Top 10 Low-light Plants

If your land doesn't get much direct sunlight, your garden can still thrive with low-light plants. See pictures of famous gardens.

Just because your yard is shaded doesn't mean you can't grow stunning plants and flowers. You might even be surprised by how much vegetation prefers minimal sunlight.

While many perennials favor light shade, some will still blossom in relatively dense umbrage. Flowering annuals, on the other hand, have quite different preferences. Generally, the more sunshine they get, the better. They don't flourish well in intensely dark areas, but some like light shade more than full sun.


Whether your garden is blanketed in shadows, or you simply don't want to give your greenery much attention, you'll fare favorably with these 10 agreeable plants. All of them thrive in low-light areas and produce eye-catching flowers that pop with color.

10: Fuchsia

There are several different varieties of fuchsia, and all come in vivid colors. The variety with bright red and pink florets that gracefully droop down from the plant is perhaps the most recognized. The flower's shape can be slender or vigorously ruffled. Fuchsia does best in partial shade for most of the day. Plant it in early spring, after the last frost, or wait until September. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball, and fill in with rich soil around it. The ideal soil should have organic fertilizer mixed in with it. Take special care so the soil doesn't dry out or become waterlogged.


9: Bleeding Heart

Bleeding heart doesn't require much sunlight to grow its delicate blossoms.

True to its name, the bleeding heart plant shows off pink, heart-shaped flowers on the end of arching, graceful stems. Come springtime, it grows 6 inches to 2 feet tall, depending on the variety. Bleeding heart flourishes in cool, moist environments, so plant it in light to medium shade. Soil should be well-drained and rich with organic matter. Every spring, it's best to add a light layer of compost. After that, top off this covering with a 2-inch layer of mulch to lock in moisture and deter weeds. If your geographic area gets less than an inch of rainfall each week during the summer, you'll want to water bleeding heart to prevent it from drying out.


8: Primrose

Primroses cross easily and grow in unique colors.

Primrose is a favorite perennial among gardeners. It features five-petaled flowers that come in a rainbow of colors -- red, pink, orange, white, purple and striped varieties -- and is practically impossible to overwater. Spot primrose January through April, when it blossoms. There are many species and varieties of primrose. All thrive along creeks and rocky areas, including rock gardens.

Primrose is also suitable for containers, borders and bedding. Soil rich with organic matter is best for this plant, as it helps the earth retain moisture. Primrose is susceptible to slugs and snails, so take care to use copper strips or nontoxic bait around it if such pests frequent your area.


7: Forget-me-not

Forget-me-nots flourish in less-than-sunny conditions.

As you may guess from its name, forget-me-not is quite memorable! It grows into thick mats of tiny green leaves sprinkled with flat, five-petaled flowers that are usually blue, though sometimes its petals are pink or white. To plant, scatter seeds after the last frost, and cover sparingly with one-eighth inch of garden soil. It grows well underneath taller plants or in shady areas that call for a cheerful ground cover. Soil doesn't need to be incredibly rich, but it should always stay moist. Once or twice a season, give forget-me-not some general-purpose fertilizer. Insects or diseases aren't common problems for this low-maintenance plant, so it will thrive without your constant attention.


6: Jacob's Ladder

This perennial has a sturdy stem and grows to be about 6 inches to 8 inches tall. Clusters of flowers decorate its tip. Jacob's ladder blooms in spring and usually shows off half-inch light purple or blue blossoms. Less common types have pink, yellow or white flowers. Sow seeds in the spring or fall, and if you want to start seedlings indoors first, it will be about two months before they're ready to be transplanted into your garden. Jacob's ladder does best in partial shade. The ideal soil for this plant is rich, moist, cool, well-drained and has a pH of 5 to 8.


5: Impatiens

Impatiens are a gorgeous solution to filling the gaps in your low-light garden.

Ideally, impatiens receive partial to full shade. This allows the plant to produce gorgeous flowers in a medley of heights and intense colors, including white, red, dark pink, light pink and orange. Impatiens are beloved because they're not only pretty, but also easy to care for. Glossy leaves make it attractive even when it's no longer in bloom. Water impatiens regularly, but make sure soil is moist -- not too wet. Use rich soil and apply a general-purpose fertilizer once a month. Impatiens are susceptible to frost, so bring potted ones indoors or cover the ones planted in your garden when temperatures drop too low for their liking.


4: Begonia

The petals of tuberous begonias are edible and have a hint of lemony flavor.
Akira Kaede/Getty Images

Fitting for flower beds, hanging baskets, pots or even indoors, begonia is an incredibly adaptable plant. You can find this flowering plant in red, white, yellow or pink, depending on the variety. All types of begonia grow dense foliage and reach between 6 inches and 9 inches in height. Waxy green or chocolate-brown leaves give this plant appeal even when it's not in bloom. Begonia hates frost and love shade. Unlike some other plants on this list, it does best with a little care and attention. Remove dead leaves, stems and flowers. Water generously, but allow its soil to dry before watering again. Ensure that soil stays loose, and add fertilizer once a month.


3: Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley is a sophisticated choice for a romantic, shady garden.

Don't let the delicate appearance fool you: Despite its dainty, bell-shaped flowers, lily of the valley is considerably robust and able to thrive in deeply shaded places where other plants can't grow. Its fragrant, white blossoms hang from thin stems, standing about 6 inches tall. Lustrous green leaves at the base die back when the plant blossoms.

Spring is planting season for lily of the valley. Sprouts in the ground should be spaced 3 inches to 4 inches apart; those planted in containers should be twice as far apart, as lily of the valley spreads quickly. Keep it moist, and introduce compost to the soil come fall -- this is when the plant is done flowering. Dig up lily of the valley, and plant it in pots to keep indoors throughout the winter. It will be ready for replanting outside the following spring.


2: Wild Violet

Don't mistake this plant for the common African violet that's a popular indoor/outdoor plant. Truly wild violets always live outdoors. This hardy perennial does well in intensely shaded areas and can pop up in the most unexpected spots, such as the dark crevices of a forest floor, among prairie grasses and even in wetlands. Wild violet is sweet-smelling, and it tastes sweet, too! Use the well-washed blooms in salads, or crystallize them with sugar to decorate desserts.

The coloring of this plant can range from the palest purple to the deepest blue, and the spectrum also includes oranges, pinks, whites and other brilliant colors. Wild violet emerges in early spring, and it prefers well-drained soil abundant with decayed manure and organic matter.


1: Hosta Lily

If you're looking for a hardy plant with lots of visual interest, go with the hosta.

The hosta lily is more alluring for its broad, showy leaves than for its small white or lavender flowers that bloom on long stalks shooting up from the plant. Green, blue, golden and variegated leaves bring interesting textures and colors to shady areas of the yard. Once established, the hosta lily doesn't need much pruning. It prefers partial to full shade and grows between 18 inches and 30 inches tall and 2 feet to 4 feet wide. The hosta lily should have nutrient-intense soil that's constantly moist. After the first frost, cut back the plant down to ground level. Either cover the plant crown with a 3-inch bed of organic mulch to prepare it for the following season, or let the plant naturally die back. If this is your preferred method, cut back dead growth the following spring before new shoots come up.

Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • Brown, Deborah L. "Gardening in the Shade." University of Minnesota Extension. 2010. (April 15, 2010).
  • The Garden Helper. (April 15, 2010).
  • The Gardener's Network. (April 23, 2010).
  • "Growing Fuchsias." Garden Action. (April 15, 2010).
  • "Guide to Growing Jacob's Ladder." Plant Biology. (April 23, 2010).
  • "Hosta Lily." Wilson Bros. Landscape. (April 23, 2010).
  • "Plant Care Guides." National Gardening Association. (April 15, 2010).
  • "Primrose." (April 15, 2010).
  • Robson, Mary. "Fuchsia blooms brighten late-summer blahs." The Seattle Times. Aug. 25, 2007. (April 15, 2010).