We are frequently asked what perennials can be planted under shade trees. While dense shade is not an environment for prolific perennial blooms, there are a variety of perennials that offer variegated, textured, and colorful foliage. Walk your yard at different times to determine how much shade the planting area truly receives before making your choices.

Most sun-loving plants will do fine in 3-5 hours of light to partial shade. A garden under a single tree will generally receive lots of light in the morning and late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky and the rays of the sun are coming in from the side. Full sun plants grown in partial shade may have a somewhat looser growth habit and lesser bloom quantity. Plants that thrive in dense shade will take longer to establish but once they are, maintaining the garden is easy!

The majority of plants like well-drained soil. Dry shade occurs under trees with shallow root systems, such as maples, or in building shadows or overhangs where rain doesn’t reach. To improve soil texture here, water regularly and add generous amounts of organic matter allowing water to reach the plant roots. Mulching regularly conserves moisture and keeps roots cool. Adding a spring application of a balanced fertilizer helps shade plants compete with trees & shrubs for moisture.

Perennials for Light or Filtered Dry Shade

Bleeding Heart / Dicentra

Columbine / Aquilegia

Coral Bells / Heuchera

*Creeping Jenny / Lysimachia

Creeping Lilyturf / Liriope

Day Lily / Hemerocallis (reduced bloom)

Foamflower / Tiarella

Fumitory / Corydalis

*Gooseneck Loosestrife / Lysimachia

Hardy Ageratum / Eupatorium coelestinum

Hardy Geranium

Jacob’s Ladder / Polemonium

Leopardbane / Doronicum

Shooting Star / Dodecatheon

*Spotted Dead Nettle / Lamium

Spurge / Euphorbia

Violet / Viola

*Yellow Archangel / Lamiastrum

*Aggressive spreaders

Perennials for Dense Shade

Barrenwort / Epimedium

Bugleweed  Ajuga

English Ivy / Hedera helix

Ferns – dozens to choose from

Hosta – More than 60 to choose from

Lily-of-the-Valley / Convallaria

Pachysandra – groundcover

Periwinkle / Vinca – groundcover

Solomon’s Seal / Polygonatum

Sweet Woodruff / Gallium odoratum

Wind Ginger / Asarum

Perennials for Moist, Dense Shade

Hardy Ferns

Hardy Geranium



Lungwort / Pulmonaria

Mayapple / Podophyllum

Pig Squeak / Bergenia

Solomon’s Seal / Polygonatum

Sweet Woodruff / Galium odoratum

Virginia Blue Bells / Mertensia

Wakerobin / Trillium

Wild Ginger / Asarum

We have many more perennials than listed here, and multiple selections within each variety. Please visit the Perennial Department at either of our locations, Naperville or Aurora to see them in person. We offer heirlooms, gardener’s favorites, new cultivars, and natives! Informational signs are next to each plant and our staff is always available to help you choose the right plant for your place. Pick up our free Plant Guide while visiting to continue your Wish List from home or learn more about the plants with our online Plant Search.

The Conservation Foundation will be talking about the benefits of planting natives at The Growing Place on Saturday, June 11 in Naperville and Sunday, June 12 in Aurora, 11am and 1pm, each location.

11am – Butterfly Gardens – Jim Kleinwachter with The Conservation Foundation shares which native plants attract pollinators to your yard. Birds and butterflies will be in frequent view with natives for sun and shade.

1pm – Using Native Plants to Solve Water Issues – Whether too much or too little water is an issue in your yard, Jim Kleinwachter with The Conservation Foundation tells how native plants can help combat the problem.