Outdoor Plants that Don’t Need Sunlight

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Outdoor Plants that Don't Need Sunlight

Outdoor plants that don’t need direct sunlight offer an excellent solution for shaded gardens or areas under trees where sunlight is sparse. These plants can thrive in low-light conditions, bringing life and color to parts of your garden that other plants might find challenging.

One of the most popular choices for such areas is the Hosta. Known for their lush foliage, Hostas come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, from deep greens to variegated patterns of white and green. They are perfect for creating a textured, verdant understory in shaded garden spots. While they produce flowers, their foliage steals the show, providing a robust ground cover throughout the growing season.


Not all plants need direct sunlight. Plenty of annuals, perennials, and tropicals can thrive in the shade. Whether you want to brighten up those dim corners in your yard or liven up a spot in the shadow of a large tree, these shade-loving flowering plants happily grow where their full-sun counterparts won’t.

Bleeding Heart

Perk up the dark corners of your landscape with a generous helping of a bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis). These hardy-shade perennials develop graceful, arching branches of heart-shaped flowers with a tiny teardrop at the base of each bloom. Besides its lovely flowers, Bleeding Heart produces pretty, ferny, blue-green foliage. This no-fuss plant goes dormant in middle to late summer and reappears the following spring.

  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in medium-moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 3 feet tall
  • Zones: 3-9

Fuchsia

Fuchsias thrive in cool and shady environments and are not well-suited for warmer climates. Many fuchsia species grow as small shrubs in milder climates and are able to tolerate Zones 7 and 8. Some fuchsias are treated as annuals and are grown in hanging baskets to display their striking and drooping flowers. The plant blooms in vibrant shades of red, pink, white, violet, and purple, which attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Its flowers are long-lasting and add a lovely touch to any garden.

  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in evenly moist, moisture-retentive soil
  • Size: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Zones: 10-11

Astilbe

No shade garden is complete without astilbe. These rugged, long-blooming perennials thrive in moist shade, providing a summer’s feathery flower heads. And even when not in bloom, the plants’ mounded, fernlike foliage is pretty, too. Astilbe flowers come in white, red, pink, orange, and violet and generally start to appear in late spring and early summer.

  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 18 inches tall
  • Zones: 3-8

Toad Lily

With a name like a toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta), you might not expect much beauty. Still, this hardy perennial turns into a prince in the late summer, producing jewell-like white flowers generously splashed with purple spots. Capable of blooming in full shade, toad lily will slowly naturalize a small area, carpeting it with a late-season flush of color.

  • Size: Up to 3 feet tall
  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in medium to wet, well-drained soil
  • Zones: 4-8

New Guinea Impatiens

Large, colorful flowers make New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) a must-have annual plant for your shade garden. New Guinea impatiens seem to thrive better in containers than they do when planted directly in the garden. But, grown either way, they add tons of spectacular color to the dark corners of your landscape. Bloom colors include pink, red, white, orange, lavender, and bicolor. The leaves can be dark green with red veins or cream and green. Growing New Guinea impatiens from seed is possible, but it’s a lot easier and faster to buy young plants in the spring at your local garden center.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 4 feet tall
  • Zones: 10-11

Wax Begonia

A no-fail shade plant, wax begonia (Begonia × semperflorens-cultorum) grows quickly in your garden and needs very little maintenance. This mounded, compact plant has thick, fleshy stems with bronze or green leaves and is almost always in bloom, sporting clusters of white, pink, red, or bicolor flowers right up until frost. The plants thrive in both containers and borders. Extra showy, double-flowered varieties are also available.

  • Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 1 foot tall
  • Zones: 10-11

Impatiens walleriana

A go-to flower for shady spots, impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) will transform any dark corner into a flower festival. Many gardeners use impatiens as a quick-growing summer groundcover for hard-to-plant locations under tall trees. Both single- and double-flowering varieties are available and bloom in white, pink, peach, yellow, orange, lavender, and bicolors. Impatiens grow well in containers, too. If your garden has been affected by outbreaks of downy mildew disease, switch to New Guinea impatiens or wax begonias, which are immune to the problem.

  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Zones: 10-11

Viola

A shady border garden packed with the happy faces of the viola is always a cheerful sight. These joyous spring bloomers (close cousins to pansies) almost seem to smile at you whenever you approach. Violas produce a seemingly endless supply of irresistibly perky flowers during cool seasons (they peter out in summer heat). Colors vary, but most varieties show off bicolor flowers in shades of white, blue, purple, yellow, orange, red, or lilac.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 9 inches tall
  • Zones: 5-8

Wishbone Flower

Look closely into this shade plant’s blooms, and you’ll see stamens forming a wishbone shape, which is how the plant got its common name: wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri). This hardworking plant puts out a big show of jewell-like, trumpet-shaped flowers throughout the summer. Older varieties will sulk during hot weather in warm climates, but newer varieties will continue to bloom through the summer heat. Remove the faded flowers as needed to promote additional bloom.

  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in consistently moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 1 foot tall
  • Zones: 10-11

Ajuga

If you’re looking to add color to your shade garden with both flowers and foliage, ajuga (Ajuga reptans) is a tough perennial groundcover that features bright green, bronze, or tricolor leaves, and every spring it sends up spikes of blue, purple, or white flowers. When flowering, this plant can make a striking display in containers. And because of its spreading nature, keeping ajuga in pots or other small spaces where it can’t invade lawns is best.

  • Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 9 inches tall
  • Zones: 3-10

Lungwort

In the early spring, you can depend on the attractively spotted or splotched leaves of lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata) to give your garden an early jolt of color. After the leaves are established, the plants send up graceful bell-shaped stalks with pink flowers that mature into shades of baby blue, which means that you might find both blue and pink flowers on the same stalk. This deer-resistant perennial will slowly spread through your garden without becoming invasive.

  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 18 inches tall
  • Zones: 3-8

Heartleaf Brunnera

With colorful flowers and foliage, you can’t go wrong with heartleaf brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), also known as Siberian bugloss and false forget-me-not (its blooms resemble those of true forget-me-not). In spring, this shade garden perennial develops clouds of small, bright blue flowers atop a mound of heart-shaped leaves. It’s the perfect partner for spring bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips. And even when its flowers fade, you can enjoy this plant’s pretty foliage all summer; some varieties have silvery or variegated leaves that brighten up shady corners.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade in consistently moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 1 foot tall
  • Zones: 3-8

Hosta

Hostas are among the best plants for shady gardens. Their leaves come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, so you can mix and match them with each other and other shade plants to create a dynamic display. Many hosta varieties develop showy white or lavender flowers from midsummer to fall.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade to full shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 3 feet tall
  • Zones: 4-9

Coral Bells

Heuchera 'Midnight Bayou' Coralbells

Some coral bells (Heuchera spp.) offer colorful foliage in shades of red, bronze, green, plum, or chartreuse to brighten up a shady spot. s offer showy wands of pink, white, or red bell-like flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer.

  • Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 18 inches tall
  • Zones: 3-8

Leopard’s Bane

One of the earliest flowering perennials in the aster family, the leopard’s bane (Doronicum orientale) shoots up bright yellow daisy-like flowers just as spring is underway. This eager perennial makes a wonderful companion for spring-flowering bulbs, such as scilla, daffodil, and tulip. To encourage fall flowering, be sure to deadhead its spent blooms.

  • Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, fertile soil
  • Size: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Zones: 4-8

Hellebore

As winter seems to drag on endlessly, the gorgeous flowers of hellebore (Helleborus spp.) arrive in bloom. Commonly known as Lenten rose, hellebores are one of the first perennials to bloom in spring, often before the snow thaws. Most varieties of this almost indestructible plant that thrives in shade produce downward-facing white, pink, green, or purple flowers that are often etched delicately in a contrasting color. While most varieties have single flowers, a few offer showy double blooms.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade to full shade in humusy, well-drained soil
  • Size: Up to 18 inches tall
  • Zones: 4-9

Coleus

No story on colorful shade plants is complete without including coleus. This popular foliage plant is available in various leaf combinations that add vivid color to your shade garden right up until frost. Coleus will occasionally flower, producing a narrow blue spike in late summer, but the plants do better if you clip the spike away as soon as it appears.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade to full shade in moist soil
  • Size: Up to 3 feet tall
  • Zones: 10-11

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.