When it comes to our gardens, shady areas get no love. We tend to spoil our sun-loving annuals with praise, while treating plants for shade like a solution to a problem. However, shade gardens have just as much potential to make a splash as their sunny counterparts! These unique, interesting plants are just as eye-catching as your brightest sun-bloomers.
Ligularias are, in general, must-haves for those shady spots in your landscape, but we simply can’t get enough of the Dwarf variety “Pandora.” Embrace the darker side of your shade with the rich color of this plant’s foliage reminiscent of chocolate and wine, maturing to a rich olive green by the end of the season. Showstopping foliage isn’t the only draw for this variety though, as they also boast bright yellow blooms to up the contrast and drama in your landscape this summer.
Sun King Aralia
Brighten up your shaded corners by planting Sun King Aralia, a lime green plant that is sure to draw the eye. This bold and beautiful plant is perfect for shaded spots and also has proven cold hardiness to make it a worry-free planting for your landscape. While the vibrant foliage is clearly the main attraction on this plant, enjoy tiny white blooms and berries through the growing season for added texture and visual interest.
Crimson Fans Mukdenia
This compact perennial is native to the slopes of China, Manchuria, and Korea, but is perfectly at home in a sheltered and shaded spot in your landscape. Ornate leaves start in a gorgeous emerald tone but turn bronze-red on the edges – hence the name “Crimson Fans.” In early spring you’ll be treated to bell-shaped blooms on top of the statement foliage to give you a shade perennial that truly has it all.
Sweet Kate Spiderwort
Chartreuse foliage is the perfect backing contrast to soft and charming blue flowers. While this plant is a top performer in the shade, it can still thrive with some sun exposure, making it a truly versatile plant for those difficult parts of your garden that are neither true shade or partial sun. Enjoy the bright foliage as it bleaches to a gold tone with sunshine.
This ornamental grass won’t let the flowers in your garden have all of the attention this summer. Cream colored to nearly white blades are edged with green for a high-contrast, eye-catching addition to your landscape. We love to pair this plant with other decorative shade lovers like hostas where they can complement each other.
Affectionately known as a “False Forget-Me-Not” this plant is known for its long-lasting blue blooms against rich green foliage. Although very low-maintenance and easy to grow it takes its time to spread, so you can plan that the mature plant won’t be much of a different look than when you plant initially. While there are lots of Brunnera varieties that are great choices for the shade, the Jack Frost cultivar has to rank among our favorites thanks to its cream-highlighted foliage that brings even more interest to shaded areas of your garden.
Heart-shaped dark green leaves grow in rosettes, providing the perfect background to small dark pink flowers. Plants of this variety are also known as heart-leaved bergenia, but have earned themselves the nickname “Pigsqueak” for the sound that the foliage makes when it is rubbed between the thumb and finger. A great choice for groundcover, this is a shade lover that certainly won’t disappoint.
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If your goal is to add big color to your shady spots, astilbe brings a cotton-candy cloud of gorgeous pinks, purples, and reds. Butterflies flock to their plumes of flowers, and who could blame them? Astilbes are so stunning to look at, it’s hard to believe it thrives in the shade! Best of all, astilbe is perennial and returns year after year with more gorgeous plumage. Try Mighty Joe for a statement plant in the garden- this variety gets 4’ tall!
Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Ruby Slippers’
Bursting with exceptionally large white blooms that mature to shades of dark pink, this Hydrangea is a statement maker in the shade. Even its foliage is ready to impress with a great emerald shade of oak-like leaves that change to mahogany in the fall. Despite all of the impressive blooms and foliage, this plant still remains compact, the perfect choice for filling shady gaps in your landscaping.
Toad lily is anything but boring! A hardy perennial, the spectacular color and pattern combinations on this lily is more reminiscent of a tropical getaway than a shady garden in the Midwest. Their showstopping flowers have similar ornamental qualities to orchids.
Don’t cast shade on your shady garden spots! With these unique shade-tolerant plants, you can turn your darker corners into a feature, not a flaw.