Thriving in the Shadows: 5 Shade-Loving Plants for Your Gardens

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Audio by Cast11
Thriving in the Shadows: 5 Shade-Loving Plants for Your Gardens

Looking for plants that thrive in full shade can be challenging. ‘Full shade’ refers to areas that receive less than three hours of direct sun daily and filtered sun for the rest of the day. This means the plants are protected from the intense heat of the sun, which can be damaging to some plants. Direct sunlight should occur in the cooler morning hours to protect the plants from intense sun in the late afternoon. This is the ideal condition for shade-loving plants to thrive.

When choosing plants, it’s essential to differentiate between those that can survive in full shade and those that thrive. While many plants survive, it’s most important they thrive and perform well in low-light conditions. For ornamental gardens, the plants must contribute to your property’s beauty.

Planting Zones – USDA Plant Growing Zones are geographical areas classifying average annual minimum winter temperature. The map divides North America into 13 zones, each representing a 10-degree Fahrenheit difference in average winter lows. Prescott, Arizona, was reclassified as Zones 7-8 this year, or plants that can tolerate winters down to 0-10 degrees and still thrive, even in the shade.Local USDA Garden Zones for Your Backyard

5 Evergreen Shrubs for Year-Round Beauty

5 Evergreen Shrubs for Year-Round Beauty

Many gardeners focus on annual and perennial blooming plants and overlook shrubs when planning a shade garden. Start with shrubs to provide structure and background for the planting bed and valuable additions to a shade garden. The following evergreen shrubs are grown for their foliage and add great beauty to a shade garden:

Creeping Mahonia – 1′ tall, Zone 5-9

Daphne Aureomaginata – 4′ tall, Zone 7-9

Fringe Flower – 5′ tall, Zone 7-9

Magic Berry Holly – 8′ tall, Zone 5-9

Sweet Tea Gardenia – 3′ tall, Zone 8-11

5 Perennial Flowers That Bloom Every Year

5 Perennial Flowers That Bloom Every Year

Perennial plants, especially flowering ones, can provide a colorful, dramatic display that evergreen shrubs cannot. The following plants tolerate full to partial shade and bloom like crazy:

Fire & Ice Hosta, 14″ tall, Zone 3-9

Foxglove, 24″ tall, Zone 6-9

Green Sheen Japanese Spurge, 10″ tall, Zones 4-8

Marmalade Heuchera, 10″ tall, Zone 4-9

Songbird Columbine, 18″ tall, Zone 3-9

For more, check out my article: 14 Plants for Dry Shade

5 Blooming Annuals for Best Flower Colors

5 Blooming Annuals for Best Flower Colors

Enhance the flowers provided by your perennial plants with carefully chosen annual plants. These plants are too delicate to survive in cold winter climates. The term “annuals” is based on usage rather than their life cycle. The listed growing zones indicate where the plants can survive as perennials. Locally, they are used for their season-long bloom cycle of nonstop flowers.

Coleus – 24″ tall,  Zones 11

Fuchsia – 16″ tall, Zone 10-11)

Heliotrope – 12″ tall, Zone 9-11

Impatiens – 14″ tall, Zones 10-11

Wax Begonia – 12″ tall, Zones 11

5 Ground Covers to Spread Fast

5 Ground Covers to Spread Fast

Ground cover plants for full shade are beneficial when you need to cover large shaded areas and want to avoid using perennials or replanting annuals every year as bedding plants. Here are examples of ground covers that thrive in full shade.

Big Blue Liriope – 14″ tall, Zone 5-11

Orchid Frost Lamium, 12″ tall, Zone 4-10

Silver Dragon Lilytuft – 15″ tall, Zone 6-11

Vinca minor – 10″ tall, Zone 4-9)

White Alexandria Brunnera – 12″ tall, Zone 4-9

12 Ground Cover Plants for Shade

5 Vines that Climb, Bloom, and Cover

5 Vines that Climb, Bloom, and Cover

While most vines prefer full sun, several varieties thrive in the shade, adding lush greenery and flowers to your garden’s shaded areas. These shade-tolerant vines are perfect for covering walls, trellises, or fences with limited direct sunlight.

Blue Light Clematis – 5′ tall, Zone 4-9

English Ivy – 25′ tall, Zone 5-11

Green Showers Boston Ivy – 30′ tall, Zones 4-8)

White Flowering Chocolate Vine – 20′ tall, Zone 5-9

Virginia Creeper – 20′ tall, Zone 4-9

Free Garden Class

Learn More! Free Garden Classes in June.

June 8 – Growing Better Berries & Grapes

This juicy, fast-paced class covers Berries, grapes, figs, and pomegranates. After this class, you will have bowls of fruit picked fresh from the gardens.

June 15 – Top 10 Flowers That Love Summer Heat

June is the Top month for perennial flowers in gardens. There is a special focus on native and heat-loving varieties that thrive in mountain gardens.

June 22 – Best Trees for Bushels of Fruit

Have your landscape and eat it, too! We’ll share tips, tricks, and recipes for a healthy, tastier yard. Experts who know fruit trees and how to grow them will be on hand.

June 29 – Gardening for Newcomers

Are you new to Arizona or just new to gardening? This class is Gardening 101 for everyone hoping to turn a brown thumb green. It will cover garden zones, frost dates, best practices, and more. After this class, you will be a garden pro.

Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners grow better shade gardens here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found at Watters Garden Center throughout the week, 1815 Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his websites at &