By National Gardening Association Editors

Even if buildings, fences or trees shade your yard, you can still grow magnificent flowers. While your selection is more limited than if you were gardening in full sun, the number of annual plants that grow and flower well in the shade is expanding yearly. Since these plants are bred to bloom, they can quickly transform a shady nook into a colorful corner.

Shade-loving annuals enhance your yard by:

  • Mixing well with shade-loving perennials
  • Often featuring colorful foliage, brightening areas when flowers aren't blooming
  • Growing and flowering with minimal care

Most Popular Choices

The most common flowering annuals for shade are impatiens and begonias. These plants complement shade-loving perennials, such as hosta and astilbe, and they adapt beautifully to hanging baskets and containers. Some varieties even have colorful foliage! Note that although they perform well with less than 6 hours of direct sun a day, impatiens and begonias won't perform at their peak in the deepest shade.


There's a type of impatiens for any situation:

  • Mounded varieties are perfect for small flowerbeds and containers.
  • Trailing varieties cascade out of window boxes.
  • New Guinea impatiens are taller and more sun-tolerant, and many have colorful leaves as well.

Over the last few years there's been an explosion in the number of impatiens varieties and flower colors, making it the top bedding plant sold in this country. The common garden impatiens (I. wallerana) is the most popular type. These plants grow in mounds 6 to 24 inches high, depending on the variety, and sport 1 to 2-inch diameter flowers. Newer varieties feature double flowers. There are even trailing impatiens that spread 16 to 20 inches wide. Common impatiens thrive with as little as a few hours of morning sun a day.

New Guinea impatiens have their own unique features. They grow to 2 feet tall, boast larger flowers and many times, variegated leaves, and they need more sun to bloom than garden impatiens.

Both common and New Guinea impatiens like cool temperatures (60 to 70°F), plenty of soil moisture, and don't need their old, faded flowers to be removed. Neither type can endure a hot, sunny location, but New Guinea impatiens are more tolerant of sun as long as they are kept moist.

Impatiens Care Tips

All impatiens prefer well-drained soil that isn't too fertile; too much nitrogen fertilizer will cause plants to produce lush foliage but few flowers. Since impatiens are frost-sensitive, wait until warm weather hits before planting outdoors.


Begonias are easy-care, shade-loving plants that:

  • Look great in window boxes, containers and garden beds
  • Have colorful leaves to contrast bright flowers
  • Tolerate full sun in cool summer areas

Begonias come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the most common of which is the bedding or wax begonia. Wax begonias grow to a height of 6 to 12 inches, with flower colors including white, pink and red. They look best grouped together in beds or containers. The leaves may be green or bronze adding another interesting focal point.

Other types of begonias include tuberous begonias, which feature large, camellia-like flowers, and angel wing begonias with attractive, broad foliage.

Begonia Care Tips

Plant begonias in spring after all danger of frost has passed, in soil amended with compost. In cool summer climates they grow well planted in full sun, but elsewhere they need at least part shade to survive, especially during the hottest part of the day. Keep transplants well watered for best growth.

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