10 Perennial Shade Plants with Fabulous Foliage

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Shade-loving perennials with stunning foliage can transform a space just as well as bright blooms. Too often, people consider their shady plots wasted space. But mix and match a few of these perennials for shade, and you’ll change your mind about the potential of your low-light areas. The foliage on these plants is so unique and even colorful that any flowers these plants produce take a back seat to the leaves.

Here are ten of our favorite shade-loving perennials with fabulous foliage:

1. Hosta

Anyone who has struggled with planting in a shady spot has probably turned to hostas, and with good reasons. They come in hundreds of variations with broad leaves that often look hand-painted in shades of green and yellow.


2. Astilbe

Astilbes are plants that can tolerate shade and still flower in a variety of feathery white, pink and red blooms. But don’t overlook their attractive jagged leaves or the winter interest the dried flowers provide.

Astilbe japonica Pink Astilbe

3. Solomon’s Seal

Solomon’s seal offer graceful, symmetrically aligned leaves and delicate white flowers, a familiar sign of spring in the shade garden.

Soloman's Seal, Polygonatum multiflorum_

4. Goat’s Beard

The plumes of wispy white flowers, that give goat’s beard its common name, are set against a backdrop of vibrant green foliage.

Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus

5. Heuchera

Heuchera is also known as “coral bells”. Its lobed leaves come in a variety of colors, from pink to yellow to purple, and when the plants are mixed, they look like a bright tropical coral reef.

Heuchera mix Coral Bells

6. Hellebore

Hellebore, also known as “Lenten rose” or “Christmas rose,” sports palm-like leaves that add an exotic air to the shade garden. As a bonus, these flowering shade perennials are one of the first to bloom in the spring, with large colorful flowers.

White Hellebore, Helleborus

7. Bleeding Heart

Bleeding heart likes both shade and cool weather. This flowering shade perennial plant displays pink flowers in the spring and intricately cut vibrant green leaves all season long.

Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis

8. Hakone Grass

Hakone grass is a staple of the Japanese garden, it’s flowing foliage mimics the look and movement of a forest stream.

Hakone Grass, Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra

9. Tiarella

Tiarella, or foamflower, is yet another shade-tolerant perennial plant that offers up illuminating flowers. It also sets that bloom against an interesting leaf, with veins shaded in purple.

Foamflower, Tiarella

10. Ferns

Along with the hosta, ferns make regular appearance in shade gardens in all growing zones. They’re hardy and versatile and can lend an air of the tropics or of a woodland hideaway, depending on which of the many fern varieties you choose. Their airy texture looks great paired with the broad, smooth leaves of hosta.

Ferns_Woodland shade garden path

Shade-loving perennials may not offer the fireworks of a sunflower or a zinnia in full bloom, but many have something equally spectacular to offer with their interesting leaf shapes, colors and textures. Just adding a few can transform your dull, shady spaces into one of the most interesting parts of your landscape.
What’s your favorite plant for shady spaces? Let us know in the comments below.


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