It can be hard to find plants that thrive in shady areas, especially if you are looking for something tall. It is best to use perennials as it saves you having to re-plant every year. We have put together this list of the best perennials that grow nice and tall in the shade.
Whether you are looking for something to grow around the base of a tree or some shrubs, in between other plants, or in an area of the garden that doesn’t get much sun, there will be something on this list for everyone.
What Counts As A Tall Shade Perennial?
Tall shade perennials need to have the potential to grow to at least 18 inches tall. They also need to thrive in shady areas, which means they don’t need as much sunlight in order to bloom.
Perennials will bloom for at least two years, but some of them will last for many seasons. The longer a plant lasts, the less often you will need to re-plant. You might need to carry out other maintenance, such as dividing and pruning.
If you want your garden to look interesting, you need to try and find a plant that has an interesting color or texture. These types of plants tend to do best in moist soil.
The soil needs to be damp but not soggy – standing water is not good for the roots but dry soil will cause the plants to wilt.
Best Tall Shade Perennials
These are some excellent choices for tall shade perennials for your garden.
1. Bear’s Breeches
Planting bear’s breeches is the perfect way to introduce some showy blooms to the shady parts of your garden. It can grow up to 3 feet tall so it can add some height too, and when the flowers bloom the plant gets even taller.
The foliage is evergreen and will look great all year round – the leaves are deep green in color with some white patterns. They are also slug resistant. They will thrive when given a bit of morning sun, then left in the shade for the rest of the day.
The soil should be kept moist but well-drained, and you need to remove dead flowers to keep the plant blooming well. This plant will last a long time if you look after it, but you will need to divide it every 3 to 4 years.
It is good in warmer climates with some humidity and blooms throughout the summer. You need to be careful to make sure that this plant doesn’t spread and cover too much of your garden because it can be quite invasive.
Bugbane grows nice and tall – 5 feet tall when in bloom and 3 feet tall the rest of the year. The flowers are fine and delicate, giving the illusion of lace, and have a lovely fragrance which has the added benefit of repelling deer. It is sweet and light, with notes of vanilla.
They love shady or sun-dappled areas, and thrive in the cool. The soil should be rich and fertile with plenty of organic matter. To maintain this plant you should wait until winter to cut the stems back, as the seed heads will look interesting throughout the fall.
The scientific name for this plant is cimicifuga which means ‘bedbug repeller’. It is in the same family as the buttercup and it native to the Northern Hemisphere in more temperate climates.
You can plant it in groups to create a wide spread, or you can dot it out individually. To maintain this plant you should divide it after the first year once it has been established.
There are different varieties which have interesting color variations – ‘hillside black beauty’ has dark leaves with white flowers, ‘pink spike’ has pink flowers with purple foliage, and chocoholic has white blooms with bronze leaves.
Astilbe, also known as false goat’s beard. Dwarf astilbe is very popular, but there are also several tall varieties that actually grow very well in the shade. Make sure you choose the right variety, as others require sun in order to grow and bloom.
‘Red Sentinel’ has deep red flowers and is perfect for shady areas. ‘Amethyst’ is a lilac variety, and ‘Black Pearl’ has purple flowers with a hint of blue around the edges. If you want a pink variety then you could go for ‘Fireworks Pink’, but it needs some sun.
You don’t need to deadhead these plants, but you do need to keep the soil moist and put mulch over the plants in the winter.
As the blooms fade, the plants become an important food source for birds during the winter. The plants are resistant to deer and rabbits which will help to protect your garden.
4. Japanese Anemone
Japanese anemone is a stunning flower that is part of the buttercup family. It blooms in summer right through to late autumn, giving some nice variety to your garden. It is dainty and lightweight, floating above the ground and catching the wind.
They like partial shade and the soil should be moist and well-drained- aside from that, it can grow in any type of soil. Make sure you fertilize the plant in the spring organic plant food. In the winter, cover the plant with mulch.
Despite being called ‘Japanese’, the plant is actually native to China. The flowers are pink and white with yellow details. It can grow up to 3 feet tall, and might need staking when it reaches full height.
It can be a good idea to plant them in a raised or enclosed bed to stop it from spreading, as it can be quite an invasive species. There are different varieties of Japanese Anemones, but ‘September Charm’ is one of the best if you are looking for a late bloomer.
5. Variegated Solomon’s Seal
This is an interesting plant that will add some texture and vibrancy to your garden. It blooms in late spring and summer, with delicate white flowers that dangle down from the stem.
The foliage is green with white markings, and stands out against the rest of your plants for a striking effect. It can grow to a height of 24 inches and has a spread of between 24 to 30 inches. The branches are red, and the white flowers are very enchanting.
Once the flowers have finished blooming, they turn into blue colored berries as the leaves turn yellow, creating a totally different color palate. It can grow in full or partial shade, and is better with dappled sunlight as opposed to afternoon sun.
This is a toxic plant, so you need to be careful where you plant it if you have small children or pets. However, this also makes it deer and rabbit resistant so it can help to protect your garden.
6. Goat’s Beard
Goat’s beard, also called chantilly lace, has a spike of fine white flowers. The flowers are very delicate and they contrast with the rich green color of the green leaves. There are similarities between goat’s beard and astilbe, but goat’s beard requires less water.
The flowers bloom from May through to July. Leave the blooms to fade throughout the fall, and then cut the stems right back in the winter. You should then cover the plant with mulch to protect it from the cold.
This plant is deer resistant and is not very susceptible to disease, so it is a hard-wearing plant to introduce into your garden. Goat’s beard can grow in a range of different habitats from streambanks to rocky ledges to woodland.
This means that it will do well in lots of different spots in your garden, so you can use it to fill gaps. It grows up to 30 inches tall and can spread up to 48 inches wide.
7. Leopard Plant
This plant can grow from 24 to 48 inches tall so it is a great choice if you are looking for a tall perennial. The height will depend on the variety and the flowers bloom in the summer.
It is the perfect way to add color into the shaded areas of your garden, as the flowers are bright yellow in color. The leaves are large, and they look great, but they can often attract slugs and snails.
However, it also attracts bees and butterflies and it repels deer, so if you are good at keeping slugs and snails out of your garden it will be worth it. This flowering plant needs to be planted in the shade, and it is vital that you keep it moist.
If it dries it out then the plant will suffer. In its natural habitat it is found along the banks of streams and rivers, so the roots need to be kept damp. There are various varieties of leopard plants. ‘Othello’ has purple on the underside of their leaves and on the stem.
‘Britt-Marie Crawford’ has chocolate covered leaves and bright orange flowers. ‘BBQ Banana’ is an interesting variety with various colored leaves, including chocolate brown, green and maroon.
8. Japanese Toad Lily
This herbaceous perennial plant is native to Japan. These stunning plants grow in various types of habitats, from the banks of streams to rocky cliffs. In your garden, you should aim for a spot that is in full or partial shade.
If the climate is mild then the flowers will benefit from some early morning or late afternoon shade. If possible, place them on the edge of a path or flower bed so that they can be seen and appreciated.
The flowers are often compared to orchids and they have exquisite patterns and detailing. The flowers are delicate but the leaves are wide and big. It appreciates moisture, and it can handle drops in temperature.
Some gardeners find it quite difficult to get this plant started in their garden, but once it is established it is very easy to maintain. You can choose from a wide range of colors, and all varieties are deer resistant. Some are rabbit resistant, but not all of them.
‘Blue Wonder’ is a particularly stunning variety with star-shaped flowers. ‘Raspberry Mousse’ has flowers that are deep red/pink.
Depending on which variety you choose, the plant can grow from 18 inches to 48 inches tall and it can spread from 18 inches to 24 inches wide. The flowers bloom in late summer through to fall.
Monkshood is also called aconitum, wolfsbane, blue rocket, queen of poison and devil’s helmet. It is a stunning plant with lovely flowers, but it is toxic, so you need to be careful where you plant it.
It is also a good idea to use gloves when handling the plant to avoid skin irritation. Despite its toxicity, it can be used medicinally for various purposes. It grows on long stalks, up to 48 inches tall, and each plant can spread between 15 and 18 inches wide.
You don’t need to deadhead these flowers, but they might need staking if you manage to get them quite tall. Once the blooming season is over you can cut back all of the flowers in the fall so that they grow back the next year.
It is important to keep the soil moist in the spring and on dry days in the summer. These plants will thrive in partial shade and the soil should be well-drained. They prefer slightly cooler conditions.
If you want to prepare your soil for planting monkswood then use plenty of rotted organic matter to enrich it. One of the good things about this plant is that its toxic nature makes it resistant to deer, rabbits, and other unwanted visitors to your garden.
10. Chinese Hard Ground Orchid
Orchids are notoriously difficult to grow, but this variety actually grows very well outside. It grows up to 20 inches tall and blooms in late spring or early summer. It can spread between 12 to 15 inches wide.
They like to be in the shade, but also enjoy a bit of morning sun or afternoon sun if the temperature is not too hot. Once the plant is established in your garden it will grow many flowers. The soil needs to be nice and rich.
The trick to keeping this plant healthy is to get the moisture levels right. While the plant is growing you need to keep it slightly moist, but not too much. When it is no longer growing, you can let it get quite dry.
Once the leaves begin to die you should stop watering it completely. The flowers will fade during fall and then the leaves will turn yellow. Over time, Chinese Hard Ground Orchid will slowly spread, with more and more blooms each spring until they form a carpet.
They will thrive in rock gardens or in shady borders, and make a lovely addition to any shady areas of your garden. The one thing you will need to be wary of is that rabbits tend to like to nibble the leaves!
11. Bigroot Geranium
Bigroot geranium can grow up to 2 feet tall in the right conditions. They are very tough and they appreciate shady areas. They are also resistant to deer and rabbits. They like the soil to be moist and well-drained, and every spring they will bloom with pretty flowers.
The flowers range in color from pink and purple to white. Some varieties even bloom into the fall and have more of a woodsy scent rather than a fresh, floral scent.
This plant will spread by itself at quite a nice rate, and isn’t too invasive. This means that you will notice more and more blooms each year without losing control of the plant.
12. Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart
These spring blooming flowers love shade, and they can grow up to 3 feet tall. It has a fern like foliage and pink, heart shaped flowers with some white details. The stems arch in an elegant way, and the flowers dangle in a romantic way.
The plants thrive in full shade or partial shade and they require moist yet well-drained soil. The flowers bloom in late spring and by late summer they begin to die off, so you should plant it next to something else that blooms later into the season.
If you are looking for tall foliage as opposed to flowers then hosta could be the right choice. It can grow up to 2 feet tall and it is also called a plantain lily, and certain varieties have small flowers. They cover a lot of ground, sometimes spreading up to 6 feet wide.
If they do have flowers, they tend to have a fragrant smell and come in blue, white chartreuse or gold. Some varieties of hosta like full sun whereas others prefer full shade.
All of them like moist and well drained soil. The plant is native to northeast Asia but can be grown in various different climates.
Brunnera is a lovely perennial that often gets overlooked. It can grow up to 2 feet tall and has lovely, textured leaves. It grows best in shady areas of the garden and can also thrive in partial shade. The solid should be well drained and evenly moist.
The blooms are pretty and delicate, but they don’t last very long. However, it is a self-seeding plant that will spread year after year. Each spring you will see more and more flowers appearing.
15. Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart
Fern-leaf bleeding heart is a great choice for a shady spot in your garden. It is a tall perennial that can grow up to 2 feet tall. They bloom on and off from spring right through until fall, depending on the climate, and they keep their foliage for the entire season.
This means that your garden will look great for longer. You need to make sure that you give the plant enough moisture, especially on warm days, without overdoing it. The flowers grow in pretty clusters of pink, white, or various shades of red.
Tall perennials are a great option for planting in a shaded area of your garden. They will add a pop of color and vibrancy, and tend to require little maintenance.
You need to make sure that you check the individual care instructions for each plant to provide them with the correct conditions.