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17 Perennial Flowers That Love Shade


Shade is the enemy of every beginner gardener.  It seems like your eye is drawn to every sun loving plant in the greenhouse and there are no exciting options for your shady perennial flower garden.

I’ve compiled 17 shade-loving perennials that are easy to grow in your landscape. These are the perennials I know and love in my zone 3 shade garden, and tend to be the best plants for shade here, but they should work well for you up to at least zone 5 or 6.

Disclaimer: I garden in USDA Hardiness Zone 2/3 and my advice and plant selections are based on my experience in that growing zone.  The good news is that unless you live in the Arctic or the Desert, my picks should work for you!  Please let me know in the comments if you have any plant suggestions for your particular growing area.

All Shade Isn’t Created Equal

While a tag on a plant may claim to tolerate full shade, even shade loving plants like some morning or evening sunshine.

Will the shade plant live in true full shade?  Of course.  But it won’t thrive, or grow as fast as you were hoping. If you are trying to create a flower bed in an area of your yard that never sees the light of day, you are better off to put in a rock garden, deck, or some sort of hardscape.

You can also purchase large annual shade flowers for a hit of colour in a full shade spot.  They won’t get much larger than their initial size, but you will have blooms all summer long.

Finally, if you have lots of landscaping to do in shade, you might like these posts:

Now, on to the best shade perennials!


A medium-sized plant that comes in lovely shades of white, pink, red, and purple.  Very hardy summer blooming perennial that likes moist to well-drained soil.

Bergamot (Bee Balm)

Bergamots also come in white, pink, red, and purple, and will tolerate all light conditions.  It can spread out easily, so make sure you remove any unwanted plants every year.

As the name suggests, bee balm attracts bees, so plant it to encourage pollination.

Want to know the 28 Most-Regretted Flowering Perennials?  Check them out in the link!

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding hearts hold a special place in my heart.  My family has a plant that was my great-grandma’s and everyone in the family has gotten part of it over the years whenever it needed to be divided.

This stunner comes in pink or white and blooms from late Spring to Early Summer. Bleeding heart is a very beginner-friendly plant, that is easy to grow.


Orange daylilies (like the one pictured) get a bad rap for taking over a yard if not maintained.

Any other colour of day lily is more well behaved.  I highly recommend picking out something unique from your local greenhouse or a seed catalogue.

They flourish in any kind of light condition, although they may not bloom if they have too much shade.

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False Solomon’s Seal

A Spring-blooming plant with lovely green foliage and delicate white blooms.


Hostas come in so many beautiful shades and variations of green, you’ll find it hard to choose just one!  A great shade plant for almost any soil condition.

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Goat’s Beard

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Goat’s beard comes in all sizes and looks lovely paired with astilbes or underneath a tree.

Goutweed (Bishop’s Weed)

Need a plant that you can’t kill that will grow anywhere?  Goutweed is for you.  Just be warned, it can easily spread where you don’t want it, so either plant it in a contained area or be willing to dig out rogue plants every year.

Goutweed is hated so much by flower gardeners that it is the most hated perennial on my list of most regretted perennial flowers.

Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra)

Japanese Spurge or Pachysandra is a good ground cover for underneath a tree.  Be warned, it is has a habit of spreading and sends out lots of runners.

Related: 53 Most-Loved Flowering Perennials

Laminum (Dead Nettle)

Laminum comes in many colours and makes an attractive groundcover under a tree.  It can be invasive, but the flowers provide an important source of nectar for bees.

My favourite colour of Laminum is the one that is pink and blue–so stunning!


A lovely, tall plant with pretty yellow flowers.  Keep it in part shade for more height and blooms.

Lily of the Valley

One of the first Spring flowers to bloom in the garden.  The delicate white flowers have a beautiful scent.  Lily of the Valley makes a great ground cover underneath a tree, but can be invasive if unwanted new growth is allowed to grow.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Think you can’t have a beautiful flower garden in the shade? Here’s 15+ plants you’ll want to grow” quote=”Think you can’t have a beautiful flower garden in the shade? Here’s 15+ plants you’ll want to grow”]

Ostrich Fern

Many of my readers love ostrich ferns, but they are my most-hated perennial.


Try pulling out over 300 of them in your backyard.

No, I’m not exaggerating.

I’m sure I’ll still have tons this Spring.  Anyone want a fern?

Purple Bellflower (Campanula)

The purple bellflower will grow in almost any light or soil condition.  Avoid the variety shown if at all possible, unless you have a patch of soil that everything else dies in. (If I sound negative, it’s because it’s my second most hated perennial that I’m currently doing battle with in my backyard.)

The clumping purple bellflower is much better behaved and is beautiful in floral arrangements.

Curious about my backyard? Check out the transformation we made this year.

Saxifrage (Rockfoil)

Saxifrage works best in rock gardens or at the edge of a flower bed.  There are a huge variety of colours to chose from, you’ll want to grow them all! In my neighbourhood, everyone seems to grow the yellow variety and the blooms last for quite a long time.

You can use it as a ground cover or grow it between rocks in a pathway.

Put mulch over the plant in winter to ensure it survives.

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Siberian Bugloss

Siberian Bugloss is an excellent ground cover under trees.  You’ll want to try the Jack Frost Variety for it’s variegated leaves and delicate blue blossoms.

Solomon’s Seal

A beautiful plant for a woodland garden.  It does well as a ground cover or in a flower bed.  Beware the berries, as they are poisonous to animals and children.

Looking for a couple of annual shade flowers to fill in the spots while your perennials are getting established?  Here’s 22 flowers you’ll love.

Whether you’re looking for a ground cover or something stunning for a front yard flower bed, there’s sure to be a flower in this list for you.

Have any suggestions?  I’d love to hear them!  Please make sure you state your location and hardiness zone if you know it.  (I’m writing from zone 2/3.)


Everything you need to easily create your own perennial garden with constant blooms. You’ll get an easy to follow system, along with 5 templates and 5 done-for-you plans, plus fun bonuses.


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.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!