Making The Most Of A Shade Garden

It’s not too hard to create a thriving garden in an open sunny yard. Plants that love the sun aren’t hard to come by, and any local garden center is quick to display a wide array of tomatoes and summer squash, zinnias and sunflowers.

But what about backyards full of shade? Good options are harder to come by, and creating a thriving space can feel like more of an uphill battle. But I’m here to tell you that shade can be an absolute blessing. Some of my favorite flowering plants strongly prefer shade, and they grow stronger and can in fact outlive many of their sunny counterparts.

Below is a list of my top three favorite shade plants.


Tall and graceful, the flowering spikes of astilbe plants are stunning in shade gardens. They’re highly useful as cut flowers and last a long time on the plant, making them a great option for a low-fuss garden. I love the ‘Bridal Lace’ and ‘Peach Blossom’ varieties for some nice soft yet bright colors.

They can be planted as bare roots or potted plants, spaced as close as one foot apart, or give them more space and they’ll likely at least double in size within a year or two.

Japanese Anemone

Another great cut, fall-flowering Japanese Anemone brings a touch of grace to any shade garden. The foliage looks attractive all summer and fall, and by late September, tall flowering stems start to reach upwards and eventually create a waist-high jungle. These plants will expand year after year, so allow some space in between them – in the order of at least two feet.

Variegated Solomon’s Seal

For some reason, I see this plant more often on the East Coast where the high water table keeps it hydrated in woodland settings. I finally have a good patch established in the shade on my farm, and it’s one of my favorites. Ephemeral little spring flowers quickly fade and leave behind glorious foliage that can be used in bouquets. Plant by bare roots or potted plants and keep watered.