When your garden gets less than 8 hours of sunlight it can be a challenge to find plants that thrive there. Check out these colorful shade garden combos for foliage and flowers that will liven up any dark corner of your yard.
Bright color for shade
Complementary colors create bold contrasts that can sometimes be harsh on the eye. But these hues always look good in a shade garden.
If you’ve avoided using cool colors in the shade because they get lost in the shadows, try backing them up with the electric chartreuse of the 'Aureola' hakonechloa and 'Sun King' aralia. The purple blooms stand out better in front of the yellow leaves.
Add color to your shade garden with these flowers
This combo is perfect for an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. ‘Diana Lavender Mix’ dianthus is often sold with annual flowers in packs and small pots, but it’s pretty hardy and often overwinters in USDA zones 5 and 6. This makes it an inexpensive choice for growing in masses or as an edging along a border, where it will add long-lasting color. For extra winter protection, add a 2- to 3-in. layer of mulch around plants.
A) ‘Sun King’ aralia Aralia cordata
Type Perennial Blooms White flowers in summer; chartreuse foliage Light Part to full shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9
B) ‘Aureola’ hakonechloa Hakonechloa macra
Type Perennial Blooms Yellow and green flowers in late summer to fall, variegated foliage Light Full sun to part shade Size 1 to 2 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9
C) ‘Diana Lavender Mix’ dianthus Dianthus chinensis
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Mix of purple and bicolor purple and white flowers in spring and summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 8 to 10 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9
Check out this shade garden makeover
Eye-catching texture for shade
There doesn’t have to be a shortage of color or texture in areas of the garden that get less light! The plants in this border thrive in part shade, adding a lush variety of foliage and bright blooms.
Planting in shade has special benefits, too. Because less sunlight reaches the soil, it’s difficult for weeds to germinate and take over. A spreading ground cover, like this dense carpet of Japanese pachysandra, blocks sunlight even further. And along with a layer of mulch, shade slows evaporation so you won’t have to worry about watering as frequently as you might in a sunny spot.
In alkaline soil, Let’s Dance Rhythmic Blue bigleaf hydrangeas will have pink blooms. For blue flowers, lower soil pH to 5.0 to 5.5 by adding aluminum sulfate. This bigleaf hydrangea blooms on old and new wood so no pruning is required — just remove any dead stems in early spring.
A) ‘Bridal Veil’ astilbe Astilbe x arendsii
Type Perennial Blooms White blooms in early summer; plumes gently droop at the tip Light Full sun to part shade Size 24 to 30 in. tall, 18 to 20 in. wide Hardiness Cold zones 4 to 9
B) Country & Western® astilbe Astilbe hybrid
Type Perennial Blooms Fuzzy, soft pink flower plumes in early summer Light Part to full shade Size 12 to 18 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold zones 4 to 8
C) Let’s Dance® Rhythmic Blue™ bigleaf hydrangea Hydrangea macrophylla
Type Shrub Blooms Pink or blue, depending on soil pH, early summer mophead flowers; reblooms in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold zones 5 to 9
D) ‘Aaron’ caladium Caladium hybrid
Type Tender tuber Foliage Leaves have white centers with dark green margins Light Part to full shade Size 12 to 24 in. tall, 14 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold zones 9 to 11
E) Diamond Frost® euphorbia Euphorbia hypericifolia
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Covered in small white blooms all from spring to frost Light Full sun to part shade Size 12 to 18 in. tall, 8 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold zones 10 to 12
F) ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera Brunnera macrophylla
Type Perennial Blooms Light blue flowers in early spring; dark green foliage has an intricate silver overlay Light Part to full shade Size 12 to 18 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold zones 3 to 7
G) Japanese pachysandra Pachysandra terminalis
Type Perennial Blooms Small white blooms in early spring; glossy green, deer-resistant foliage Light Part to full shade Size 4 to 10 in. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold zones 5 to 9
Check out our Flower & Plant Guide