Purple Perennial Shade PLant

Top 5 Perennials for Shade

Because perennials are the workhorse of the garden, coming back year after year, it’s a great idea to plan your beds to highlight them. But what if your garden is primarily shady, receiving less than a couple hours of sunlight each day? No worries — there are countless perennials that prefer the shade, and brighten up even the darkest of garden beds.

While many perennials grow well in a wide variety of USDA Hardiness Zones, you’ll want to seek advice from your local trusted garden center for the varieties that work best for your particular area. Still unsure? Check out our Top 5 Perennials for Shade and see if one — or all — work for you.

  1. Ajuga (Ajuga spp.): This tiny groundcover does its magic close to the ground — 6” above it, to be exact. It’s hardy from zones 3-9, and in warmer climates, it’s often evergreen. Leaves are dark purple, green, or variegated with blue, pink, or white flowers. Look for ‘Black Scallop,’ ‘Golden Glow,’ ‘Bronze Beauty,’ or my favorite, ‘Chocolate Chip.’
  2. Hosta (Hosta spp.): Hostas, also known as plantain lily, is one of the shining stars of the shade garden. Its clumping habit, rounded or almost heart-shaped leaves, and lush growth makes them a gardener’s favorite. Leaves are blue, green, gold, white, or chartreuse — many with variegated markings. Hardy from zones 3-8, hostas grow anywhere from 6” across to several feet in diameter. ‘Blue Mouse Ears,’ ‘Stained Glass,’ and ‘Pandora’s Box’ are stunning varieties to try.
  3. Hellebore (Helleborus spp.): Also called Lenten Rose, hellebores grow up to 12” tall from zones 4-9. One of the earliest of the perennials to poke its head out in late winter or early spring, hellebores have gold, green, or chartreuse foliage with cup-shaped flowers in tones of burgundy, pink, white, or green. ‘Royal Heritage,’ ‘Ivory Prince,’ ‘Apricot Blush,’ and ‘Ruse Black’ are particularly beautiful.
  4. Astilbe (Astilbe spp.): Astilbe, or False Spirea, grows up to 4’ tall depending on variety, and features fine foliage with fluffy, plumelike flowers in shades ranging from white to burgundy. This early summer bloomer is happy in zones 4-9, and handles dappled morning sun like a pro. Look for ‘Fanal,’ ‘Deutschland,’ ‘Sprite,’ and ‘Purple Blaze.
  5. Lilyturf (Liriope spicata): Lilyturf, or liriope, is a valuable groundcover prized for its strappy foliage in tones of green, white, and silver. Added benefits are blue or white flowers, dark berries in autuman, and deer and rabbit resistance. Liriope grows up to 12” tall in zones 5-10, being evergreen in milder climates. Try ‘Majestic,’ ‘Silver Dragon,’ ‘Lilac Beauty,’ or ‘Variegata.’
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