The future of shade gardening is surprisingly bright thanks to vibrant shade-loving varieties. Don't limit shady areas with only flowers—try shade plants with dramatic foliage for interest. Leaves can be feathery, glossy, variegated, or mottled. Check out some of our favorites from the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden.
The elegant, sweeping lines of this grass are so lovely that it's a favorite among gardeners. Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' is the best cultivar to brighten gently shaded places in the garden. Its lovely golden-yellow leaves are striped with green and arch gracefully toward the light.
'King's Ransom' is a smaller version of Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost.' This variety offers wide, heart-shaped silver leaves with narrow green edges and veins. It is more heat tolerant than other heart-leaf brunnera varities and is also rabbit-tolerant.
A beautiful addition to any shade garden, Japanese painted ferns offer unique and intricate texture and color in a world of greens. Athyrium niponicum pictum is one of the best-known ferns. Its silvery fronds tinged with burgundy make an elegant container or garden accent.
Coralbells are the coleus of the perennial world. They are wonderful in shade and add pops of color to any garden setting. They are extremely low maintenance! 'Wild Rose' has rosy purple foliage with a charcoal gray veining pattern.
One of the most commonly grown shade garden plants, hostas have captured the hearts of gardeners everywhere. Also called plantain lilies, these plants have a diverse offering of foliage shapes, colors, and sizes. Hosta 'Touch of Class' is a stunning selection bearing chartreuse leaves widely edged in blue.
What was once just a simple green leafy plant has now become a rich palette of colors that acts as the backdrop to many shade gardens. Within the course of its fairly recent life in horticulture, hosta plants have been hybridized, divided, shared, and mutated many times to create what we see today. 'Goodness Gracious' originated from 'Piedmont Gold' and features green leaves with bright chartreuse edges.
With such a broad palette of colors to choose from, there is almost no end to the combinations you can make with coralbells. That, plus their adaptability to being both in-ground and container plants, makes this a truly versatile plant. 'Carnival Plum Crazy' has dark purple-bronze foliage and delicate white flowers in the summer.
Lungwort is an old-fashioned perennial prized for its early spring blooms, and it's once again becoming popular. These beautiful perennials work wonders in shade gardens because of their multicolor long-lasting blooms, and their silver-pattern foliage. 'Twilight Pink' has spotted silver foliage and pink flowers in early spring.
Hellebores are so easy and so pretty, they have a place in nearly every landscape. Deer-resistant and mostly evergreen, hellebores' divided leaves rise on sturdy stems and may be serrated (like a knife) along the edges. 'Merlin' has blush pink petals surrounding a chartreuse center.
With tiny bell-shaped flowers that create a foam of bloom, this plant is also appreciated for its handsome clumps of leaves, which are broad, lobed, and distinctively veined. 'Fire Frost' has small white flowers and lime green foliage with burgundy veining. Foamy bells can be divided to create more plants in the garden.
Available in many shapes and sizes, there is sure to be a weigela to fit your needs. Weigela florida 'Verweig' is a compact combination of green-, rose-, and white-variegated foliage that sparkles in the shade. Pink blooms appear in summer.