The Blog

The Best Perennials for Shade

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to fill in the shady spots in your garden, we’ve got you covered! Read on for some recommendations on shade-loving perennials that will add some interest to your shade garden. 

Hosta

We love hostas for a super low-maintenance shade plant. Hostas start to come out in early spring, and their foliage will last until the first frost, when their foliage will die back and the plant enters dormancy for winter. Hostas have tall flower stalks that bloom anywhere from May-September depending on the variety. We carry a variety of hostas at Mitchell’s- check out our inventory for an up-to-date list!

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff is a lovely smaller shade perennial, making it a great choice for filling in awkward spaces or ground cover. It grows 6-12 inches tall and will spread over time by rhizomes and seeds. We love it for its unique 6-8 pointed leaves, and its dainty white flowers with a lovely sweet scent!

Hardy Ferns

We carry a variety of perennial ferns that love the shade, from Autumn Brilliance to Japanese Painted ferns and more! Most of our perennial ferns are shade lovers that are hardy from zones 5-9. Ferns are an excellent shade ground cover. Most ferns die back to the ground in late fall, but some, like the Christmas fern, stay green through the winter. In fact, leaving the spent foliage in place for the winter can help insulate the roots from extreme cold.

Astilbe

Astilbe is a native flowering perennial that thrives in cool, moist soil. Astilbe can bloom from early summer until fall. They can grow to be 1–4 feet tall, and have pointed leaves and fern-like blooms that can be white, pink, purple, lavender, or magenta. Astilbe are attractive to butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Hellebores

Hellebores, also known as Lenten Roses, are long-lived and reliable plants. The best time to plant hellebores is from fall to spring, and they perform well in USDA Zones 3-9. They grow well in the shade in ground or in containers, and will self seed and spread over time. 

Brunnera

Brunnera are rhizomatous perennials with hairy leaves and blue flowers that bloom in the spring. Brunnera are also known as False Forget-Me-Nots and are prized for their frosted foliage and shade tolerance. Similar to hostas, brunnera will die back and enter a dormancy period for winter. 

Lamium

Lamiums are perennials that form low, spreading mats with variegated foliage and delicate flower clusters. They prefer part to full shade, making them ideal for planting under trees and shrubs, and in places where lawn grasses struggle from a lack of sunlight.

Dicentra

Dicentra, or bleeding heart, plants are sturdy and trouble-free additions to the perennial border or woodland garden. They can grow to three feet tall and as wide where happy, and have arching stems of pendant, puffy heart-shaped blooms in pink or white. The plants have medium severity poison characteristics and should be planted in partial to full shade in rich well-draining moist soils.

Ajuga

Ajuga, also known as bugleweed, is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family that includes over 60 species of annual or perennial, mostly herbaceous plants. Ajuga grows in well-drained soil and can tolerate full sun, but grows faster in partial shade. The flowers are usually blue and grow on 4–5 inch high spikes, flowering from early May to mid-June.

Vinca

Vinca vine is a perennial also known as bigleaf periwinkle. It is an evergreen perennial that’s often used as ground cover. It can grow in full shade or full sun, but prefers partial shade. It prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is a low-growing flowering perennial that loves shaded woodland areas. Lily of the Valley has delicate, bell-shaped white flowers that appear in the early spring. It will spread over time by rhizomes and seeds, forming a dense colony that looks lovely underneath trees.