Not everyone has a sunny backyard, and that’s an ideal location for low light outdoor plants. A shaded area can be transformed into a lush, green growing oasis if the right plants are selected.
If you don’t have sunshine in your landscape all day, that’s not a problem. You can still have green plants and flowers that will add color, texture and value to your landscape. These low light plants for outdoors will grow beautifully in a shady backyard.
Colorful begonias (semperflorens-cultorum) are a shade garden staple and one of the best plants to grow in a shady backyard. This annual plant has broad leaves that can be glossy green, bronze or red with clusters of flowers in red, pink or white. Begonias will reach a mature height of about 12 inches and about half as wide. Plants are heat tolerant and like moist soil. Can be grown in containers.
2- Bleeding Heart
Bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is an early blooming perennial that is an ideal shade garden plant. The plant will produce long, arching stems which will have pink or red blooms hanging from them. The blooms are heart-shaped and have an elongated bottom that looks like a tiny drop of blood. Great plant for hanging baskets.
Bleeding heart will bloom from spring until mid-summer. When temperature rise, the plant will die back even when it’s planted in full shade. Plant will reach a mature height and width of two feet.
Small plants with big impacts in shady areas, coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) have brightly colored foliage that range in color from shades of pale green to deep Burgundy.
Plants are annuals and come in a wide range of mature sizes and leaf size. Coleus are adaptable to most soil conditions and are easy to incorporate into any shade garden theme. Ideal for border plants or filler plants, coleus can also be grown in containers. Keep top pinched off plant so it will produce lateral branches. Coleus will retain their leaf color throughout the summer.
4- Dogwood Tree
Small growing understory tree that thrives in the shade of tall hardwood trees. Dogwood trees (Cornus nuttallii) produce stunning white, pink or red blooms in spring before the tree leafs out in spring. Blooms appear in early spring and last for about one month.
Fall foliage is crimson red, and clusters of small red berries will remain on the tree after leaf drop. The berries attract a birds and squirrels. Slow growing Dogwood trees will reach a mature size of 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
5- Dutchman’s Pipe
This unusual plant will produce dense foliage and showy 2 inch long yellowish-green trumpet shaped blooms that have a purple center in the spring. Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia tomentosa) natural habitat is wooded area near a water source and an ideal shade tolerant plant for moist, low-lying areas near a water source.
The vine is a fast growing perennial that will reach a mature length of 30 feet. After flowers fade, the vine will produce long seed pods that turn grayish brown in fall. This shade loving vine is a favorite source of nectar for butterflies and is often grown to cover a pergola.
6- Flowering Quince
This is a hardy flowering shrub that will grow to reach a mature size of around 10 feet tall and wide, but can be pruned to desired size. It’s a drought tolerant shrub that will adapt to most soil types.
Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) is a deciduous shrub that produces showy flowers in the late winter and early spring when little else is blooming. Bloom colors include red, pink and white, and blooms are followed by fragrant yellow fruit. The quince fruit is edible and typically used to make jam.
7- Foam Flower
Spikes of two feet tall white blooms emerge from attractive three-pronged foliage and give the appearance of the plant being covered with foam. Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a hardy perennial that will thrive in a shady backyard, producing both floral beauty and fragrance during the spring.
The plant will reach a mature height of around 6 inches and is often used as a ground cover for shady areas. It’s fast growing and will quickly fill in bare spots in a shade garden if the soil remains moist.
Hydrangeas (Saxifragaceae) grow into large shrubs that produce huge blooms that are the size of diner plate. The large, round blooms are made up of many small blooms and are ideal for use as cut flowers and dried flowers. Blooms appear in mid-summer and colors range from pink, blue, purple, and white. Shrub can be prune to desired size and will grow to around 8 feet tall and wide if left unpruned.
Hydrangeas enjoy semi-shaded areas where the soil remains moist. The shrub grows best in acidic soil and bloom color will vary depending on the pH level of the soil. This shade loving plant also produces large, attractive leaves and comes in evergreen or deciduous varieties.
Also known as Jewelweed, Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) is one of the best plants for shade. Hardy in most growing areas and adaptable to most soil conditions, impatiens are low growing plants that will create mounds of colorful flowers during the later winter and early spring.
These plants will provide bright color in shady areas and require no maintenance. Ideal for borders or baskets.
10- Lady Fern
Low growing plant that has light green foliage and fiddle-heads in shade of red. One of the most prized low light plants, Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) are often found growing in-between taller shrubs and trees in shady woodland areas.
Lady fern will quickly reach its mature size of 2 feet tall and equally as wide. This shade lover enjoys loamy soil and moisture. Easy to grow in containers or hanging baskets. Some fern fronds will grow straight up, and others will grow sideways and spill over the side of a container.