11 Popular Perennial Flowers for Shady Gardens

Siberian bugloss perennial plant with small blue flowers in front of large leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Gardeners often lament that there are limited plant choices for a shade garden, especially when it comes to flowers. It's true that most shade-loving options are foliage plants. However, there also are several perennial flowers for shade that can add some pops of color to the landscape. Some of these plants can thrive even in deep shade. Others may sometimes grow in full sun, but they enjoy the relief of partial shade in hot climates.

Here are 11 perennial flowers for shade.

  • 01 of 11

    Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)

    Monkshood plant with small white and purple-blue flowers hanging on thin stems

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Monkshood is a perennial flower that likes full sun but is fine in partial shade. The plant is named for the shape of the deep purple-blue blooms that can last up to two months in late summer, appearing atop 5- to 6-foot stalks. This is an excellent plant for late-season color when most other plants have ended their bloom period. Monkshood has good resistance to pests and diseases, but in shady locations the plants might need to be staked to prevent toppling.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Purple-blue
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 02 of 11

    Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

    Columbine plant with blue-purple bell-shaped flowers and buds on thin red stems closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Butterflies and hummingbirds can't resist the delicate, nectar-filled blossoms of columbine. There are many native species available, but most commercial offerings are cultivars of Aquilegia vulgaris. The bell-shaped flowers come in a wide variety of color combinations. This is a very easy plant to grow in some shade, and it often spreads by self-seeding. Growing about 2 feet tall, columbine usually blooms in late spring and early summer. Columbine is prone to leaf miners, but you can always cut back the foliage after it blooms.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Red, yellow, white, pink, purple, bicolors
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-drained
  • 03 of 11

    False Spirea (Astilbe spp.)

    False spirea plant with golden and pink flower plumes

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    The flower plumes of astilbe, or false spirea, bloom in the spring and summer in shades of whites, pinks, purples, ​and reds. There are many different varieties, some growing as small as 6 inches high and others growing to 5 feet. These plants grow best in part shade but can also tolerate full sun or even full shade. Except for dividing your astilbe plants every three years or so, they require little effort.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, purple, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, medium moisture, well-drained
  • 04 of 11

    Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

    Black cohosh plant with bottle brush-shaped clusters of white flower clusters and red flower buds on stalks closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Also known as bugbane, black cohosh is a perfect perennial flower for shade. It blooms well even with little direct sunlight. It can easily reach 6 feet tall in one season and adds texture as well as height to a shade garden. The dense foliage gives rise to even taller stalks of bottle brush-shaped clusters of white flowers in late summer to early fall. Strong winds can damage this plant, so be sure to situate it in a sheltered spot.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium-moisture
    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

    Bleeding heart plants with light pink heart-shaped flowers hanging on stems closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Bleeding heart is another rare flower that blooms well in deep shade. This plant is a spring bloomer, with the flowers lasting for several weeks, and it grows to around 2 to 3 feet tall. The flowers are delicate heart-shaped drops in shades of pink with white tips. Bleeding heart might die back in the hot months of summer, though it should return the next year. Aim to keep its soil evenly moist but not soggy throughout the growing season.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White with pink
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 06 of 11

    Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.)

    Barrenwort perennial plant with royal blue and purple flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Barrenwort is often dismissed as a slow-growing ground cover, but this plant deserves more respect for bringing lots of visual interest to the landscape. Its clusters of vivid flowers arrive in the early spring. And its foliage often emerges in shades of red and gold in the spring, maturing to a deep green. Some varieties are evergreen in warm climates. This plant tolerates full shade, but it will bloom best in partial shade.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red, orange, pink, yellow, blue, purple, white
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist, well-drained
  • 07 of 11

    Primrose (Primula spp.)

    Primrose plant with cream-colored and yellow flowers on ground closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Primroses are one of the first flowers to bloom in spring, as their botanical name indicates. (Primula comes from Latin for "little first one.") The bright blooms rise above the deep green foliage on sturdy stalks. These plants can handle some sun in the spring. But after things warm up, they require at least partial shade. There are dozens of varieties available, and many are grown as annuals because they quickly succumb to warm weather.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: All colors except green
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 08 of 11

    Meadow Rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium)

    Purple flowers of meadow rue
    koromelena / Getty Images

    Meadow rue grows with a clump of blue-green, lacy foliage at its base. Then, the fuzzy flowers rise above the foliage in the late spring to summer. This plant can tolerate full sun, but it prefers a spot that gets dappled shade. And in hot climates, that shade is a must. It’s fairly low-maintenance, though it doesn’t like its roots disturbed.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained
    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata)

    Lungwort perennial plant with spotted leaves and small pink and purple flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Lungwort is known for both its foliage and flowers. It blooms in the spring with flowers that start out pink but mature to blue. The dark green leaves feature spots of white. Full sun can burn or wilt the foliage, so at least partial shade is a must. Also, be sure not to overwater, as this plant cannot tolerate soggy soil.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink/blue
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 10 of 11

    Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)

    Siberian bugloss plant with small clump-forming blue flowers closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    A close cousin of forget-me-nots, Siberian bugloss is a clump-forming perennial flower for shade that grows to a maximum of 18 inches high. Its blue flowers appear in April and May, and its heart-shaped dark green leaves are attractive throughout the growing season. This is an excellent flower for mass plantings, where it will have more impact. It needs dappled shade, as the sun can easily scorch its foliage.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained
  • 11 of 11

    Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

    Virginia bluebells plant with small purple trumpet-shaped flowers on edge of stems closeup

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Virginia bluebells are a native wildflower, and they're excellent perennial flowers for shade. Growing to about 2 feet tall, this clump-forming plant produces clusters of trumpet-shaped blue flowers in March and April. The foliage dies back after the blooms fade. It needs at least partial shade but can also thrive in full shade. Plant Virginia bluebells in a mixed garden bed, so other plants can fill in the space as their foliage dies back.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained