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Shade Perennial Gardens: Shade Garden Ideas

Astilbe 'Younique Salmon'

Shade perennial gardens.

Adding colour to your shade gardens with perennials and brightening the darker areas in your yard.

I love perennials; you can plant them and enjoy their beauty all season without a lot of fuss.


Container Perennials for Shade

Perennials in containers are a great focal point on a deck or patio. So why not use them for shady areas too.

If you have a covered gazebo or deck that gets very little sun you can have a few containers of perennials sitting around to brighten up the area.

Any of the perennials that you put in the ground can be used in containers. 

To over winter them in pots, put them somewhere out of the wind so the roots don’t dry out and wrap the pots in burlap for some extra insulation.

I have many plants in pots that I over winter and as long as they don’t dry out they come back in the spring.

If that sounds like a lot of work, you can just treat them as annuals and throw them away at the end of the season. Replacing them each spring gives you, new and exciting shade perennial gardens.



Shade Loving Perennials That Attract Pollinators

If you think that bees, butterflies and other pollinators are only attracted to sun loving plants than think again.

They are attracted to the colours of the blooms and if a pollinator is flying by a perennial in shade it will stop and visit it. 

Here are some examples of the flower colour that pollinators are attracted to:

Bees are attracted to blues, purples, whites and yellows. 

Butterflies like whites, pinks, purples, reds, yellows and oranges. 

Hummingbirds are more attracted to reds but also like yellows, oranges, pinks and purples.


If you want to attract pollinators to your shade garden there are a lot of perennials you can use. Just remember to think of the colour of the flowers.

Here are a few perennials you can add to your shade perennial garden:

  • Astilbe
  • Bleeding hearts
  • Hostas
  • Coral bells
  • Hellebore
  • Bee balm
  • Mint
  • Bellflower
  • Yarrow

These are just a few shade perennials that pollinators will visit in shade. 


Shade Perennial Gardens Varieties

There are numerous shade loving perennials that will add colour, style and texture to your garden.

Below I have listed the ones that I offer in my plant nursery. They will bloom great in shade and are low maintenance plants.


Astilbe(Astilbe)

Astilbe 'Younique Salmon'

This shade loving plant has colourful bloom stalks held way above dark green leaves. 

It's deer resistant, attracts lots of pollinators and grows about 3' tall and wide.


Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra)

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra)

Bleeding hearts love full shade but they can handle a little sun. They bloom from spring until early summer and then die back to the ground.

If you want colour during the spring and summer it's a good idea to plant other shade perennials around them so when they die back you will have something else flowering.


Brunnera (Brunnera)

Brunnera macrophylla 'Alexander's Great'

A lot of people tell me they are tired of Hostas and want something else. This is a good replacement if you want texture among your shade perennial gardens.

It's slow spreading and doesn't get very tall, about 12" or so but the leaves can get up to a foot in length.


Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Similar to Astilbe but in a different family, Goat's Beard has tall white plums that stand above the foliage.

It can get up to 6' tall and wide and loves full shade. It grows best in moist soil and looks really good around a pond or along a river bank.


Hosta (Hosta)

Hosta (Hosta)

One of the easiest plants to grow in shade, Hostas are the choice of many for their low maintenance and varieties.

They look great among any other plant in the garden and they range in size from very large to just a few a few inches.


Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

A very early spring bloomer, Lungwort is becoming popular again in the shade garden. It will grow to about 14" tall with the flower stalk and adds a nice texture to a shady area.

It's a slow spreader and is great for ground cover.


Spiderwort (Tradescantia)

Spiderwort (Tradescantia)

Spiderwort can be grown in full shade to full sun but must stay moist if planted in full sun.

It will grow between 12-24" tall and it will self seed to fill in areas that need some colour and texture.


Bergenia (Bergenia)

Bergenia (Bergenia)

Another great substitute for Hostas and perfect for a shady area, Bergenia will get about 12" tall and wide.

It blooms in early spring and is evergreen with the leaves turning a reddish colour over winter.


Shade Perennial Garden Clean Up and Pruning

Cleaning up and pruning your perennials needs to be done in order to keep them free of pests and diseases and stops them from spreading.

Plus it makes the garden look a lot cleaner.

Cutting back the perennials in fall is great for a cleaner looking garden but you will lose any winter interest the plants will give.

Leaving the foliage on until spring will also help with food and shelter for wildlife.

However, there are a few perennials that should be cut back in fall to stop the spread of diseases.

Below is a list of which plants should be cleaned up in fall vs. which should be cleaned up in spring.


Late Fall / Early Winter Clean up

  • Bearded Iris
  • Salvia
  • Bee Balm
  • Lemon Balm
  • Blanket Flower
  • Penstemons
  • Catmint
  • Daylilies
  • Yarrow
  • Peonies
  • Veronica

Spring Clean Up

  • Aster
  • Daisy
  • Astilbe
  • Balloon Flower
  • Foxglove
  • Black Eyed Susan
  • Tickseed
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Coneflower
  • Coral Bells
  • Dianthus
  • Blazing Star (Gayfeather)
  • Hosta
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Lamb’s Ear
  • Lavender
  • Russian Sage
  • Salvia
  • Sedum

This is a good list to start with. If your perennial isn’t listed here you can make your own judgment. If it looks like it has a fungal disease or decaying badly you can cut it back in fall.



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