These flowers that grow in the shade are perfect for a front-porch planter, hanging baskets under a tree, or to fill in empty spaces in the garden while perennials, shrubs, and trees grow in. Annuals provide a whole season of colour and these beauties are so decorative that they will make you forget all about the sun!
Often when the gardening season begins, we are eager to get the instant and long-lasting colour of annuals. It can be disappointing if you have a shady garden because most of the annuals available require full sun to bloom and keep blooming.
In my first few years of gardening, I often had some dark shady spots I wanted to add some brightness in the short term with annuals but I found them hard to find. Walking through the nursery was just flat after flat of sun-loving annuals, but none for shade! So I went on the hunt for those that would tolerate the shade and really add some colour to those shady spots.
My efforts were rewarded and, over the years, I have found plenty of annuals for shade that thrive in the darkest corners of my garden while giving me a resplendent display of flowers and colour.
13 Types of Foliage and Flowers that Grow in the Shade
1. Sweet Alyssum
One of the sweetest smelling flowers that grow in shade, sweet alyssum can sure handle the heat. Drought tolerant, sweet alyssum grows in shady dry spots, a difficult place to get any colour. Their small clusters of flowers do well when planted in bunches. Pollinators love them!
Begonias are one of the most well-known flowering plants for shade and come in an array of colours. Their blooms can be frilly or flat, big or small, and they thrive in containers or shady garden beds. Begonias are deer-resistant so if you have an area that you can’t keep those pesky deer out of, consider planting begonias there. Grow them in well-amended soil with good drainage and deadhead regularly.
3. Polka Dot Plant
Depending on where you live, you may have seen polka dot plants in the houseplant section. However, they also make for a great shade annual due to their vibrant white, pink, or red leaves. Adding in some attractive foliage will help to brighten up dark, shady places. And come fall, feel free to dig them up and care for them inside as the weather gets colder.
These sweet flowers are a garden staple for a reason. They are extremely hardy, come in a wide range of sizes and colours, and they are even edible. Pansies are low maintenance and just require regular watering and deadheading.
5. Sweet Potato Vine
Another shade annual known for its foliage, the sweet potato vine is not the same vegetable you may find on your dinner table. In fact, it’s an ornamental annual known for its chartreuse or burgundy leaves. The vines grow long quickly, making for an excellent addition to hanging baskets and containers. They quickly fill up the area and add an almost tropical feel to your garden.
Impatiens grow as mounding shrubs covered with flowers in red, pink, purple, or white. They are a great choice for containers, hanging baskets, or border plants. Plant them in a shady spot after the danger of frost has passed for the season and water frequently.
When you’re thinking of annual flowers for shade, don’t forget the ones that come from seed! Stock can be difficult to find at times in garden centres, but the seeds are much more readily available.
A fragrant spring-blooming flower, stock adds a little bit of height and a ton of colour. Due to their sturdy stem, they make for a strong and long-lasting cut flower. If you feel like bringing some blooms indoors, consider stock!
These tiny spreading flowers are usually deep blue but also come in pink, white, and red. Lobelia like partial shade and make an excellent ground cover. They also look stunning in hanging baskets as they will spill over the edges. Lobelia typically grows in full sun but will tolerate shade because they are so hardy and easy to grow. You will get fewer flowers, but they produce so many that you won’t miss them.
If you’re looking for a flower that blooms all summer long in the shade, browallia may be calling your name! Found in pure white, purple, or blue flowers, they are a low-maintenance flower that does well with partial shade.
Good for containers or hanging baskets, browallia cascades down and easily fills up space with their small and abundant flowers. Native to Southern America, they like the heat.
Snapdragons, so-called because their flowers resemble tiny mouths that snap open and closed, have tall flower spikes that come in practically every colour of the rainbow. There are dwarf and tall varieties to fit different garden needs. Snapdragons make wonderful filler plants for garden beds or containers. Plant them in partial shade to lengthen their blooming season.
Also known as wishbone flowers, these bright flowers remind me of snapdragons and foxglove. Their trumpet flowers grow approximately 7 to 12 inches tall, fitting well in most shady beds. They bloom mid-summer to fall, offering some blooms after the initial burst of summer colour. Torenia comes in purple, yellow, pink, and white.
Fuchsia produces exotic-looking, frilly, dangling flowers in shades of pinks, purples, whites, and reds, ranging from pastels to deep, bold hues. They are beautiful trailing down from hanging baskets and come in many different sizes, as well as bush and climbing varieties. There’s a fuchsia for every garden!
No list of shade annuals would be complete without coleus! This fun plant grows some of the most interesting leaves, coming in variations of green, maroon, red, pink, and yellow. They grow quickly and are sure to fill a bed, container, or basket.
At the end of the season, be sure to take a few cuttings and propagate them in water. They will easily grow inside during the winter and then you can plant the cuttings again next summer!
Looking for something longer lasting than an annual? Consider some of these perennials and shrubs that grow well in the shade.
Did I miss any of your favourite annual flowers that grow in the shade? Let me know in the comments down below what you grow in your shady zones.
Nice post! But, oops, the pic for impatiens isnt! It’s periwinkle/vinca. I’m just now, after 50 years of gardening, exploring tuberous begonias. They’re so beautiful!
Hi Ginny, thanks for your note! The best way to tell impatiens and vinca apart is to see where they are growing, right? Vincas love sun while impatiens are shady lovers. Also the leaves are different so I went through some photos to find one that showed the leaves (updated). Vincas have dark green, elongated, smooth leaves. Impatiens have more rounded, serrated leaves. The flowers very similar though!
The Deer wiped out my begonias on the front porch last summer, so I wouldn’t call them deer-resistant! I would never have believed it, but our front camera caught it! 😂
Again, a look forward to Warm and a Bigger veggie garden this year. Your newsletter gives us hope those times are a’comin’.
Incidently, my lilac bushes are too many years to know old , dug up at my childhood home in MIchigan and transported haphazardly to my home in Wisconsin. We threw them in the ground where they have given me many beautiful blooms for the last 20. Probably 100 years old–if that is possible. At least 90 because that’s how old I am, and as a child playing store I would pick the blooms, put in a cup and “sell” them as “groceries” whenever I could get my brothers to be customers. Thank you for all that you do for us to make our daily lives so lovely.
Love your story! Never see Lilac growing West Texas. My Grandmother had Lilac bushes in her flower garden. They smell the sweetest.