8 Easy Outdoor Plants That Don't Need Sunlight
Garden experts share their favorite shade-tolerant plants for low-light yards.
Big, beautiful trees in our backyards are usually a welcome addition, but the shade they cast can be problematic for growing other plants and flowers. If your yard or patio is facing north or east, it may also not get a lot of sun. If you struggle with a low-light space, it's still possible to grow a garden—you just have to select the right plants. To learn what'll grow best in shady areas, we spoke to plant and gardening experts. Keep reading to get their recommendations for easy outdoor plants that don't need sunlight.
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8 Outdoor Plants That Don't Need Sunlight
When it comes to colorful flowers, impatiens might just be the most popular low-light plant.
"They need very little sunlight to successfully bloom and are fast-filling," says Rebecca Sears, CMO and resident green thumb at Ferry-Morse. "Impatiens produce vibrant, healthy flowers from summer to fall without much maintenance required, making them a great variety for beginner gardeners still developing their green thumbs."
You can find this flower in shades of white, red, purple, pink, yellow, and orange, notes Erinn Witz, a garden expert and co-founder of Seeds and Spades. Their vibrant colors make them a wonderful option for a border around a tree or shrubbery, she adds.
"Pretty much every gardener has at least a few hostas, and for good reason—they look lush and beautiful, and they'll grow almost anywhere without much effort," explains Witz.
Ben Hilton, founder and editor at The Yard and Garden, also recommends this plant for shady gardens and adds that they "prefer moist, well-draining soil and benefit from regular watering."
Like impatiens, hostas make great border plants and can grow in clusters. Witz prefers the variegated versions (their leaves are a mix of green, white, and yellow) for some added dimension.
For another pop of color in a shady garden, Hilton suggests astilbes (commonly known as false goat's beard). "These perennials are renowned for feather-like attractive plumes of pink, white, or red flowers that bloom in mid-summer."
He recommends them for north-facing or boggy gardens and notes that they prefer most soil.
4. Sweet Potato Vine
Contrary to its name, this plant does not produce sweet potatoes, but instead grows in long, trailing vines in hues from yellow-green to dark purple-red.
Sears shares that sweet potato vine grows well in partially shaded areas and that you have quite a bit of flexibility with where you plant it—"Its vines look great in hanging baskets, window boxes, or growing up a trellised wall."
This plant also loves the heat and is drought-tolerant, she adds, so it's very beginner-friendly.
5. Bleeding Hearts
For something truly unique, bleeding hearts are a shade-loving perennial that will do well in low-light settings provided they have moist, well-draining soil, says Hilton.
Witz explains that bleeding hearts are native to shaded woodland environments, so "they thrive in those sheltered areas where many other flowers wither away."
They're so named for their heart-shaped flowers that bloom in spring and come in shades of pink or white.
There are many varieties of ferns, but as Witz notes, "most of them thrive in damp, shaded areas that mimic their natural woodland homes."
Hilton says some of the best types of ferns for shady yards are maidenhair ferns, sword ferns, and lady ferns. "Use them to fill challenging spaces in corners or under trees," he adds.
7. Bee Balm
Yes, bee balm attracts bees—and hummingbirds and butterflies!—which is a good thing, as it will help pollinate your entire garden throughout the season.
Bee balm is also a vibrant perennial that will "bloom in partial shade and moist soil," says Sears. She points out that these look lovely in bouquets when cut.
Pulmonaria, also known as lungwort, grows naturally in the moist, shady environment of forest floors, explains Hilton, so they're adaptable to a low-light garden.
"They produce delicate, bell-shaped flowers that can add a splash of color to a shady spot, and they have attractive, spotted foliage that can add interest to a shady garden even when they are not in bloom," he says.