15 Shade Loving Flowers for a Colorful Summer Garden

The beautiful thing about flowers is how they capture all that sunshine energy and turn it into colorful blossoms. Flowers and full sun seem to go hand in hand.

But what if you have some spots that aren’t full of sunshine? Can you still grow flowers in partial shade? Absolutely!

Knowing which flowers like shade will help you choose the right seeds to plant. Shade-tolerant flowers will reward you with blossoms even if they spend less than 6 hours in direct sunlight.

We’ll share our top shade flowers and the growing tips you need to make the most of your shady gardening spots.

Red columbine flowers in shade  garden

Every yard will have some shady spots. Whether it’s filtered sun through the leaves of trees or afternoon shade from your house, you can still turn these spots into flower gardens with careful planning.

When you’re planning your garden, look at where your sunniest spots are. Take note of which locations get direct light for more than 8 hours a day.  This is where you need to plant those sun-loving flowers and vegetables. 

Garden spots that receive six or fewer hours of direct sunlight are the places to plant shade-loving flowers.

What Does “Shade Tolerant" Flowers Mean?

Shade-tolerant means the plants will grow even when they have part shade. It’s important to note that while many flowers will still grow, they may have fewer blooms. 

The amount of shade is important to consider. Dabbled shade is when you have trees or taller shrubs nearby, but the sun still filters through. This is also called “light shade”. Full shade or deep shade makes it harder for flowers to thrive. Flowering plants need at least 3 hours of direct sunlight to produce blossoms.

Gardeners often ask: Which flowers like shade? Many flowers like shade because they can cool off in the afternoon heat. This means that in warmer climates, you can grow these flowers in shadier spots than you would in cooler locations. 

Our Best Flower Seeds to Plant in Shady Spots

There are all kinds of possibilities when it comes to planting flowers in partial shade. Whether you’re looking for white flowers, purple, pink, or bright sunny yellow, you’ll find something that will work in your shady garden spot. 

You can also consider the height and the leaf shape. Some plants, such as coleus and lamb’s ear, are grown for their leaves, not their flowers. These plants create a visually exciting garden with their texture, color, and leaf shapes.

Plant these flowers from seed to make the most of your shady garden spot.

#1 - Columbine

Columbine is a perennial flower that typically grows about 1 to 3 feet tall. This flower enjoys afternoon shade and cool nights. Columbine thrives in partially shaded to full shade areas and prefers well-drained soil. Providing the plant with adequate moisture is important, especially during high heat or drought periods.

It comes in a range of colors, and Blue Columbine is the state flower of Colorado. The McKana Giants Mix will give you a variety of colors for your shady spots.

These flowers are ideal for woodland gardens, shady borders, or naturalized areas where their delicate, nodding blooms can be showcased. Additionally, they attract hummingbirds and butterflies, making them a popular choice for wildlife gardens.

#2 - Impatiens Balsaminia

balsam flowers

Annual balsam flowers (Impatiens balsamina) are cup-shaped, unlike other varieties of impatiens. This heirloom variety of impatiens has beautiful green foliage. The thick stems are soft with long, sawtoothed leaves that can hide the vibrant, colorful blooms. 

Balsam is relatively easy to grow from seed. This shade-loving flower prefers time in the morning sun and then cool shade for the rest of the day.

Once the flowers are spent, they develop seed pods. These “impatient” pods are ready to burst and fling their seeds wherever possible. Even a slight wind can cause the seed pods to burst open. So, “touch-me-not” unless you want to release the seeds.

#3 - Sweet Alyssum

One of our easiest flowers to grow from seed, Sweet Alyssum is a delicate and dainty flower that adds a pop of color and fragrance to any garden. This beautiful flower comes in shades of white, pink, and purple. 

The individual flowers of Sweet Alyssum are tiny, but they grow in dense clusters, creating a stunning carpet of color when in full bloom. It grows low and spreads, making it perfect for filling in gaps in flower beds or cascading over the edges of containers.

Whether used as a ground cover, edging plant, or filler in mixed containers, Sweet Alyssum is sure to add charm and beauty to any garden space. Its low-maintenance nature and ability to attract pollinators make it a favorite among gardeners looking to add a touch of whimsy and romance to their outdoor spaces.

#4 - Baby Blue Eyes

As the name suggests, Baby Blue Eyes, or Nemophila menziesii flowers, are a stunning shade of blue with delicate white centers. They grow best from seeds planted directly outdoors. They’ll germinate when the soil is 65ºF. 

Baby Blue Eyes grow low to the ground, creating a carpet of blue flowers. The flowers themselves are quite small, usually measuring around 1 inch in diameter, and have a five-petaled, open-faced appearance. They are borne on delicate stems and typically bloom from spring to early summer, providing a burst of color in the garden when many other flowers have yet to bloom.

Baby Blue Eyes prefer cool, moist, well-drained soil and thrive in partial shade. They are relatively easy to grow from seed and are often used as a border or ground cover plant. They also make a charming addition to wildflower meadows and woodland gardens.

#5 - Dwarf Lance Leaved Coreopsis

This sunny yellow perennial is very adaptable. It can grow in full sun, part shade, and shade. Plant it once, and it will come back year after year. 

Dwarf Lance Leaved Coreopsis, also called Lanceleaf Tickseedis a hardy, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plant, making it an excellent choice for gardens with hot, dry conditions. It typically grows to a height of 1-2 feet and has a spreading, clump-forming habit. 

Coreopsis is also a favorite among pollinators, attracting butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects to the garden. Its long blooming period, which typically lasts from late spring to early fall, provides a continuous source of nectar and pollen for these crucial pollinators.

#6 - Tussock Bellflower

The bell-shaped blossoms of the Tussock Bellflower are the perfect shape to attract pollinators. 

Also known as Campanula carpa, Tussock Bellflower is a beautiful and delicate flower native to the alpine regions of Europe. Its striking blue-violet color stands out against the greenery of the alpine meadows where it grows. The bell-shaped blooms of this flower can grow up to 2 inches in diameter and are held on slender stems that can reach up to 12 inches in height.

These seeds can be started indoors and then transplanted outside when temperatures are consistently above 60ºF. It thrives in rocky, well-drained soil and prefers cooler temperatures. It is often found growing in mountainous regions, where it can withstand harsh conditions such as cold temperatures and strong winds. This tough and resilient flower is also known for its ability to spread and naturalize in the wild, forming dense mats of foliage and blooms that can cover large areas of the landscape.

In addition to its beauty, the Tussock Bellflower also provides important ecological benefits. Its nectar-rich blooms attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, helping to support local ecosystems and promote biodiversity.

#7 - English Daisy

The English Daisy (Bellis perennis) is a beautiful and dainty flower that has become a favorite in gardens and floral arrangements. The English Daisy is typically white or pink, with a bright yellow center, adding a pop of color to any garden or bouquet. It has a low-growing habit, typically reaching no more than 6 inches in height, and it often spreads to form a dense carpet of flowers. 

In addition to its colorful appearance, the English Daisy is admired for its hardy nature and ease of care. It thrives in full sun to partial shade and prefers moist, well-drained soil. English daisies prefer some cooling afternoon shade. 

English daisies symbolize innocence and purity and have been popular in folklore and literature for centuries. It is also known for attracting pollinators, making it a valuable addition to any garden ecosystem.

Whether used as a border plant, a colorful addition to a rock garden, or a charming filler in a floral arrangement, the English Daisy is sure to bring joy and beauty wherever it is planted.

#8 - Yellow Daisy

One of the best things about the Yellow Daisy is its long blooming period. It typically begins to bloom in mid-summer and continues to produce flowers well into the fall, adding a burst of color to the landscape for an extended period of time. This makes it an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add a splash of color to their outdoor spaces throughout the growing season.

Yellow Daisy is a hardy and low-maintenance plant. It typically grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet and has a spread of about 1 to 2 feet, making it an ideal choice for borders, flower beds, or containers.

In addition to its beautiful appearance and easy maintenance, the Yellow Daisy attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies, making it an attractive choice for those looking to create a pollinator-friendly garden. 

#9 - Forget-Me-Not

Chinese Forget-Me-Not (Cynoglossum amabile) has been a favorite heirloom since 1939. This tall, bushy annual appreciates afternoon shade and will bloom with stunning true-blue flowers. This easy-to-grow flower blooms just weeks after planting. 

Plant Chinese Forget-me-not where you can watch all the butterflies and hummingbirds that it will attract to your garden. The blue color also makes for a gorgeous addition to cut flower arrangements.

#10 - Shasta Daisy

Daisies are fun to grow in all sorts of locations. Although they are generally grown in full sun, Shasta Daisies can tolerate partial shade. As with most flowers, the more sun they have, the more blooms they will produce. 

This classic flower is named after the Shasta mountains in California. Its white petals and sunny yellow center will bloom all summer long. Cut them off to enjoy indoors, and they’ll grow more flowers. 

Shasta daisies are low-maintenance flowers perfect for cottage gardens, attracting beneficial insects from early summer to late fall.

#11 - Wild Blue Iris

This native wildflower can be grown in full sun to partial shade. While this flower may take a year to bloom, it will eventually become a beloved perennial. Plant Wild Blue Iris (Iris missouriensis) where it won’t be disturbed, such as near trees and bushes. It will appreciate the dappled shade when the sun is high overhead. 

Wild blue iris typically grows along stream banks and in woodland areas. Keep Wild Blue Iris plants well-watered to survive hot summers and return year after year. In addition to being a shade-tolerant flower, this iris is rabbit and deer resistant.

#12 - Lunaria

purple Lunaria flowers blooming

Lunaria, also known as honesty or silver dollar plant, is a beautiful flower with unique color and growth habits. Lunaria will grow in full sun to part shade. It is often found growing on the edges of forests where it receives dappled sunlight. However, more sun will result in more blooms.

The flower features delicate, violet-purple petals that form clusters of small blooms, creating a stunning display of color. The blooms appear in the spring and are followed by translucent, silvery seed pods that resemble coins, giving the plant its nickname of silver dollar plant. These interesting branches filled with seed pods are often used in dried floral arrangements.

Lunaria is a hardy and easy-to-care-for plant. It prefers partial shade and well-drained soil, making it a great addition to a garden or landscape. The plant can reach a height of up to 3 feet and has a bushy, upright growth habit. Additionally, Lunaria is known for its ability to self-seed, meaning that once established, it can produce new plants without needing much intervention from the gardener.

#13 - Calendula

With its sunny, bright color, you wouldn’t think of calendula as a shade flower. But calendula doesn’t tolerate heat as much as other herbs. It prefers a garden spot with morning sun and afternoon shade to keep the plants cool and continually blooming. 

Calendula flowers range in color from light yellow to deep orange. They make excellent cut flowers, and regular harvesting will encourage more blooms. Calendula is also a medicinal herb that can be used in skin creams and salves. 

This beautiful and useful flower can be grown in containers as long as the containers have good, rich potting soil that drains well. 

#14 - Dianthus

Baby Doll Dianthus, also known as Chinese Pinks, is an heirloom variety that thrives in shade gardens. It grows low to the ground and produces blooms with an array of colors, from white to rose, pink, and deep crimson. The intricate serrated petals have a jasmine-like scent and are deer-resistant.

Plant heirloom dianthus in fertile, well-draining soil to accommodate its extensive root system. It will grow 10 to 12 inches tall, which makes it an excellent companion to taller flowers that offer shade.

#15 - Viola

Often, it’s the small petals that do best in partial shade. Violas are the perfect example. With their characteristic “face” in shades of yellow, purple, and blue, these miniature flowers are a joy in shade gardens. 

The seeds need darkness to germinate and happily grow in cool, shady spots. Too much shade will result in no flowers, but the plant will still grow. In mild climates, violas will grow through winter.

Violas are excellent companions for other shade-loving plants such as ferns, hostas, and astilbes. They also pair well with other spring-blooming flowers like daffodils and tulips, creating a beautiful and diverse display of colors and textures in the garden. With their easy-going nature and charming appearance, violas are a fun shade flower.

Foliage for Shady Spots

In flower garden design, it’s important to add dimension with texture and shape. In addition to planting shade flowers, plan space for some foliage plants as well. They will add visual interest with their texture and color. Here are two of our favorite foliage plants for companions to your shade flowers.

#1 - Coleus

colorful coleus

Lush and vibrant, Coleus plants are known for their striking, colorful foliage. These plants come in various colors, with leaves that can be a stunning mix of reds, greens, yellows, and purples. The patterning on Coleus leaves can vary from mottled or speckled to solid, making them an eye-catching addition to any garden or indoor space.

Coleus plants can vary in size, with some growing low and spreading outwards, while others can grow tall and bushy. They are known for their ability to thrive in partial shade, making them a perfect choice for those looking to add color to areas of their garden that don't receive direct sunlight. Coleus can even be grown indoors.

#2 - Lamb’s Ear

The unique texture and color of Lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) make it an excellent choice as a foliage plant. The plant gets its name from the soft, velvety texture of its leaves, which are silvery-gray and look similar to the ears of a lamb. The leaves are also somewhat elongated and have a scalloped edge, adding to the plant's visual appeal. 

Growing lamb’s ear encourages your interaction with nature as these leaves are so fun to touch. You’ll engage more of your senses as you feel the leaves and smell the flowers nearby. Perfect for a sensory garden.

Lamb's ear can be grown in partial shade to full sun. It reaches 12-18 inches high in dense, spreading clumps. The plant produces small, purple-pink flowers on spikes in late spring to early summer, but these flowers are not particularly showy compared to the striking foliage.

It is a perfect choice for a low-maintenance garden, as it requires very little care once established. It can be used as a border plant, in rock gardens, or as a filler between larger plants. The soft leaves of the Lamb's ear are also said to have a soothing, medicinal quality, and they have been used for centuries in traditional medicine for their gentle, healing properties.

Shade vs Full Sun: Making the Best of Shady Gardens

Pansy flowers in shade

Tips on growing shade-loving flowers

  • A garden with 6 hours or less of direct sunlight is considered a shady garden spot. 

  • Shade-loving flowers generally prefer direct light in the morning and shade from the intense afternoon sun to keep them cool.

  • Shade-tolerant flowers usually need moist soil. Using mulch can help conserve moisture. 

  • Hot climates can turn just about any plant into a shade-tolerant plant. 

  • Morning sun is important for shade flowers. That morning sun gives them the light they need for the day, and then shade keeps them cool in the afternoon.

  • If your flowers aren’t producing blooms, it is most likely because they need more sun. Some flowers that tolerate shade won’t produce blossoms if they don’t receive enough light.

The good news is you can grow flowers in a variety of locations. From full sun to partial shade, there’s something for everyone. Plenty of flowers enjoy a break from the hot summer sun just like we do.

Even in my shady backyard, I’ve been able to grow dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, and more. And although the shadier spots result in fewer blossoms, there are still plenty of flowers. Even enough to cut and enjoy indoors. Having a shady place to sit and watch all the butterflies that land on the flowers is also relaxing.

It can be challenging to find the right flowers for shade gardens. But with some planning and care, you can find the perfect shade flower and make the most of every available growing space.

Start by growing these reliable heirloom varieties and enjoy your shade garden.

Written by Beverly Laudie

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