Top Five Shade Loving Plants for a Summer Garden

Imagine this… You’ve just moved into a home with tall shade trees surrounding the property. Those big hardwoods provide plenty of privacy and protection from the sun, but there go all of your plans for that sunny perennial garden.

Never fear, m’dears! I have been in your shoes, and I’m here to shine some light on the darkest parts of your yard.

Finding the right plants for a shady garden can be a challenge, but there are plenty other shade-loving plants besides just lichen and moss.

Today I’m going to share some of my very favorite shade-loving plants.  Ready? Here we go…

Summer Wave Blue Torenia

Summer Blue Wave Torenia

This pretty little plant is not one that immediately comes to mind when most folks think of shade plants, but I absolutely LOVE it. I recently bought a Torenia to hang in the corner of my screened-in back porch, and those delicate purple blossoms make me smile every time I step outside.

It’s a trailing plant, so it looks great hanging baskets or as a spiller in your planters. I combined Torenia along with Hosta and Creeping Jenny in my stacked galvanized bucket planters a few years ago, and they looked gorgeous together in the shady part of my yard.

Hosta (aka Plantain Lilies)

Speaking of hostas… they are a MUST HAVE for every shady yard. Hostas make such a huge impact, they are easy to grow and they come back bigger and better each year. Plus, it’s very hard to kill a hosta (unless you plant it in full sun).

Hostas come in all types of varieties, some are variegated and others are solid. Some are small and other are HUGE. Their colors range from a bright chartreuse yellowish-green to a dusty blue-green and everything in between. They mound beautifully and look amazing lined up around a flower bed as border plants or in a circle around the base of trees and shrubs.

My very favorites are the blue-ish green ones, such as the Blue Angel Hosta, which is planted out on my back porch as well. This is a baby hosta that I separated out from a bigger plant last year, so it’s not as thick as I’d like him to be just yet. He will get there eventually, though. Hosta plants multiply each year, so you can divide them up and replant them in different areas of your yard.

Blue Hosta in a planter with metal fleur-di-lis

Wondering when is the best time of year to divide your hostas? You can split them in Spring or Fall when the weather is cool and the plants are dormant for winter.

Endless Summer Hydrangeas

If you’re looking for a hardy plant that flowers profusely in the shade, this one is a proven winner. Hydrangeas are my absolute favorite flower because they are huge balls of happy purple/pink/periwinkle colored blooms that look OUTSTANDING in flower arrangements.

They can withstand a bit of sun, but they do just fine in full or dappled shade. These shrubs can grow quite big after a few years, so be sure to plant them in a spot where they can grow without having to be trimmed back.

You can easily alter the color of your hydrangeas by changing the pH balance of the soil around them. To get a more blue colored hydrangea, you can buy a bag of this Soil Acidifier at your local hardware store and sprinkle just a little bit around the base of the plant. Click here to purchase soil acidifier for bluer hydrangeas. 

Boston Ferns

Of course, ferns are gonna make this list. Because even though they do not put out a single bloom, there is nothing better than a big wrap-around front porch with a row of ferns hanging from the ceiling, amiright? They add TONS of texture and do well in pots and containers so you can pop them in and out of areas that need some extra Ooomph.

Boston ferns are also hard to kill- just make sure to give them plenty of water and they will be fine until the frost comes. They are an annual in most zones, so you’ll have to replace them each year, but they are pretty cheap for the amount of impact you get from them all summer long.

Caladiums and Elephant Ears

Caladiums and their giant cousins, Elephant Ears, are my fifth and final pick for top shade-loving plants. I choose these because they are very easy to grow and look great in the shade.   Caladiums look a lot like miniature elephant ears, but these little guys come in forty-leven different varieties with colors ranging from white to pink to red to yellow.

I have loved elephant ears my entire life. I can remember being five years old and making “burritos” with friends by rolling up mud inside her mom’s elephant ears. I have grown them at almost every house I’ve owned, and they always do great.  They are also plants that multiply quickly like hosta, so you will have plenty to break off and move around the yard or give them away to your friends as a gift. Here in Zone 7b (Alabama) they can get HUGE and are perennial plants last from spring to late fall, but I’ve heard they are harder to grow in colder climates, so your mileage may vary.

Here are my very first elephant ears that I planted at our first house. These eventually got tall enough to cover the bottom of those windows above. They grow like wildfire for me.

elephant ears

So, there you go! Those are my absolute shady favorites.

What plants do you like to grow in the shade? Are there any that I must add to my favorites list?  Leave me a comment and let me know. 🙂

Top Five Shade Loving Plants for Your Garden

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Speak Your Mind



  1. Kelly W. says:

    I love elephant ears! I remember them growing in my Grandma’s yard when I was a kid. I’ve never planted them. Maybe now is the time!

  2. Joy Shanor says:

    This is perfect! I’ve been trying to decide what I want to plant in my semi-new, extremely bare front and back yards. I live in NW Florida so there’s plenty of heat & humidity to work with (similar to what you have in AL). My front yard gets full sun but my back yard gets lots of shade so this will help me with my back porch and back yard. And elephant ears always remind me of my grandmother’s house…hers were HUGE!!

    • Isn’t it funny how so many of our grandmother’s had elephant ears? I love them so much because they remind me of my childhood. I’m glad I could help you! Hopefully your semi-new backyard will be green and happy by next summer!

  3. So pretty.

  4. Love hostas, but can’t keep any in my yard because deer eat. them. all. Any suggestions to keep deer away from them?

    • Oh gosh, I have this exact same issue. My hosta that are near my house do fine but I have a 100 lb labrador who leaves his scent all around the house so they don’t come near it. I have heard of people getting bags of dog fur from dog groomers and spreading it around their plants to prevent deer from eating them. Maybe give that a try?


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