Looking to add color to a shady spot in the yard or under a covered patio or porch? Here is our list of perennials that love life in the shade.
You may think all succulents love the sun, but the truth is there are several that do better in light shade, especially during the summer months. They can tolerate some morning sun, but the scorching afternoon sun may fry them to a crisp. How do you know if your succulents need more sun? If they start to get leggy and weak and refuse to flower, then move them to a spot with more sun. Succulents that like shade include: fairy crassula, sedum, aloe vera, jade, devil’s backbone, many different kinds of Sansevieria (snake plant) and kalanchoe. Good vine-like or cascading succulents for shade include wax plant, burrow tail, mistletoe cactus, string of pearls, string of hearts and rosary vine, Christmas cactus, Easter cactus and night blooming cereus.
Heucheras — also known as coral bells or alumroot — is striking in borders with other shade-loving perennials, but they also look fabulous planted solo in containers. This hardy perennial is evergreen so plant it in a container that will lend interest to your winter landscape. Heucheras prefer partial shade but can take more sun in cold climates. Heucheras are also deer and rabbit resistant.
The begonia family is huge, the topline way to divide the varieties up is by root type. Tuberous begonias are a herbaceous perennial that is usually grown outdoors. Begonias with fine-fibrous root systems are best as houseplants. Both kinds prefer low light and well-drained soil. Tuberous begonias will bloom all summer long in the right conditions. In the warmer climates, plant in dappled to full shade. Up north, give it some more sun. Many tubers can easily overwinter in a pot. Place the pot into a non-freezing, cool, dark location for winter. Barely water once a month. Tubers will start sprouting in spring, signaling it’s time to move the plant into bright light. Begonias look great next to other shade-loving perennials like hosta and heuchera.
There are several compact varieties of hydrangea that make perfect pot dwellers. The biggest challenge to growing hydrangeas in pots is providing sufficient water. They’ll need more water than their in-the-ground counterparts. Plant in big pots, a minimum of 18″ to 20″ across. This size will provide enough soil to give roots room to spread and to keep you from having to water multiple times a day. Place your hydrangea pots so that they receive morning sun and afternoon shade in all climates.
Ferns in hanging baskets are the quintessential front porch accessory, and they’re so easy to grow and care for! Keep your ferns out of direct midday sun and make sure to give them enough water to keep the soil damp. A couple of inches of organic mulch will help keep them moist and healthy. Also make sure they are protected from wind and heavy rains.
Also known as deadnettle, this easy-care perennial is part of the mint family. It’s a shade lover with silvery foliage that blooms in the summer, producing clusters of pink or white flowers that resemble snapdragons. It is often grown as a ground cover but can look absolutely charming in a shady pot as a standalone or as a spiller mixed with other shade lovers.
This common shade garden plant can make a happy home in pots. All hostas like rich, well-drained soil. They don’t like dry conditions so provide ample water and spread mulch around them to help retain moisture. Most hostas grow best in part shade, although some varieties can tolerate a little direct sunshine. Hostas’ spikey white to lavender blooms beckon bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, but, unfortunately, their leafy green foliage is a tasty treat for deer and rabbits.
Clematis has about 300 species and an even bigger number of hybrids. With that many to choose from you should be able to find one that will grow in your yard’s conditions in just the right color. And as an additional bonus, there are varieties of clematis that are evergreen. Check with your local extension or garden center to see what does well in your area. Vining clematis looks wonderful in a container climbing up an arbor, pergola or trellis. Clematis does best in moist, well-drained soil. Plant them deeply and add mulch, but don’t pile up the mulch around the stems, it can cause wilting. Fill the rest of the container with flowering annuals or other small, shade-loving perennials.
Toad lilies burst in the fall with beautiful speckled orchid-like flowers, but even when not in bloom, its lush foliage is super attractive. The pollinator-friendly flowers are so pretty, you’ll want to enjoy them up close, so site them in a container close to your outdoor living space. The cut stems also make a great addition to fresh floral arrangements. Keep toad lilies’ soil moist and amend with organic matter. They don’t spread too quickly so you can keep them in the same container for two to three years before you’ll have to divide them. Deer and rabbit have a taste for toad lilies so keep them protected.
Mint comes in a variety of fragrances, including peppermint, spearmint, apple, chocolate and orange. Harvest it to flavor teas, salad or cocktails. Mint is best grown in a container because it is a quick grower and tends to be invasive.
English ivy is a popular container plant for many reasons. It looks great as a spiller mixed with flowering plants or other textural greenery like ferns and hostas. It is perfect for the lazy gardener, just give it a little water when it gets dry and you’re good to go. English ivy is available in a variety of sizes and variegated green and white foliage. It’s also evergreen, so it’ll look great with your spring and summer bloomers as well your fall mums, winter cabbages and cold-hardy pansies.
Columbine is easy to grow because it adapts to a wide variety of conditions. In warmer climates, site it in a shady spot and in colder climates, give it some morning sun. Columbine attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, but deer and rabbits will leave it alone. It will self-seed so put it in a container that offers room to grow. Columbine varieties offer an array of colors and growing height.
Rosemary can be such a versatile part of your landscape. This easy-to-grow herb is known to be a sun lover, but it can also thrive with heavy afternoon shade. Rosemary – whether it’s a variety that grows upright or spills like ivy – makes a great ornamental addition to large containers and hanging baskets. It’s evergreen above Zone 6 and does prefer moist, well-drained soil. Harvest it to season meats, potatoes and even cocktails
Creeping Jenny (aka – moneywort) is a ubiquitous ground cover because it’s easy to grow, but also because it can be invasive, so using it in a container is a smart idea. It is low-maintenance, prefers soil on the moist side, and it grows well in sun or shade although it may acquire a golden hue if kept in a sunny spot. In the deep cold, the color will fade, but next season it will strike back with a vengeance.
Loropetalum ‘Purple Pixie’ is a dwarf Chinese fringe-flower that grows 1’ to 2’ in length. It cascades making it a wonderful specimen for a large container or use it as a ground cover. In spring, it blooms with pink tassel-shaped flowers. It is drought tolerant and deer resistant.
Citronella geranium is an aromatic, hardy perennial with gray-green lobed leaves and pink flowers. It’s most valued for its distinctive, warm musky fragrance, primarily used in perfume and potpourri, or as a natural insect repellant. They can be clustered in pots around seating areas to keep mosquitoes from sheltering in nearby vegetation. For best results, plant them where it will receive morning sun and afternoon shade.