchsia flower
    sagarmanis / Getty Images

    The Fuchsia genus has over 100 woody shrubs and trees, all ideal for placing in partial to deep shade where other types of plants tend to struggle. Though typically grown as an annual in containers, it can be a perennial garden plant in warmer areas. The plant's teardrop-shaped single or double flowers droop over hanging baskets and containers for a splash of red, pink, violet, or purple blooms from spring through the fall.

    • Name: Fuchsia
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11
    • Light: Partial to deep shade
    • Soil: Moist, well-drained, neutral to acidic
    • Mature Size: 1 to 2 ft. tall, with a similar spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 16 of 24

    Spotted Dead Nettle

    Spotted dead nettle plants with small pink flowers and buds on top of stems in sunlight

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) is an attractive perennial ground covering best grown in shady areas where other plants find it impossible to thrive. It is a tough and aggressive plant, though, and it's generally grown for its silvery leaves rather than its pink, purple, or white flowers.

    • Name: Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Light: Shade
    • Soil: Well-drained, loamy, acidic
    • Mature Size: 6-9 in. tall, 12-24 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes


    Spotted dead nettle is considered invasive, depending on where you live. Check with your local county extension for any warnings before planting this perennial.

    Continue to 17 of 24 below.
  • 17 of 24

    Creeping Myrtle

    vinca minor

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Creeping myrtle (Vinca minor), also known as periwinkle, is a fragrant annual ground cover that thrives in shady areas. The plant is a perennial in warmer climates. It's also tough, low-maintenance, and pest-free. It is, however, toxic to pets. The vine will most commonly put out small blue flowers in spring, but they can also bloom as lavender, purple, or white. For larger flowers, consider its sister, bigleaf periwinkle.

    • Name: Creeping myrtle (Vinca minor)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Light: Full, partial, shade
    • Soil: Loamy, sandy, clay, and any pH
    • Mature Size: 3-6 in. tall with trailing vines up to 18 in. long
    • Deer Resistant: Yes


    All types of periwinkle are considered invasive species in parts of the United States. Consult your local cooperative extension office before planting to learn the status of the plant in your area.

  • 18 of 24

    Cast Iron Plant

    Cast iron plant close-up.

    Skymoon 13 / Getty Images

    Indoors or outdoors, the cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is nearly indestructible, even in deep shade. And although deer may browse the plant, it's typically not demolished by foraging. The ground cover has glossy green leaves and outdoors, offers insignificant cream or purple flowers. The slow-growing plant is fine with neglect, has some drought tolerance (though prefers water), and thrives in a wide range of soils as long as the dirt is well-draining.

    • Name: Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-11
    • Light: Partial sun, shade
    • Soil: Well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 2–3 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 19 of 24

    Japanese Pachysandra

    Japanese Pachysandra

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), also sometimes called spurge, is tolerant of many conditions, including shade and drought. Grown for its leathery, dark green leaves and small white springtime flowers, it's also popular in the eastern U.S. for weed, rabbit, and deer control, though it can aggressively spread via rhizomes.

    • Name: Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Light: Partial and full shade
    • Soil: Enriched with compost, tolerates clay-heavy and acidic soil
    • Mature Size: 6 in. tall, 12 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 20 of 24


    Hosta Elegans
    Hosta Elegans


    SvetlanaKlaise / Getty Images

    Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are some of the happiest, fastest-growing plants you can grow in the shade. Hostas do survive in full shade, but many types also grow best grown in dappled sun for a few hours each day. They can be all green, shades of green and blue, or variegated, most developing tall stalks with white, purple, or pink flowers by mid to end of summer. Hostas are toxic to pets.  

    • Name: Hosta (Hosta spp.)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8 or 9, typically
    • Light: Partial or full shade
    • Soil: Loamy, well-drained, acidic
    • Mature Size: 6–48 in. tall, 10–60 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
    Continue to 21 of 24 below.
  • 21 of 24


    Dwarf Dogwood (Cornus canadensis) or Bunchberry in Olympic National Park, Washington
    Ed Reschke / Getty Images

    Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) is the perfect perennial ground cover for shady areas with wet soil. It's most at home in a shady woodland or forest setting, thriving in colder regions—the plant even grows wild in Alaska, where it is commonly known as dwarf dogwood. This ground cover is for show, not for walking areas, to keep the simple but pretty white dogwood-like flowers that bloom in spring and summer and its scarlet red berries intact.

    • Name: Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-7
    • Light: Full or part shade
    • Soil: Wet, acidic
    • Mature Size: 4-9 in. tall
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 22 of 24

    Japanese Painted Ferns

    A cluster of Japanese painted fern leaves in a garden

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

    The Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum) adds color to a shaded area with triangular silvery leaves (fronds). It's also considered variegated since it has hits of grayish-green in the foliage and purplish midribs. The fern is a slow-growing plant that adds about 12 inches to its overall size each year.

    • Name: Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
    • Light: Partial sun, shade
    • Soil: Moist, well-drained, any pH
    • Mature Size: About 18 in. tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 23 of 24

    Climbing Hydrangeas

    Climbing Hydrangea on House
    Perry Mastrovito / Design Pics / Getty Images

    Options for shade-tolerant vines are somewhat limited, especially if you are in search of a flowering vine that is hardy in a cold-winter climate. The climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) flowers nicely even when grown in full shade, making it the favorite vine for gardeners in cold climates. Fragrant white flowers bloom in spring and summer and add visual interest to walls and fences in the shade. Climbing hydrangea is toxic to animals.

    • Name: Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-7
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil: Moist, well-drained, acidic
    • Mature Size: 30-50 ft. tall, 5-6 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 24 of 24

    Boston Ivy

    Boston ivy

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is grown for its foliage, not its flowers. The vibrant green foliage it provides in summer shade adds elegance and privacy to a shady nook. Not only can it grow up walls, fences, and pergolas, it creeps along as a ground cover, as well. There are a few caveats with Boston ivy: don't let it grow up a tree or it will disrupt the tree's growth and it is toxic to humans and animals.

    • Name: Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil: Loamy, moist, acidic, alkaline
    • Mature Size: 30–50 ft. long
    • Deer Resistant: Yes


Shaded plants should be watered once a week, preferably in the morning, so the plants have time to dry off before evening.

Learn More

If you have decided to tackle and beautify the shady parts of your yard, here are even more choices for shrubs, flowering plants, and ground covers to consider.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Japanese holly. Invasive Plant Atlas.

  2. Holly Berries. Poison Control, National Capital Poison Center.

  3. Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Plants. National Capital Poison Center Poison Control.

  4. Yew. ASPCA.

  5. Dicentra. North Carolina State University Extension.

  6. Bleeding Hearts. Pet Poison Helpline.

  7. Jadhav DR, Gugloth R. Poisoning due to Arisaema triphyllum Ingestion. Indian J Crit Care Med 2019;23(5):242–243.

  8. Jack-in-the-pulpit. ASPCA.

  9. Lenten Rose. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

  10. Lenten rose. ASPCA.

  11. Farfugium japonicum. Hong Kong Hospital Authority Toxicology Reference Laboratory.

  12. Lily. ASPCA.

  13. Coleus. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  14. Periwinkle. ASPCA Animal Control Center.

  15. Hosta. ASPCA.

  16. Dwarf dogwood. Valdez Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

  17. Toxic and Non-toxic Plants, Hydrangea. ASPCA.

  18. Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants. University of California.

  19. Poisonous Plants. Michigan Humane.