Shrubs and Perennials that Brighten the Shade

Shrubs and Perennials

I’m a big fan of shade gardens, and of the many, surprisingly colorful plants that tolerate shade.   But I just know there are gardeners out there buying flats of annuals (impatiens, anyone?) and nothing else for their shady spots, and ignoring all the fabulous shrubs and perennials that bring light and color to shade gardens.  So I give you a few of the “Best and the Brightest” in my own shade garden.



Above, the variegated Euonymus fortunii stays nice and short – under 18″ – so it’s perfect for tight spots.  Super easy-care, it doesn’t even need pruning (at least in the 10 years I’ve grown this one.)  The bottlebrush buckeye, on the other hand, will grow to 8 feet tall by 10 feet wide and then spread into an actual grove of them.  They’re equally low-care, and also native to this region.

Above are some plants that are commonly found in gardens  – because they’re such do-ers.  Hostas are about the toughest perennials in the world and foolproof for any gardener – unless there are deer in the garden.  Towering over them is a contender for the title of toughest, most sustainable shrub in the world – the Acuba. It can take full sun OR shade and survives both severe drought and record blizzards without a care.


Now have you all heard of these next perennials? Clockwise from upper left, Euphorbia amygdaloides, is about 2 feet tall and evergreen.  The chartreuse blossoms you see (actually bracts) look great for months.  Visitors are awed by this plant – I’m telling ya.

Next is Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum) – not the common type but this variegated green-and-white type, which really does brighten even the darkest shade, and all season long.  Its spring flowers are nice but short-lived not as showy as its leaves.

Bottom right is hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) with lovely foliage and these stunning flowers in late summer.  They seed freely so once you have a few, you’ll soon have as many as you want (and ones you don’t want are easy to yank).

Finally, Hakonechloa grass is a stunner I recommended in my last post, but here it’s paired with the perennial Geraniums ‘Johnson’s Blue’, which can take light shade or full sun.