Shade-Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants To Use in Zones 3 to 9

Shade-Loving Plants

Shade-loving plants often get the short end of the stick when it comes to gardening. People tend to focus more on sun-loving plants because they are easier to care for and have a wider range of options. However, ignoring shade-loving plants is a mistake that many gardeners make.

These shade-loving plants can add an incredible amount of color and beauty to any shady area in your garden. With their unique shapes, sizes, and colors, shade-loving plants can create visual interest where there might not be much light. If you’d like to learn more about shade gardens, please check out my blog post: Shade Gardening 101: Essential Tools, Plants, and Techniques for Success.

Shade-Loving Plants: Top 30 for Zones 3 to 9

Below are some favorites when choosing colorful plants for a shade garden. Please note that in this list, I use the common names for each species of plant.

#1 – Hostas

Hosta

Native to Northeast Asia, they are one of the most popular shade-loving perennials with a wide range of leaf colors and sizes.

#2 – Astilbe

Astilbe

Native to Asia and North America, they have feathery plumes of flowers that come in shades of pink, white, and red.

#3 – Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

Native to Northeast Asia, they have heart-shaped, drooping flowers in shades of pink and white.

#4 – Ferns

Ferns

Native across the northern hemisphere, they come in various shapes and sizes and add a lush and green texture to shade gardens.

#5 – Hellebores

Hellebore

Native to Europe, they are also known as Lenten Rose and have early blooms in shades of white, pink, and purple.

#6 – Coral Bells

Coral Bells

Native to North America, they come in a wide range of leaf colors that range from lime green to deep burgundy, and have small, bell-shaped flowers that come in shades of white, pink, and red.

#7 – Lungwort

Lungwort

Native to Europe and West Asia, they have spotted leaves and small pink, blue, or white flowers and are also known as Bethlehem Sage. 

NOTE: These plants, while cute, are considered invasive in some parts of North America.

#8 – Japanese Forest Grass 

Japanese Forest Grass

Native to Asia, they add a pop of bright green color to shady areas and have a graceful, cascading growth habit.

#9 – Japanese painted fern 

Japanese Painted Fern

Native to Asia, they have silver-grey fronds that are painted purple or burgundy, adding a lot of colors to your garden.

#10 – Foamflower

foamflower

Native to North America, they have lobed leaves and delicate, star-shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, and red.

#11 – Siberian Bugloss

Siberian Bugloss

Native to Siberia and the eastern Mediterranean, they have heart-shaped leaves and clusters of small blue or pink flowers.

#12 – Solomon’s Seal

Solomons Seal

Native across the northern hemisphere, they have arching stems and small, bell-shaped flowers in shades of white and pink. Has amazing medicinal properties.

#13 – Barrenwort

Barronwort

Native to China, they have unique foliage that turns colors in the fall and have small, delicate flowers in shades of white, pink, and yellow.

#14 – Ligularia

Ligularia

Native to Europe and Asia, they have big leaves and pinwheel-like flowers in shades of yellow and orange. Depending on the variety, they can have flowers like the brown-eyed Susan or resembling a rocket of flowers like the foamflower.

#15 – Primrose

Primrose

Native to Southern Europe, Southwest Asia, and Northwest Africa they have early blooms in pink, white, and yellow shades. This species is NOT closely related to the evening primrose.

#16 – Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff

Native to Europe, Asia, and Africa it is a creeping mat-forming ground cover. They have small, white, star-shaped flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer and produce a wonderfully sweet scent that fills the surrounding air.

#17 – Trilliums

White Trillium

Native to North America, (and despite popular belief, not illegal to pick in Canada) They have flowers that can be white, pink, yellow, green, red, or a combination of these colors, and bloom in early spring.

#18 – Columbine

Columbine Flower

Native to North America, they have delicate flowers that come in various colors (red, pink, blue, white), and long spurred petals that resemble an upside-down bell.

#19 – False Solomon’s Seal 

False Solomon's Seal

Native to North America and Asia, they have a tall, unbranched stem that grows up to 1.5 meters. Its leaves are elliptical in shape and arranged in an alternating pattern up to the stem. In the summer, it produces small white flowers.

#20 Green-and-Gold

Green-and-Gold Plant

Native to Eastern North America, it is a low-growing herbaceous plant with dark-green, toothed leaves and small, bright yellow flowers that bloom in the spring.

#21 – Canada Mayflower 

Canada MayFlower

Native to North America and Asia, they are a spreading perennial herb with oval leaves that grow in pairs and small white flowers that bloom in the spring.

#22 – Blue Cohosh

Blue Cohosh

Native to Eastern North America, they are a tall herbaceous plant with large, lobed leaves and small blue flowers that appear in the spring. It also features a unique blue-ish fruit that grows on a red stalk.

#23 – Celandine Poppy 

Celandine Poppy

Native to Eastern North America, they are a woodland perennial with large, showy yellow flowers that bloom in early spring. The leaves are lobed and toothed.

#24 – Great Merrybells 

Great Merrybells

Native to Eastern North America, also known as Large-Flowered Bellwort, it is a tall plant that has a single upright stem with slightly curved yellow flowers that resemble bells. It has long, narrow leaves that grow in an alternating pattern up the stem.

#25 – Woodland Phlox

Woodland Phlox

Native to Eastern and Central North America, they are a low-growing, mat-forming plant with small, fragrant flowers in shades of pink, purple, and blue. The leaves are lance-shaped and grow in an alternating pattern up the stem.

#26 – Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger

Native to Eastern North America and Asia, it is a native woodland perennial with broad, heart-shaped leaves and deep red, bell-shaped flowers that grow hidden beneath the foliage.

#27 – Jack-in-the-Pulpit 

Jack in the Pulpit

Native to Eastern and Central North America, they have a tall stem that supports a green, hooded flower that resembles a preacher in a pulpit. It produces a cluster of bright red berries in the fall.

#28 – Periwinkle

Periwinkle

Native to Europe and Asia it is a low-growing evergreen herb with glossy, dark green leaves and small, blue-violet flowers. It is commonly used as ground cover in landscaping.

NOTE: This is a lovely plant, but it is considered an invasive species in parts of North America.

#29 – Lily of the Valley 

Lily of the Valley

Native to Europe, Asia, and North America, they have a small, delicate, perennial plant with thin green leaves. It has bell-shaped, white, or pink flowers that grow on a single stem and have a sweet fragrance.

NOTE: Lily of the Valley is poisonous and potentially lethal if ingested, please keep cats, dogs, and children away.

#30 – Autumn Joy Sedums 

Autumn Joy Sedum

Native to Asia and parts of Europe. They are a type of succulent plant that grows in rosettes with thick, fleshy leaves. The leaves are circular, smooth, and have a scalloped edge. They typically bloom late summer into fall. 

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