What Are Good Garden Flowers for Partial Shade?

Nothing beats classic impatiens for color in shady gardens. (Image by Jessie Keith)

“What are the best flowering plants for a mostly shady spot with some morning sun?” Question from Brigitte of Arnold, Missouri

Answer: There are so many wonderful garden flowers that grow well in partial shade but can tolerate a little sun, too. Here is a good list of long-blooming perennials and annuals that will grow well in your area under these light conditions. All of the annuals are also great for containers. Before planting any of these in the garden, I recommend amending your soil with Black Gold Garden Soil, which feeds plants for up to 6 months. Black Gold Moisture Supreme Container Mix is recommended for potted specimens.

Annual Flowers for Shade

Endless™ Illumination Bush Violet thrives in partial sun or shade. (Image thanks to Proven Winners)

Begonias: You can’t go wrong with begonias, as long as you provide them with good moisture, especially through the hottest summer days. Two showy high performers are Bossa Nova® Red  Begonia and Illumination® Golden Picotee tuberous begonia. Classic wax begonias that you can purchase in flats at every garden center are also inexpensive and excellent.

Bush Violets (Browallia hybrids.): These annuals are just beginning to gain popularity due to their nonstop summer flowers. Try the true-blue Endless Illumination Bush Violet.

Classic Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana): Pick up a flat of impatiens at the garden center in your favorite color, and plant them for all-summer color.

New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hybrids): These impatiens are generally taller and tolerant of a little more sun than classic impatiens. One that I will be planting this year is the tangerine-orange Infinity® Orange

Torenia (Torenia hybrids): You cannot go wrong with any of the spreading torenia in the Summer Wave Series. They spread and bloom from late spring to frost. Summer Wave® Large Blue is probably my favorite.

Perennial Flowers for Shade

Pink Diamonds fern-leaved bleeding heart is a great shade flower. (Image thanks to Proven Winners)

Rozanne Hardy Geranium (Geranium ‘Rozanne’): Purplish-magenta flowers are produced by this hardy geranium throughout summer.

Pink Diamonds Fern-leaved Bleeding Heart (Dicentra hybrid): Standard varieties of this pretty woodland bloomer just flower in late spring or early summer, but ‘Pink Diamonds’ offers showy pink flowers all summer long.

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaticata): Blooming in mid to late spring, wild blue phlox bears airy stems of five-petaled, pale violet-blue flowers that are visited by butterflies and long-tongued bees. The variety ‘Blue Moon’ has especially large flowers of violet-blue Plants will naturalize over time.

Foamflower (Tiarella spp.): These pretty perennials have attractive foliage and foamy flowers that appear in late spring. Try the new Proven Winners variety ‘Cutting Edge’.

Heuchera (Heuchera hybrids): Here’s another for both beautiful flowers and foliage. There are hundreds of varieties on the market with beautifully colored (gold, orange, burgundy, purple, red, etc.) and textured leaves and wands of colorful spring flowers. The variety Dolce® ‘Spearmint’ coral bells is a very strong bloomer. Terra Nova nurseries develops the most fantastic forms of this garden favorite.

Happy flower gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

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