9 colorful plants that thrive in shade

Updated Apr 8, 2022

Interspecific Impatiens Bounce White 16059 Selecta

Just like people, some plants like to sunbathe while others prefer to take it easy in the shade. But not all shade is created equal. Even in the most heavily shaded landscapes, conditions can vary greatly. 

It's important to look at an entire day's conditions before making planting decisions. 

In addition, evaluate moisture levels. Dry shade, which occurs under trees, awnings, or building overhangs, can be challenging to manage. 

While hostas and ferns are reliable shade standbys, consider these less-utilized plants and new varieties for adding color, texture, and interest to dark corners of the garden.

Eye-catching foliage

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Coral Bells (Heuchera)
Mounded perennial with heart-shaped leaves. Small flower spikes in spring to summer attract hummingbirds and butterflies. No deadheading required. Dolce series offers Key Lime Pie with chartreuse foliage. Other varieties include Brazen Raisin with purple-black leaves with red undersides and Cinnamon Curls with reddish foliage. Grows 8 to 16 inches high, 10 to 14 inches wide.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 4

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Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
Varieties of coleus offer an array of brilliant colors and textures. Color Blaze Sedona sports orange lobed foliage that’s amazing in mass plantings or as an accent, while Dream Catcher has unusual lacy foliage. Lime Delight is a brilliant green that contrasts well with other plantings. Generally heat tolerant. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 10

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Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes sanguinolenta)
An older variety that is seeing a resurgence of interest for its unique spotted leaves and reliable performance in the landscape. Low maintenance. Confetti Pink, Rose, Red and White provide several color options for mass plantings. Grows 4 to 8 inches high, 4 to 6 inches wide.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 10

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Flowers (Annuals)

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Begonias (Begonia x. hybrida)
Begonias are reliable performers under an array of conditions, and none so more than the Dragon Wing series. They’re nearly perfect: maintenance-free, heat tolerant, glossy foliage and season-long flowering until frost. Dragon Wing is available in red and pink (12 to 15 inches tall,18 inches wide) while the newer Baby Wing series (same height, 10 to 12 inches wide) is available in pink or white. Works equally well in beds or containers.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 9

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Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri and Impatiens hybrida)
With impatiens walleriana flattened by downy mildew, other varieties have increased in popularity. New Guinea Impatiens Divine series are available in Blue Pearl, Burgundy, Cherry Red, Lavender, Orange, Orange Bronze Leaf, Pink, Scarlet Bronze Leaf, Scarlet Red, Violet and White Blush. New Guinea grow 10 to 14 inches high, 12 to 14 inches wide. Hybrids grow 14 to 30 inches tall, 14 to 36 inches wide.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 10

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Wishbone Flower (Torenia hybrid)
Heat tolerant with snapdragon-like flowers all season long. Trails up to 24 inches in hanging baskets, window boxes and containers. Catalina series comes in Midnight Blue (deep purple flowers with yellow throats), Gilded Grape (yellow with deep purple throats) or new Grape-o-Licious (white with purple throats).

• Hardy to USDA Zone 10

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Perennials

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Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum)
A solid performer that’s underutilized. Spreading habit. Heat tolerant. No deadheading required. Pink Chablis has frothy silver and green foliage with pink flowers. Ghost has silver foliage and purple flowers. Grows 6 to 12 inches high, 24 inches wide.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 4

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Foamflower (Tiarella)
Native woodland evergreen perennial that has feathery green leaves with deep red to purple centers. Looks good in borders, as edging or in a mass planting. Jade Peacock stays contained in dense clump and can be grown in dappled to full shade. Grows 8 to 10 inches high, 15 to 20 inches wide.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 4

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Ligularia (Ligularia hybrid)
Strong grower has attractive large, serrated leaves. Bottle Rocket has mounded habit with mustard yellow spiked flowers in summer. Prefers cool, moist conditions and steady moisture. Does not like hot afternoon sun. Grows 28 to 34 inches tall, 24 to 28 inches wide.

• Hardy to USDA Zone 4

 

 

 

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