I Need Colorful Flowers for Deep Shade

Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ is colorful and thrives in shade. (Image by Jessie Keith)

“What is the best colorful flower that needs the least amount of sun for Zone 7a?” Question from Kay of New Jersey

Answer: That’s a great question. I will list several brightly colored perennials that grow well in shaded Mid-Atlantic gardens (arranged by bloom time). But, let me know your soil type and whether your flowers will be competing with lots of surface tree roots. Most shade plants grow best with a nice layer of moderately moist, organic-rich soil and limited surface-root competition. Amending your soil with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend will help.

Colorful Flowers for Shade

Spigelia is a pretty summer bloomer for shade.

Early Spring – Helleborus Brandywine™ : Evergreen leaves and pretty early spring flowers make these great shade perennials for any Mid-Atlantic garden.

Late SpringTradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’: Golden foliage and violet-purple flowers make this one of the most colorful shade perennials for late spring.

Late SpringPhlox stolonifera ‘Home Fires’This hardy, low-growing, groundcover phlox produces bright magenta blooms in late spring and early summer.

Summer –Spigelia marilandica: This summer-blooming flower offers clusters of crimson and gold flowers that are beautiful and visited by hummingbirds.

Late Summer – Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips: Flowers of pink appear on this late-summer bloomer. Chelone likes a little more soil moisture and will tolerate both sun and shade.

All-Season Foliage Plants- Hostas and Heucheras: Both heucheras and hostas grow well in shade and have foliage that comes in a wide array of colors.

If you want to add some brightly colored shade-loving shrubs to your low-light garden, throw in a few azaleas and rhododendrons. Variegated red twig dogwoods also add brightness to shaded gardens.

Happy shade gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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