Best Ornamental Flowering Plants That Grow in the Shade

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Choosing the right plant that grows well and flourishes in the shade will make your garden look beautiful. Here are five of the best shade-loving ornamental flowering plants that bloom in gorgeous colors.


Astilbes are herbaceous perennials belonging to the family Saxifragaceae. They are also known as false spiraea, false goat’s beard, and meadowsweet.

Astilbes are low-maintenance, easy-to-grow plants that flourish in the shade. The flowers are borne on tall, stiff stalks that rise above the rest of the foliage and add a pop of color to the garden.

They bloom in colors of dark crimson, white, and bright pink flowers. The flowering period lasts from spring to summer. The blossoms have long, stiff stalks, great for flower vase arrangements, and they last for almost a week. The leaves are fern-like and are lush green in spring, turning into a bronze color when temperatures rise.

Astilbes grow well in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil in shaded areas. They will not flourish in the deep shade. There are different types of Astilbes, with the dwarf varieties growing to a height of 11 inches and the tall varieties growing to a height of 3–4 feet. The dwarf varieties look good in small spaces or when planted in front of flower borders. These plants also grow well in containers.

Growing Astilbes from plant cuttings is much easier than seeds, because the seeds are difficult to germinate and have a short life span. Astilbes grow from rhizomes. The easiest way to propagate them is by dividing the rhizome and replanting the divisions. Adding fertilizer with high phosphorous and potassium content encourages the plant to bloom.

Astilbes spread fast and form clumps. As they grow, the crown of the root grows above the soil. When this happens, cover the crown with humus-rich soil or replant these clumps. Divide overgrown clumps every spring, and add organic fertilizer to the soil in spring for best results.


Primroses are herbaceous perennials belonging to the family Primulaceae. These plants grow well in part to full shade in cool temperatures.

They grow up to a height of 4 inches. These plants bloom in early spring in colors varying from white, pale cream, deep yellow, orange, and pink. Primroses look great in garden beds and along borders. The blooming period extends from summer through the fall season.

Primroses should be planted in lightly shaded areas that have well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Plant them about 6–12 inches apart and 4–6 inches deep in the soil. Water well after planting and add a layer of mulch to retain the moisture. Water these plants throughout summer. For best growth, add a light organic fertilizer. Do not overwater primroses, because overwatering these plants makes them susceptible to fungal infections.

Primroses can be propagated through seeds or cuttings. They can be grown from seeds mixed with equal amounts of soil, sand, and peat moss indoors or outdoors in a cold frame during winter. Once the second and third leaves have grown out, these seedlings can be transplanted into the garden.

Foam Flowers

The foam flower is a low-maintenance, herbaceous, perennial flowering plant belonging to the genus Tiarella. These plants grow well in part to fully shaded areas and can grow up to a height ranging from 6–12 inches and a width of 8–12 inches.

The foam flowers grow on top of a short mound of green foliage. The flowers bloom in colors of greenish-white, white, coral, and pink. Leaves are semi-evergreen, oval- to heart-shaped, and have dark markings around the veins. The leaves have three to nine lobes, and the sinuses between the lobes may be shallow or deeply cut.

Foam flowers are small, bell-shaped, and arranged on a single stalk—this type of arrangement of flowers is called an inflorescence. The stalk arises from the crown and grows above the leaves. The flowers begin to bloom at the end of spring or the beginning of summer.

Foam flower plants grow well in soil rich in organic matter. They form clumps that spread through runners and provide excellent ground cover. Multiple stalks grow from each clump.

The leaves are evergreen but turn into a reddish bronze in autumn and winter. Foam flowers are low-maintenance plants that can flourish without being divided for years in the garden.

They produce offshoots from the stolons that can be planted to propagate these plants. The best season to propagate foam flowers is in spring. After the first season, the offsets grow roots. In the third year of this plant, dig up the clump and detach the rooted offsets from the main plant and replant them.

They can also be propagated through seeds that quickly germinate, but the growth of the seedling is slow.

Meadow Rue

The meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) is an ornamental, herbaceous, perennial plant that grows to a height ranging from 4–6 feet tall and spreads to a width of 2–3 feet. The flowers of this plant are pendulous and bloom in shades of purple-lavender color with yellow stamens. The stems are slender and form a beautiful network.

The meadow rue blooms from mid to late summer and thrives in rich, well-drained soil in partial shade. The leaves of this plant have lacy, bluish-green leaves. These plants form clumps, from which the plant can be divided for propagation. The meadow rue can self-seed but does not become invasive.


Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) is a herbaceous perennial belonging to the family Boraginaceae. It grows to about 0.5–1 foot tall and has a spread of 1–1.5 feet. These plants grow well in fertile, organic soil that is moist and well-drained. These plants flourish in full to partial shade.

The flowers of the lungwort are funnel-shaped, grow in forked clusters, and rise above the leaves. These flowers bloom in varying colors from April to May. They are pink when they first bloom and slowly turn into a lovely rose-violet color when they mature and later change into blue. Differently colored flowers can be seen on a single plant at the same time.

The leaves of this plant are oval shaped with pointed tips that have splashes of white spots on them. Lungworts are rough, bristly, and spread through rhizomes. They are slow to spread, do not need frequent division, and are great as ground cover plants.


  • The Old Farmer's Almanac
  • Ohio State Univdersity
  • Missouri Botanical Garden

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can I buy seeds of ornamental flowering plants for shady areas?

Answer: You can get them in a plant nursery.

© 2019 Nithya Venkat

gina palomata on March 30, 2020:

so nice plants

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on July 29, 2019:

Thank you for your visit and comments Devika.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 29, 2019:

I like these plants and nice to know they grow in the shade. Lovely pics

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on July 03, 2019:

Thank you Hari.

Hari Prasad S from Bangalore on July 02, 2019:

Verry nice artice. Would check local nursery for these plants.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 26, 2019:

manatita44 the primrose and meadow rue are beautiful. Thank you for your visit and comments.

manatita44 from london on May 22, 2019:

An array of beauty here.

I love the primrose and meadow rue. So magnificent colours!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 19, 2019:

Well noted, please.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 19, 2019:

Genna the Meadow Rue is a great choice, thank you for your visit and comments.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 19, 2019:

Chitrangada, yes gardening is all about providing the right conditions for plant growth. Thank you for your visit and comments.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 18, 2019:

This comment is significant to me and is well noted.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on May 18, 2019:

Oh, what beautiful, delicate colors, Nithya. The Astilbes are so lovely. And the Primroses are diminutive delights. I have a hard time deciding which is my favorite, but I would have to pick the Meadow Rue. Thank you for sharing these beauties with us. :-) Happy Spring.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 17, 2019:

I agreed. Thanks.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 17, 2019:

These are beautiful, ornamental flowers. I love the colours.

Gardening is all about the right soil, the right conditions of Sunlight or shade, how much water is required and such minor details, as you have pointed out. Very useful information shared by you. Thanks for sharing.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

Yes, these flowers are beautiful. Linda, thank you for your visit and comments.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

Thank you Lora Hollings, growing an Astilbe in a container is a great idea to beat desert conditions.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

They will grow if provided the right growing conditions.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

FlourishAnyway these are beautiful plants and easy to grow. I am sure you will be successful in growing these.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 16, 2019:

The flowers are beautiful. Thank you for sharing the information, Nithya. This is a very useful article.

Lora Hollings on May 16, 2019:

Wonderful article, Nithya, on what plants grow in the shade. My favorite is the astilbes. I'm sure that I could have grown all of these plants in the Midwest where I used to live but I doubt if they would grow in the desert where I live now. The soil isn't conducive to these types of plants, however if you were a cactus you sure would like it and there are a few ornamentals that actually do very well here! It is interesting that astilbes grow from rhizomes like irises. And irises do best when you divide overgrown clumps as well. I think I will try growing astilbe in a container and that way I can grow it in the type of soil it will do well in. Thanks for sharing!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 16, 2019:

Oh how I would love to have the meadow rue and astilbes in my yard. Will they grow in southern Illinois? Great info. on how to plant. Thank you.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 16, 2019:

Hi, Nithya, you'll be welcomed. Thanks.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 16, 2019:

I’m not very talented at growing plants but these are striking and nice to imagine in a garden.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

I hope you enjoy growing these plants in your garden. All the above mentioned plants have a low-allergy index.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

Thank you Mary. These plants will make your garden look beautiful.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

Thank you Dora. I am sure they will grow well.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 16, 2019:

This is really useful information. I have already planted astilbes in the cottage and will try these others, too.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 16, 2019:

Thanks for sharing the facts on these beautiful flowers. Just wish I could make them grow!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 16, 2019:

This is wonderful. I bookmarked. Is there a "allergy" kind of index. I think we have some cousins out here Sonoran desert way - wild.

I have some perfect spots. I can hardly wait to get out of my chair and start growing.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

Thank you Bill, I hope this article helps you and Bev to choose the best plants for a beautiful, vibrant garden,

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 16, 2019:

Very nice information. We know all about shade here in Washington. I will save this article for future plans of our garden. Thank you!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 16, 2019:

Thank you for your visit Miebakagh.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 15, 2019:

Hi, I will have a go later. Thanks for sharing those few instances.

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