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10 Shade Plants to Brighten Your Garden

Tired of growing the same few plants every year in your shade garden? Here are ten new shade-loving plants to help you brighten up your space with showy blooms and fantastic foliage.


#1 - Hippo® Hypoestes (Polka Dot Plant) 

Polka dot plants are always a crowd pleaser because they are so colorful and easy to grow. Their pink, red or white-patterned leaves shine all season in sun or shade, hot or cool weather, even indoors as a houseplant.

You could grow Hippo polka dot plants as a thriller or filler in your patio containers, or plant them in the landscape anyplace you could use a bright spot of color. Other than water, they require little to no maintenance through the growing season.

Height: 16-22”, Spread: 8-14”, Sun or shade, Grown as an annual


#2 – Rockin’ ‘Golden Delicious’ Salvia (Pineapple Sage)

Shade garden plants with fun foliage are always popular because they provide lively color and textural interest all season. ‘Golden Delicious’ is a large plant that you could grow as a bright filler in the landscape or a thriller in extra-large container recipes. Since its aromatic foliage is deer resistant, you can safely plant it out in your flower gardens, too.

Think of this salvia like a heat and humidity tolerant, disease resistant replacement for chartreuse coleus. In warm climates where the growing season is long and frost comes late, it may produce fire engine red flowers in fall.

Height: 3-4’, Spread: 2-3’, Part sun to sun, Commonly grown as an annual but is hardy in zones 8-11

#3 – ‘Chantilly Lace’ Aruncus (Goatsbeard)

This low maintenance, shade loving perennial produces frothy sprays of creamy white flowers in late spring to early summer above a clump of ferny, dark green foliage. It is similar in appearance to astilbe but can handle drier conditions and blooms a bit earlier.

Goatsbeard’s showy blossoms are pretty in fresh bouquets, and since it’s a heavy bloomer there will be plenty to spare for cutting. Deer typically ignore this perennial, but pollinating bees may stop by for a nutritious snack while it’s in bloom.

Height: 30-32”, Spread: 40-48”, Sun or shade, Perennial in zones 3-7

#4 - Primo® ‘Wild Rose’ Heuchera (Coral Bells)

It’s easy to spot this unique variety of coral bells from a distance because its fabulous rosy purple foliage absolutely glows, even in the shade. Who needs flowers with long lasting, colorful foliage like this?

‘Wild Rose’ forms a low, wide mound that fits perfectly along the edge of a border or as an underplanting to taller ferns, medium-sized shrubs or weeping trees like Japanese maples. Pink flowers in midsummer are an added bonus.

Foliage Height: 8-10”, Flower Height: 18-20”, Spread: 26-30”, Sun or shade but best in part shade, Perennial in zones 4-9

#5 – Fun and Games® ‘Eye Spy’ Heucherella (Foamy Bells)

Every shade garden needs at least a few chartreuse plants as accents in an otherwise green setting. ‘Eye Spy’ emerges in spring with bright yellow leaves with rosy red centers, then mellows to chartreuse for the summer months. The mounded foliage is topped with a profusion of bubblegum pink flower panicles on red stems for several weeks beginning in late spring.

This perennial grows beautifully in containers and landscape borders, requiring little more than occasional watering to thrive. Try growing it on its own in an 8-12” pot alongside your flowering annuals for beautiful contrast with little upkeep needed throughout the seasons.

Height: 8-10”, Spread: 16-20”, Part shade to shade, Perennial in zones 4-9

#6 – Shadowland® ‘Waterslide’ Hosta  

If you garden in shade, you know how reliable hostas are for such challenging conditions. If you haven’t added any new varieties to your collection lately, take a look at the fancy new cultivars that have come along like this distinctive mid-sized blue variety, ‘Waterslide’. Its extremely rippled leaves and powder blue color easily stand out from the crowd, while thick leaves help it to be more pest resistant.

Grow this hosta in a container (a dark colored pot would really make the light blue foliage pop), or near the front of your shade border. Its low, broadly mounded shape is easy to pair with most other shade lovers.

Foliage Height: 14”, Flower Height: 17”, Spread: 32”, Part shade to shade, Perennial in zones 3-9

#7 – ‘Cutting Edge’ Tiarella (Foamflower)

You’ll love how this elegant woodland wildflower adds tapestry-like texture to your shade garden and delights with its early spring, bottlebrush blossoms. Its intricately dissected, deep green leaves with burgundy centers form a low mound similar to coral bells. Deer typically leave it alone because of the leaves’ fuzzy texture.

Try planting a mass of ‘Cutting Edge’ foamflowers under a small weeping tree such as a weeping cherry or at the base of a spring flowering shrub like Spilled Wine® weigela. Together, they’ll create a feast for pollinators every spring.

Foliage Height: 8-10”, Flower Height: 18-20”, Spread: 16-18”, Part shade to shade, Perennial in zones 4-9

#8 - Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea)

This hydrangea is unlike anything that has come before it. That’s because it is the first deep pinkish mauve variety of smooth hydrangea ever to be introduced. Smooth hydrangeas bloom reliably every year, even in cold climates, because they set their buds on new wood (the current season’s branches.)

Invincibelle Mini Mauvette has strong, sturdy stems that won't flop under the weight of all of its blossoms. The show begins in early summer and because it is a rebloomer, it continues all the way until frost, providing an endless supply of flowers for the landscape or vase.

Height: 2.5-3’, Spread: 2.5-3’, Sun to part shade, Hardy in zones 3-9

#9 – Invincibelle Wee White® Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea)

Meet the world’s first dwarf ‘Annabelle’ type hydrangea! If you love hydrangeas but are challenged to find space to fit them into your garden, Invincibelle Wee White is the variety for you. This naturally dwarf selection forms a tidy, rounded mound no larger than a clump of daisies.

Beginning in early summer and reblooming through fall’s first frost, round clusters of blush pink flowers age to white. They are produced all over the plant on strong stems that won’t flop and are excellent for using in fresh and dried bouquets.

Height: 1-2.5’, Spread: 1-2.5’, Sun to part shade, Hardy in zones 3-9

#10 – Wabi-Sabi® Viburnum (Doublefile Viburnum)

Doublefile viburnums are absolutely stunning in late spring when bright white, lacecap flowers elegantly line the entire length of their stems. Pollinating bees are always happy to see them as they go about gathering pollen from the fertile flowers.

Standard doublefile viburnums are very large shrubs that sometimes aren’t so easy to fit into urban gardens. Wabi-Sabi is about half the size on average, so it’s much easier to include in landscape designs. Its strong horizontal presence adds structure to the garden. Like all viburnums, Wabi-Sabi is shade tolerant and deer resistant.

Height: 2-3’, Spread: 3-4’, Sun to part shade, Hardy in zones 5-8

Want to learn more about shade gardening?


Patent Info: Rockin'® 'Golden Delicious' Salvia elegans USPP17977; 'Chantilly Lace' Aruncus USPPAF CanPBRAF; Primo® 'Wild Rose' Heuchera USPPAF CanPBRAF; Fun and Games® 'Eye Spy' Heucherella USPPAF CanPBRAF; Shadowland® 'Waterslide' Hosta USPPAF CanPBRAF; 'Cutting Edge' Tiarella USPPAF CanPBRAF; Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® Hydrangea arborescens USPPAF CanPBRAF; Invincibelle Wee White® Hydrangea arborescens USPPAF CanPBRAF; Wabi-Sabi® Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum USPP29553 CanPBRAF

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