Answer: There are many shade tolerant plants you could use, especially if you are able to have something as tall as two feet. If you want an evergreen, pachysandra or Vinca minor would be possible choices. If a deciduous plant is acceptable, then you could look at the many different types of hosta and ferns, along with lily of the valley, epimedium, lamium, tiarella and many others.
Lilies (both Lilium and Hemerocallis) need sun so would not do well in a shady area.
Early spring bulbs such as early season daffodils, crocus, scilla, chionodoxa and winter aconite will grow well under deciduous trees. These will bloom and grow in the spring, but go dormant and die back in June so you will need something else planted along with them to cover the soil all summer. Also, you would wait until fall to plant the bulbs.
To some extent your choice will be based on whether the shade is due to a building or to overhanging trees, whether it is totally shaded all or part of the day or dappled light, if the soil is unusually wet or dry, and so on. Your local professionally trained nurseryman should be able to help you evaluate the growing conditions and identify plants that would thrive there, then you can select the one(s) you like best from those.
Good luck with your project!
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