|What type of plants grow best in the shade?|
|You didn't mention what size plants or what type of gardening you wanted to do, so I listed a variety of options below. I hope it gives you a starting point!
Rock garden for Michigan in shade
Here are a couple ideas for full shade: Polemonium reptans, primrose, Thalictrum alpinum (meadow rue), Hepatica (liverleaf). For partial shade, consider Echeveria (Hens & Chicks, there are many varieties), Sedum (many varieties), columbine, Veronica saturejoides.
Here are some perennials that are 2-3 feet tall: digitalis (foxglove), daylilies (hemerocallis) (some prefer full sun, but some will take some shade), liriope, monarda, columbine, Asiatic lilies, or astilbe (false spiraea), which has many varieties of many heights, but some would be in your preferred range. Sometimes a shady northern exposure can be difficult for blooming plants, so you may need to experiment with a few varieties to find what performs in your spot. Good luck!
Moist soil woodland plants: There are many woodland flowering plants that thrive in moist soil and shady conditions. Consider baneberry, pearly everlasting, goat's beard, bog rosemary, astilbe, ferns, marsh marigold, sedges, sweet woodruff, japanese iris, bloodroot, and black snakeroot.
Flowers for shade: Perennials -- Anemone, Columbine, Astilbe, Campanula, lily-of-the-valley, Dicentra, Digitalis, Ferns, Hosta, daylilies, Liriope, Monarda, Pachysandra, Thalictrum, Vinca, navelwort (Omphalodes cappadocica), blue lungwort (Pulmonaria angustifolia), pinkroot (Spigelia marilandica), bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) and sweet violets (Viola odorata).
Annuals -- Begonia, Browallia, Coleus, annual Foxglove, Forget-me-not, Impatiens, Primrose, Torenia, Viola. Bulbs -- Begonia, Caladium, Camassia, Elephant's ears, Lilium, Narcissus, Scilla, Callas.
For shrubs, you might consider viburnums, hypericum, paxistima, shrub dogwoods and hydrangea arborescens.
Evergreen take some shade shrubs: yew, boxwood, euonymus fortunei