Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Apr 12
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Lobelia close up

When it comes to growing flowers in full sun, there are endless options, but many people have a hard time selecting flowers that can tolerate shade. Check out this list of 15 popular shade-tolerant annuals to brighten the shady corners of your garden. Every part of the garden deserves to have its own shining moment. Don’t let another year go by of viewing these low-light areas as difficult to work with. These shady spots can be your pride and joy if you let them, especially in regions with hot and dry summers.

Shade Tolerant Annuals

***These recommendations include plants that tolerate partial to full shade, be sure to familiarize yourself further with their needs to select the right plants for your growing location. Planting full sun plants in areas with light shade can help ease the mid-summer scorching heat some regions experience as well. Some varieties of the recommended flowers below may handle shade better than others.

Types of Shade

It’s no secret that light is the biggest obstacle to gardening in shady areas. Many plants suffer without enough light, or they produce foliage rather than flowers. This makes it important to understand how you can work in different types of shade. Yep, that's right. There are indeed different types of shade. Or really different levels of light being blocked. Objects such as brick buildings can block a lot of light and cause the temperatures in the shaded area to be quite different that the sun-exposed sides. Other materials, such as a tree canopy, will still allow some light through. This gradient of light allowed by different objects allows you to meet the needs of different plant light requirements from partial to full shade.

  • Light - An area experiences blocked light due to an object, fence, or trees. This area can still grow many sun-loving plants. Areas like this can actually be beneficial in growing plants that require sunlight where you may experience hot and dry summers. A brief break from the sun can allow the soil to stay a little cooler and retain more needed water. Adding mulch can also help maintain moist soils.
  • Partial - Partial sun/partial shade means an area gets 3-6 hours of sunlight a day. Look for part sun plant light requirements for these areas.
  • Dappled - Diffused light through a well-branched or thin tree canopy. In hot desert climates, these areas are often great to grow in because the harsh afternoon sun is able to be filtered to a bearable level for your plants. In more temperate and mild climates, you will want to be careful not to overwater these areas, as evaporation does not happen as quickly as in a well-lit growing location.
  • Moderate - An area receiving only 2-3 hours of sunlight mid-season. This is what I would consider a true shade area. With so little light, growing will be very difficult. Only grow plants identified for growing in shade. Partial sun plants may still grow here but will likely not flower at all, or very little. They may be more susceptible to disease and pest problems as well. Foliage plants tend to perform best in moderate and dense shade locations.
  • Heavy - Shade made by dense tree canopies, buildings, or receives less than 2 hours of direct sunlight a day. Very few plants will thrive in these areas. Be extra careful to grow plants identified for full shade tolerance and avoid overwatering. It is important that your soil be well-draining.

If you are interested in growing perennials in your shady spaces, consider using wildflowers. The Shaded Woodland Parial Shade wildflower mix includes perennials and reseeding annuals that perform well in the shady canopy covered forests throughout the U.S.

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