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Shade can be the bane of every flower gardener’s existence. You’d like something to brighten up that dark corner in your yard… but what can you plant? I’ve compiled a list of 26 shade-loving annuals to fill up your shady flower bed, along with a few helpful hints for gardening in the shade.

begonia, coleus, tradescantia, sweet potato vine, silver falls
Special thanks to reader Pauline Janzen for sharing several pictures of her shade containers for this post!

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Partial Shade and Full Shade

Not all shade is created equal. Partial shade is defined as an area that receives 3-4 hours of sun a day. Full shade receives less than 3 hours of sun or no sun whatsoever.

When assessing your yard for how much shade an area gets, take into consideration any trees that currently do not have any leaves on them (if you’re doing this in winter or early spring). An annual shade plant that you’ve grown from seed may start off strong with dappled shade, (the kind made from leafy trees) only to stall out on growth once all the leaves fill in.

begonias, coleus, swedish ivy, and silver falls
A beautiful shade container from Pauline Janzen

Bigger is Better

If you are a beginner gardener, I recommend buying shade plants started at a garden centre. A lot of annual flowers need to be started indoors in January and February and if this is the first year in your journey, it’s a task that’s best left to someone else.

When buying starters, buy the biggest plant you can afford, especially if you’re planting in full shade. Sure, small plants will do fine in full shade. But they won’t fill out the space the way you were hoping. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way!

If you can’t purchase larger plants, plan on spacing your smaller ones closer together for a nice block of colour.

An adorable picture from reader Shelley Lynn of her potted Begonia and sweet dog

Shade Flowers Don’t Have to Be Boring!

If you’ve been gardening for a while, it’s easy to get bored of the same old Begonias, Impatiens, and Coleus. These plants are known as the pillars of annual shade plants that work well without a lot of fuss, but sometimes it’s nice to try something new! I hope this list of 26 shade-loving annuals will give you some inspiration for your shade pots and annual flower beds this year!

P.S. If you’re a reader located in the United States, White Flower Farm has an excellent selection of shade plants for sale online. I wish I could order there, but alas, they do not ship to Canada!

A shade pot featuring Coleus, Begonia, and Lamiastrum/Yellow Archangel from Pauline Janzen

Looking for shade perennials instead? Here are 17 Shade-Loving Perennials to fill up your flower bed!

26 Annual Flowers that Love the Shade

1. Alyssum

Alyssum is a lovely flower for borders and also works beautifully as a cut flower.

2. Balsam

Before there were Impatiens, there were Balsam flowers. While you likely won’t find these in the garden centre, you can start them from seed approximately 8 weeks before their anticipated bloom. The taller varieties are lovely for cut flower gardens, and a big planting of them gives your yard a nice cottage-garden vibe.

3. Begonia

New to gardening in the shade? Make sure you get a Begonia or two (or more)! They come in many different sizes and colours. My personal favourite are the large Double varieties.

Begonia from reader Pauline Janzen

4. Browallia

Browallia is a lovely blue/purple star-shaped flower that’s good for borders and containers. It’s also quite low maintenance and does not spread.

5. Calendula

Calendula is both beautiful to look at and is very useful in the garden. It makes a good cut flower and is an excellent companion plant in the vegetable garden. Dried Calendula flowers can be used in herbal teas, tinctures, soaps, and more.

6. Cleome

Also known as a Spider Flower, the Cleome can be a prolific self-seeder in some zones.

7. Coleus

Not sure what to add to your containers in the shade? Coleus is always an excellent choice. It’s widely available in a rainbow of colours at your local garden centre or big box store. Plus, you can take cuttings indoors before the first frost and enjoy them as a houseplant over the winter.

Coleus from reader Pauline Janzen

8. Fuchsia

As a child, I always thought that Fuchsias looked like little ballerinas. I’ve loved them ever since and enjoy them as a hanging plant on my shady front porch. Be prepared to do a lot of dead-heading, but also be prepared to enjoy their lovely blooms all summer long.

Fuchsia from reader Pauline Janzen

9. German Ivy

German Ivy does well in both sun and shade and has been a staple in my family’s containers for 30 years. Every fall before the first frost my mom brings a couple of cuttings indoors for the winter, and they grow enough that she can make new cuttings in the spring. She is still using cuttings every spring from the original plant she bought 30 years ago.

a background of bright green german ivy leaves.

10. Hydrangea

Okay, okay, I know. A Hydrangea is NOT an annual. However, in Zone 3 where I garden, we are inundated with Hydrangea plants that are not hardy to our area, no matter how much we wish it were so. So, if you can’t resist that Hydrangea that is never going to survive here, treat it like an annual, put it in a pot, and enjoy it for the summer with realistic expectations.

P.S. There are some Hydrangeas that are hardy to Zone 3, such as Invincibelle.

11. Impatiens

Impatiens are another practically no-fail flower for the beginner gardener. They also come in many colours and varieties. I personally love the double Impatiens. The ones pictured here are the most typical ones you’ll find at the garden centre.

12. Iresine/BLOODLEAF

In cold climates like Zone 3, Iresine works perfectly as a potted annual. Like Coleus, it can be brought indoors over winter and enjoyed as a houseplant.

Iresine from Pauline Janzen

13. Larkspur/Consolida

Searching for Larkspur can be a bit confusing, as you’ll wind up being shown a lot of sun-loving Delphiniums. Ask for a Consolida instead, and you’ll find the shade-loving annual flower you’re looking for.

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14. Lamiastrum/yellow archangel

Though Lamiastrum can be considered an invasive perennial, it works beautifully as an annual when planted in a shade container alongside other shade-loving annuals.

coleus and lamiastrum/yellow archangel
The trailing plant in this pot is Lamiastrum/Yellow Archangel from reader Pauline Janzen

15. Lobelia

Lobelia is another annual that does well in either sun or shade.

16. Lysimachia/Creeping Jenny

Lysimachia is hardy from Zones 2-10 and is a great plant to grow in a shady area where nothing else will grow. However, because of its invasive nature, you need to check if this plant is banned in your area or not before planting it. To do that, google your province or state plus the term “invasive plants.” You should get a list of plants that are not recommended in your area. Planting in a container, as shown below, should be fine regardless.

17. Monkey Flower

I love Monkey Flowers, but I know from experience that this is one flower that will not grow much in full shade. Plant in part shade or even part sun if you have it.

18. Nicotiana

Nicotiana comes in many sizes and shades of white, pink, red, and purple. They have a lovely fragrance, especially in the evening.

19. Oxalis

There are several hundred different varieties of Oxalis out there, in differing shapes and colours. Oxalis will survive in the shade but expect fewer blooms than if you were planting them in the sun.

Oxalis from reader Pauline Janzen

20. Pansy

I love Pansies and always have a few in my garden. Pansies come in so many beautiful shades of white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, and pink that you’ll find it next to impossible to just choose one colour. Pansies are also edible flowers and brighten up your summer salads.

21. Polka Dot Plant

Polka Dot Plants provide some beautiful colour to any shade garden and can be brought indoors and propagated over the winter.

22. Salvia

Also commonly called Wild Sage.

23. Snapdragon

Have a shady spot in your cut flower garden? Consider adding some Snapdragons! If you’re planting from seed, carefully check the information on the packet to ensure you have the correct variety: tall varieties for cut flowers or dwarf varieties for containers.

Planning a cut flower garden? Here are 40 must-have flowers!

24. Swedish ivy

Swedish Ivy works well in a container with other shade-loving annuals and can also be used as a groundcover.

Swedish Ivy from reader Pauline Janzen

25. Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Potato Vine is easy to grow and comes in many beautiful colours.

26. Torenia/Wishbone Flower

Torenia is a lovely trailing flower that works well in containers. It is attractive to hummingbirds and not attractive to deer.

Do you have any annual shade flowers you’d add to this list? Join the Shifting Roots community on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook and let me know!

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Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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