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Flowers for Shade

Aug 05, 2019

While it is easy to find showy blooms for our sunny garden spots, finding color for our shadier garden spots can feel limiting. There are many great foliage plants for shade, but a lack of sun doesn’t mean your garden should lack the charm of seasonal blooms.

When selecting flowering shrubs for shade, all too often gardeners rely too heavily on the commonly used azalea. Azaleas, when used in moderation, can be a versatile plant for the garden, coming in many colors and sizes, with the added advantage of having a winter presence. To add variety to a garden, a good alternative would be the pieris (also known as Japanese andromeda). Pieris, like azaleas, are flowering, evergreen shrubs that thrive in shade. In spring, pieris are adorned with gracefully drooping clusters of small white or pink flowers. Of course, another great shade bloomer is azalea’s close cousin, the rhododendron. With broader leaves than azaleas, rhododendrons have similarly showy flowers, though can be slightly fickler. Once rhododendrons become established however, they become quite easy to care for.

If your shady spot could use a shrub but does not require an evergreen, hydrangeas are, of course, a favorite of many. Ranging in bloom types from the old-fashioned, round flower heads, to the more delicate, flat flower clusters of the lacecap, hydrangeas offer color to brighten shady locations with numerous varieties to choose from. Another great, deciduous shade plant is the itea. Itea is a Virginia-native shrub with slender spires of white flowers that attract pollinators in spring.

For a lower tier of plants, perennials such as toadlily, with flowers that sport spotted purple and white petals, and astilbe, with colorful, fat, fluffy plumes of flowers, both add cheer and interest while needing only limited amounts of sun. Pulmonaria is another great shade perennial and has brightly colored pink and purple flowers. Hellebores make for a nice addition to shady spots and bloom in winter when not much else does. For a bolder impact, try planting Ligularia ‘The Rocket’. This large-growing ligularia has erect spikes of bright yellow blooms that can grow as tall as five feet and can brighten even the darkest nook of a garden.

If annuals are your thing, begonias and impatiens are tried and true, giving color to less sunny spots all season long. For variety try alternatives such as torenia or fuchsia.

        While many flowering plants thrive in six or more hours of sun, gardeners should not feel as if a lack of sun equates to a lack of flowers. Whether is it through shrubs, perennials or annuals, your shadier garden spots needn’t rely solely on the interest of foliage plants. Brightening those dim corners of your garden with flowers will allow seasonal interest and the pollinators will thank you too.