« Back to all News

Colorful Plants for Shady Flower Beds

Colorful annuals growing in a shade gardenPartially or fully shaded flower beds present a unique challenge for gardeners. When it comes to shade-loving, colorful annual plants, there are only a few to choose from. However, a little bit of imagination and a little bit of knowledge can combine to create fantastically stunning, vibrant displays in your more challenging areas. The imagination part is up to you, but here’s the knowledge you need to maximize the potential of your semi-shady flower beds.

All of these shady flower bed selections are relatively disease-free, require little maintenance and provide lots of color. You can mix and match ’em, or plant your favorites en masse for bold, eye-catching spectacles. Just as an artist paints a picture, you can use a selection of shade-friendly annual plants to create your own masterpiece. Depending upon the play of dappled sun and shadow, the palette of colors can be an ever-changing kaleidoscope for your viewing pleasure.

Are You Inspired Yet?

Let’s get started. In alphabetical order:

  • Begonias – There are plentiful Begonias to choose from. Begonias will bloom throughout the summer and fall, and all are adaptable to being moved indoors for the winter. One of the most popular shade-friendly annual plants, they are comparatively easy to grow and will tolerate varying amounts of sunlight. You can learn more about growing Begonias here.
    Each type of Begonia has its own characteristics:
    • Angel Wing Begonia -You may also know these as Cane Begonias. Red begonia plants in landscapingFlourishing on segmented stems somewhat similar to bamboo, the foliage on Angel Wing Begonias provides color throughout the season, even when the plant is not in bloom. Angel Wing Begonias enjoy partial to fully shaded locations and can be planted in containers or in the ground.
    • Dragon Wing Begonia – This is a hybrid between Angel Wing and Wax Begonia varieties, the offspring possessing the best qualities of both. It grows equally well indoors and out, is heat tolerant, and will bloom prolifically in full sun to light shade.
    • Solenia Begonia – This Begonia has been bred to be a sun-lover, though it will perform just as well in partial shade. This heat-tolerant variety is also resistant to mildew and has some of the most unique coloration.
    • Tuberous Begonia – The Santa Cruz® Begonia is truly unique. Bred to brave the rain, heat and sun, this is the Begonia to grow if you are ‘iffy’ about Begonias. Once a breeder hits a home run like this, you can expect to see more of the same.
    • Wax Begonia – This may be the Begonia you are most familiar with. Its waxy leaves retain water for the plant, while also displaying some really striking color. They will all perform well in shady beds or containers and will be covered with single and beauty_lyon_Mdouble blossoms from late spring through early fall.
  • Coleus – Coleus plants are grown almost exclusively for their colorful foliage, some varieties sporting amazingly unique patterns and hues. In fact, one idiosyncrasy is that you should pinch the insignificant blossoms before they go to seed. Coleus has the distinction of thinking its life is over once it goes to seed and, subsequently, the plant will die out. Some Coleus will have the best color in full shade, while others prefer a bit of sun. All will provide gorgeous pigment in partial shade and will perform equally well in containers or beds. Coleus is also quite adaptable to indoor living. You can check out this article, How to Grow Coleus Plants, for more information about this pretty foliage plant.


  • Ipomoeacolorful sweet potato vine plants – You may know these as Sweet Potato Vines or Plants. Exhibiting fantastic growth over a single season and available in a variety of leaf shapes and colors, Ipomoea is often grown as an annual ground cover, but is also utilized as a spiller or filler with any number of annuals in containers. Ipomoea will be happy in partial shade to full sun, though it is happiest in dappled shade, especially in the warmest environs.




  • SunPatiens Impatienslilac_sunpatiens_M – There is literally a SunPatiens for everyone! Classified as Compact, Spreading, or Vigorous, each has attributes and colors to suit every grower’s tastes. The Compact SunPatiens have shorter stems with exceptional branching, and will grow up to 36 inches high and wide. The Spreading SunPatiens have a more cascading habit, spreading up to 40 inches, with sometimes variegated foliage. The Vigorous SunPatiens are not only adaptable to container growth, but are being utilized as a super gorgeous flowering ground cover. Vigorous SunPatiens will spread up to 48 inches. All SunPatiens are self-cleaning and are unaffected by downy mildew.



  • Torenia – This fun and colorful shade-tolerant plant is a little-known relative to the Snapdragon. Looking quite whimsical, these blossoms have velvety-looking cheeks, wide open mouths and yellow or orange tongues. Slow growing, though exceptionally heat tolerant, Torenia, a.k.a. the Wishbone Flower, will bloom nicely in the shade. In northern climates it will tolerate full sun. Blooming throughout the summer, right up to the first frost, Torenia will be as happy indoors during the winter as it is outdoors the rest of the year.



So there you have it. Now you know exactly what to plant in that semi-shady flower bed. You can fill that container you’ve been wanting to plant and you can hang it where the sun doesn’t shine much. It’s time to put your creative skills to work.


Leave a Reply

Discount Coupons
Ask a Master Gardener