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Susan’s Top 10 Can’t-Live-Without Annuals, Perennials and Shrubs for Shade

Hi, I’m Susan and I’m a copywriter and resident Plant Geek for Proven Winners. You’ll find me either writing about or working hands-on with all kinds of plants just about every day of the week here in my zone 6 Michigan garden. You guessed it—plants are my passion! My garden is nearly entirely encompassed in various degrees of shade, so I’ve come to know which Proven Winners work best in my environment. I envy those of you who have sunny landscapes! What I would give for just a little slice of sunshine…

Contributors: Susan Martin

Surefire® Begonias 
Surefire Begonias are a surefire hit no matter where I plant them in my landscape and containers. They’ll grow and flower in just about any degree of shade and don’t require as much water as impatiens. I use them as a flowering thriller in large combination containers and window boxes, and also use them to plug the holes left when my bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) go dormant in the landscape in midsummer. 
Full sun to full shade. 


Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
Diamond Frost is sold in individual 4” pots at the garden center, but I buy it by the flat. Its fine texture, bright white flowers and restrained growth habit make it an excellent companion to just about anything else you’d like to plant in your combination containers. It’s stunning paired with Surefire Begonias, Rex Begonias, and Streptocarpus.  
Full sun to part shade.


ColorBlaze® Coleus 
Shade gardeners know that it’s not all about the flowers when sunlight is limited. I rely on fabulous foliage to keep my garden in color from spring through fall. I don’t like to fuss much with my annuals, which is why I prefer ColorBlaze Coleus over less expensive seed varieties. The ColorBlaze forms are super strong growers and set few to no flowers, so I don’t have to keep pinching them off to keep the plants looking great all season.
Full sun to full shade.


Dolce® Heucheras  
Choosing my favorite coral bells is like choosing my favorite kind of ice cream—I can’t pick just one! Coral bells are super easy to grow in the landscape and in containers and thrive in any part of my shaded yard. I look for the ones with fuzzy leaves since they are naturally more heat and humidity tolerant. There are so many to choose from, so they are easy match with my color scheme. 
Full sun to full shade, best in part shade. Hardy in zones 4-9.


‘Bottle Rocket’ Ligularia
I like to have a few plants in my garden that my neighbors don’t have but always ask me about. What is THAT? That’s the question I often get when ‘Bottle Rocket’ shoots up its yellow spikes in midsummer. I love the big, bold texture of this Ligularia, especially when combined with ferns, Siberian irises, and Japanese maples.  
Best in part shade. Hardy in zones 4-9.


Jade Peacock’ Tiarella
An indispensible perennial for shade, Tiarellas happily grow and flower in any degree of shade and require little to no maintenance to look fabulous all season. They are a natural companion to hostas, ferns, and sedges in the landscape. ‘Jade Peacock’ turns super dark in winter, then puts up a new show of foliage and flowers every spring.
Part shade to full shade. Hardy in zones 4-9.


Aphrodite’ Calycanthus
Here’s another one of those plants that passers-by always ask me about when it’s in bloom in my roadside landscape. Though it only receives morning sun as it grows under a limbed-up Colorado Blue Spruce, ‘Aphrodite’ blooms every year in late spring or early summer. I always remember to take in its sweet jelly-like fragrance up close while it’s in bloom. 
Full sun to part shade. Hardy in zones 5-9.


Limelight’ Panicle Hydrangea
‘Limelight’ was one of the very first shrubs I planted when I bought my home ten years ago, and my goodness is it magnificent! It grows in open shade under a mature sugar maple and blooms every year in late summer and fall. I leave the dried blossoms on it all winter long—they look so pretty topped with tufts of snow in winter. 
Full sun to part shade. Hardy in zones 3-9.


Tuff Stuff Mountain Hydrangea
You might have guessed that I have quite a few kinds of hydrangeas growing in my shady landscape. I love their boldly textured leaves and prominent blooms from summer through fall. After the harshest of winters, I can always rely on my Tuff Stuff hydrangeas to come through without severe winter die back. I highly recommend this reliable reblooming hydrangea for northern regions.
Full sun to part shade. Hardy in zones 5-9.

Sky Pointer® Holly
I planted a Sky Pointer holly on a hope and a prayer a few years ago, hoping it would survive in the open shade on the north side of my house, as its narrowly upright shape would be the perfect accent to the rounded hydrangeas there. I was delighted when it didn’t just survive—it thrives there. It has come through four winters now with no winter burn. A fantastic evergreen!
Full sun to part shade. Hardy in zones 6-7.



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