My cousin-in-law Megs has asked for some recommendations on flowering plants that do well in the shade. Since most of my yard is shady, finding these plants has been my gardening mission for several years.

Unfortunately, I am in zone 4 and Megs is in zone 9-10, so I am not sure how well my suggestions will work for her California climate. (I’m also not sure what her soil’s like, so she should take this list to her local nursery for advice.) But for those of you with a more northern region, many of these suggestions should work for the places in your garden where your flowers must be “made in the shade.”

I’ve also marked a few I’ve found that come recommended but are only fit for Megs’ zone.



Holboellia (holboellia latifolia)
Zone 9
– Full sun to full shade
Evergreen, many fingered leaves of this vigorous twiner create a dense cover punctuated by bell-shaped, fragrant, violet-tinged flowers in spring. Grows to 30 ft.

Epimedium (epimedium leptorrhizum)
Zones 6 – 9 Part shade. Grows to 10 in. tall by 18 in. wide.
In time, this creeping evergreen develops patches of stems with attractively veined, prickle-toothed leaflets. Its long-spurred flowers open in spring and early summer.

Large Periwinkle (vinca major ‘Variegata’)
Zones 7 – 9. Part shade.  This fast growing, scrambling evergreen forms blankets of striking, paired, creamy white-margined leaves. Pale blue flowers appear from late spring through summer.


Lungwort (pulmonaria)

Lungwort (pulmonaria)
Zones 3 – 9. Part to full shade.
‘Leopard’ variety has violet-red flowers. A good groundcover with clumps of semi-evergreen, roughly hairy, white-spotted leaves. Clusters of tubular, blue and pink flowers appear in spring. It will self-seed. Grows to 12″ tall and 24 ” wide.

Wild Sweet William (Phlox maculata ‘Alpha’)
Zones 3 to 9. Full sun to part shade. Grows to 36″ tall and 24″ wide.
This produces erect clumps of leafy stems bearing large heads of fragrant pink flowers in summer. It has glossy, mildew resistant leaves.

Common Periwinkle (vinca minor ‘Argenteovariegata’)
Zones 4 to 9.
Full sun to shade

Black scallop ajuga

Black Scallop Ajuga (ajuga reptans) - photo from my garden

Bugleweed: Black scallop ajuga (Ajuga reptans)
Zones 3 to 9. Part to full shade.
This excellent groundcover bears dark blue flower spikes.
6″ high x indefinite spread.

Rodgersia (rodgersia pinnata ‘Superba’)
Zones 5 to 8.
Part to full shade
This vigorous clump former has the dual attractions of bold, fingered, veiny leaves, bronze-purple when young, and conical, rich pink flower plumes in summer. 4 ft high by 30″ wide.

Wild Cranesbill (geranium macrorrhizum)
Zones 3 to 8
. Part to full shade
A first rate carpeter with lobed, aromatic, semievergreen leaves that become purple-tinted in autumn. It bears small, profuse, magenta flowers during early summer. 12″ high by 24″ wide.


Foamflower (tiarella)

Allegheny Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Zones 3 to 8
. Part to full shade, 10″ high by 12″ wide
A reliable old favorite especially pretty in late spring when foamy spires of white flowers rise above the foliage. The leaves are often tinted bronze-red in autumn.

Cyclamen (repandum subsp. peloponnesiacum)
Zones 7 to 9.
Part to full shade

Mock strawberry (duchesnea indica)
Zones 4 to 9
. Part to full shade,

Epimedium (epimedium pinnatum subs. cochicum)
Zones 4 to 10.
Part to full shade

Green and Gold, Golden Star (chrysogonum virginianum)
Zones 5 to 8
. Part to full shade

Glaucidium (Glaucidium palmatum)
Zones 6 to 9.
Part to full shade
This lovely woodlander produces a clump of large, attractively lobed and toothed leaves. In late spring and early summer, it bears poppylike mauve or lilac flowers.

Double Bloodroot

Double Bloodroot

Double Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Plena’)
Zones 3 to 9.
Part to full shade
Lovely white blooms open in early spring as leaves appear. The lobed, gray-green leaves are loosely rolled around the stem upon emergence. Dies down by summer.

Globe Flower

Globe flower (trollius ledebourii)

Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium) - photo from my garden

Jacob’s Ladder (polemonium)

Climbing hydrangea

Climbing hydrangea vine – hydrangea petiolaris – part to full shade
Slow to establish: “First year it sleeps, second year it creeps, third year it leaps!”  This is my third year since I planted it, so here’s hoping I get some leaping this year!

Climbing Hydrangea boasts an exceptional vining or shrub-like habit. “There is no better climbing vine,” says Donald Wyman, respected American authority on woody plants. Truly spectacular when in flower in midsummer, it climbs without support on walls, arbors, or trees, reaching 60 to 80 feet.

Its white flowers, rich green foliage, striking exfoliating bark, and shrub-like growth create all-season interest. This plant needs no support to grow upward — so you don’t have to worry about tying the vine! Just give it a wall, arbor, or other structure to grow against, and up it goes!

Also effective as a groundcover, Climbing Hydrangea is easy, carefree, and very long-lived. It can be somewhat slow to establish, but once settled in, it makes excellent growth each year. Zones 4-8.




No matter where you live, whether you make your home in the snowy American Heartland, warm subtropical Florida, the frozen mountains of Maine, sunny southern California, or the moist Pacific Northwest, you can grow Helleborus x hybridus, the ‘Lenten Rose’, like these in your own backyard. Even if you believe that you’re cursed with a “Black Thumb”, you will succeed. That’s how easy they are. Not only will they grace your table with beautiful cut flowers, they’ll provide color in your landscape at a time when there virtually is none. And….they’re such long lived perennials that they’ll still be thriving when they plant you in the ground. [More…]

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum)

Bugbane (Cimicifuga)


Virgin's Bower Clematis - photo from my garden

Virgin’s Bower Clematis

This clematis grows well in shade!


Astilbe - photo from my garden


Summersweet Clethra

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice' (Summersweet Clethra)

Clethra alnifolia Ruby Summersweet (shrub)


Beacon Silver Spotted Lamium

Spotted Lamium (lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’)
Zones 3 to 8.
Part to full shade. 8 in. tall by 3 ft. wide
An excellent groundcover forming carpets of toothed, silvery, green-margined, semi-evergreen leaves. Clusters of pretty, pale pink flowers are produced during summer.

Ligularia Desdemona

Lobelia cardinalis Ruby Slipper

Hylomecon Japonica

Hylomecon (hylomecon japonica)
Zones 5 to 8.

This charming poppy relative is excellent in shade, especially as a groundcover. Part to full shade, grows to 12 in. square.

Strawberry Geranium (saxifraga stonlonifera)
Zones 3 to 9.
Part to full shade

Good luck!