7 Perennials That Thrive In The Shade

Do you want to have a beautiful yard filled with plants that will add character, but you have no sun because your entire yard is covered with trees? Do you have a back covered patio that’s in need of some refreshing and updating? Well, we at Garden Valley Farmers Market have got you covered with our seven favorite perennials that will absolutely THRIVE in the shade, and leave your house looking like a home for years to come.


Here are our top seven shade perennial picks:

autumn fern with red and green leaves

Autumn Ferns
The Autumn Fern is a great choice to add some color dimension to your perennial collection. They have a beautiful coppery red foliage in the spring that turns a rich kelly green color by the summer. These plants like to be in well-draining, moist soil, but be careful that it does not receive too much water, as it can be prone to root-rot. Overall, these plants are easy going, but are slow growing. To protect them from frost during the winter months, we recommend adding a layer (about one to two inches) of mulch or compost to protect the roots.

bugleweed at local garden nursery
bugleweed with purple blossom
flower stalk of bugleweed

Bugleweed makes an excellent ground cover, filled with a gorgeous blue/purple flowers that bloom in May/June. It is also commonly used for medicinal purposes, which you can read about here. Bugleweed is a great way to add color to your shade garden, but be careful where you plant it, because it is an invasive plant and can easily take over your entire garden if not careful.

coral bells at local farmers market
tiny blooms of coral bells

Coral Bells (Alumroot)
Available in a wide array of colors, Coral Bells have tall, bell shaped blooms that show themselves in late spring/early summer. They are often found in mountainous, woodland, and prairie areas. They have subtle bloom colors of white, pink, and red that attract butterflies, bees, and some hummingbirds. And they have a beautiful foliage color of bronze and purple. These plants, like the Autumn Fern, do well in moist, well-draining soil.

lace cap pink hydrangeas
blue lacecap hydrangea
purple lace cap hydrangeas
purple/blue hydrangea bloom

With a wide variety to choose from, Hydrangeas are a perfect option for your shaded garden if you’re wanting to add beautiful, show-stopping color. Most varieties of Hydrangeas do require some morning sun, as the sun in the afternoon may be too hot for them. Did you know you can even change the color of the blooms? Alkaline soil makes pink blooms, and acidic soil makes blue/purple blooms. Regular watering may be required on really hot days, but a fresh watering will perk them up and leave them spreading joy to you all summer long (and sometimes even into the fall).

green japanese holly fern
hand holding japanese holly fern

Japanese Holly Fern
The Japanese Holly Fern is a very hardy fern that embodies glossy, dark green leaflets. It remains an evergreen in mild winters, and remains a perfect choice for your ground cover or or border edging in your shade garden. Japanese Holly Ferns can grow up to two feet tall and three feet wide, so be sure to keep the mature plant in mind and allow for plenty of room to grow. And like the Autumn Ferns, they also like evenly moist, well-draining soil.

hosta bloom
sage green host

As a very low maintenance plant, Hosta is another great option if you’re wanting to provide rich beautiful foliage. And with an amazingly wide variety of sizes, colors, and textures, you have many options to pick from! Hostas will even produce flowers in the summer that tantalize the hummingbirds and bees, attracting them to garden.

zoomed in of dictum japanese painted fern
pictum japanese painted fern at garden center
pictum japanese painted fern up close

Pictum Japanese Painted Fern
With a beautiful blue-green foliage and silver edging, these low maintenance ferns will also add some color dimension to your shade garden. They can grow up to two feet tall and 2 feet wide. Pictum Ferns would make a great border around a fish pond, or even at the edge of your Hydrangeas.


We have any of these options available at our locations at Garden Valley Farmers Market, North Carolina. We hope that this will excite you with the inspiration you need for your shade garden. Here are a few of our favorite shade landscapes that we think will inspire you even more: