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 plants that produce flowers. It's true that many shade-loving options are foliage plants, however, there are several perennial flowering plants that grow well in shade and can add pops of color to the landscape.

Some of the plants described here are adaptable to a wide range of sunlight, from full sun to shade, and some can thrive even in deep shade. While some of these plants can tolerate full sun, they enjoy the relief of partial shade in hot climates.

Here are 11 perennial flowers that grow well in partial to full 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 does 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 five- to six-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. Many native species are 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 shade, and it often spreads by self-seeding. Growing about two 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 8
    • Color Varieties: Red, yellow, white, pink, purple, bicolors
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained
  • 03 of 11

    False Spirea (Astilbe spp.)

    Astilbe

    49pauly / Getty Images

    The flower plumes of astilbe, or false spirea, bloom in the spring and summer in shades of white, pink, purple, ​and red. There are many different varieties, some growing as small as six inches high and others growing to five feet. These plants grow best in part shade but can also tolerate full sun or even full shade. They are heavy feeders and prefer moist conditions so don't let their soil dry out. 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, moist conditions, 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 six 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 flower that blooms well in deep shade. This plant is a spring bloomer, with the flowers lasting for several weeks, and it grows two to three feet tall. The flowers are delicate heart-shaped drops in shades of pink with white tips. Bleeding heart foliage might die back in the hot months of summer, and 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 spring in shades of red and gold, 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: 3 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 receives dappled shade. In hot climates, this plant must have shade. It’s fairly low-maintenance, though it doesn’t like its roots disturbed.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Lilac-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 (also known as Bethlehem sage) 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 partial shade is absolutely necessary. Prefers evenly moist (not soggy), well-drained soil. Do not let soil dry out

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink maturing to 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. It needs dappled shade because the sun can easily scorch its foliage.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, consistently moist, 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 native wildflowers, and they're excellent perennial flowers for shady woodland gardens. Growing to about two feet tall, this clump-forming plant produces clusters of trumpet-shaped blue flowers in March and April. This plant is ephemeral, which means that its foliage dies back and disappears after the blooms fade. It requires at least partial shade but can also thrive in full shade. Because these plants go dormant in summer, overplant them with annuals or with perennials that will fill in the gaps (such as ferns or hostas) once their foliage goes dormant.

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