21 Shade Loving Perennials For Zone 6 Shade Gardens

Looking for some perennial plants for a shady area of your garden, and live in hardiness zone 6? Perhaps you are starting a new shade garden? Either way, finding the right plants for areas that don't naturally get a lot of sun is important when planting in the shade. In this article, you'll learn about our favorite cold-hardy plants that are perfect for hardiness zone 6.

Shade Loving Perennials

If you live in USDA hardiness zone six and have shady areas in your yard that most plants will not tolerate, there are shade-loving perennials that may be exactly what you are looking for! While many of the shade loving plants that work in zone 5 will grow here as well, why not get some other options?

So where is zone six? It covers some of the colder regions that have less than three hours of sunlight. 10 states fall into that category:  Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Washington.

No matter which area of zone 6 you reside in, finding the right perennials that love the shade is important if you are creating your very own shade garden oasis. Or, if you have a lot of trees in your yard, you need plants that can withstand a lot of shade. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite shade-friendly perennials for zone 6 gardens that will come back year after year.

Bear’s Breeches

Acanthus mollis
These flowers have a deep root system that will protect them in the winter months.
Scientific Name: Acanthus mollis

Bear’s Breeches, or oyster plants, are famous for their shiny green leaves and tall stems. They have a history of architectural purposes and some believe they have medicinal properties.  Their white and pink flowers on 3-foot tall spires stand out from other foliage.

They need shady spots in different types of well-drained soil, including clay, loam, or sand, and require frequent watering. These tall perennials are perfect as borders along flowerbeds or pathways. They rely on their deep roots in winter for survival but using mulch around the plants will protect them from the extreme cold.

Bleeding Heart

lamprocapnos spectabilis
These flowers are low maintenance but do require full sun and moist, well-drained soil.
Scientific Name: lamprocapnos spectabilis
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Northern Asia
  • Plant Size: Up to 3 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Plant Zone: 2-9

These shade perennials Zone 6 are natives of Asia. They bloom in early Spring, go dormant in the summer, and grow back next Spring.  A great place to plant them is under trees.

The name comes from the perennially pink, red, or white heart-shaped flowers that hang in a row from branches. Bleeding Heart plants can get up to three inches tall by three inches wide at maturity. It can take up to 60 days to reach that point.

They require little maintenance and thrive in partial to full shade with moist soil that drains well. They will stay in bloom for several weeks. If you do not deadhead them after they close up, they will reseed themselves. Bleeding Hearts are poisonous to kids and pets, especially dogs.

Blue Angel Hosta

Sieboldiana
These plants have big, beautiful heart shaped leaves, and will thrive best in partial to full shade.
Scientific Name: Sieboldiana
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Plant Size: 2 to 5 feet
  • Sun exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • USDA zones: 3 to 8

You may know the Blue Angel Hosta as the plantain lily. The silvery, bluish-green plants grow 30-36 inches high with a 36-inch spread. The ridges on the heart-shaped leaves make them more resistant to slugs than softer hostas.

The Blue Angels thrive best in partial to full shade but can tolerate the morning sun. You will see these ground-covering plants bloom around mid-summer. Peeking through the leaves are tall spires with 1.5-inch bell-shaped white flowers.

They prefer different types of moist, well-drained soil, and make great cover plants under trees or as border foliage. They belong to the Lilly family. Hummingbirds love them because of the sweet nectar in the flower tubular

Columbine

Aquilegia spp
These plants do not do well in heat and have a dormant period.
Scientific Name: Aquilegia spp
  • Plant Type: Perennial (zones 3-8), Annual
  • Geographic Origin:
  • Plant Size: 12 to 18 inches
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • USDA zones: 3 to 8

These beautiful perennial flowers grow best in cooler regions with partial afternoon shade. They do not like heat and go dormant by late July. Each year they reseed and bloom in the spring if you don’t remove the flower heads when they die. They present with clover-like foliage and flowers shaped like jester hats in white, yellow, pink, red, or purple.

The blooms hang off the end of long, thin stems that extend from the plant. Some plants can get as tall as 18-24 inches high while others remain dwarf. They are ideal for rock gardens or along fences.

Columbines grow well in moderately moist soil that needs re-watering when it dries out on top. They have a short lifespan, only living up to three to four years, and are toxic to humans.

Coral Bells

Heuchera
You will often see these plants in shady, wooded ares and are known to attract a variety of pollinators.
Scientific Name: Heuchera
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant Size: 16 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4-9

Coral Bells, or alumroot, often grow in wooded areas with a lot of shade and some sun. The soft, wrinkly foliage of these zone six shade perennials varies from green, red, brown, yellow, white, pink, or red in mid-summer. Suspending from the plant are skinny green spikes holding colorful flowers resembling bells. Their perennial flowers come most commonly in lavender, or white.

If you plant them in late fall to early spring, you will be able to enjoy them in summer. These North American natives thrive in containers as solo plants or clusters and look great in the flowerbeds with other shade-loving perennials. Since they are rich in nectar, butterflies and hummingbirds find these plants enticing.

These unique evergreen plants grow about 12-18 inches high and wide and can complement any garden or shady spot. They require little maintenance except watering and retain their beauty all year long.

Corydalis

Corydalis yanhusuo
These flowers are not only a lovely addition to any garden, but are also known for their medicinal uses.
Scientific Name: Corydalis yanhusuo
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Plant Size: 12 – 18 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Shade or partial sun
  • Plant Zone: 5 – 7

Historically, this herbal plant has been used as Chinese remedies. It is a relative of the bleeding hearts plant and lasts from spring until the first frost. You will commonly see blue and yellow corydalis plants in North America. These colorful mound-shaped plants are perfect as garden borders or ground covers under trees and can make great layering plants in flower beds or along walkways.

Consisting of flower clusters towering over long thin stems, the corydalis may grow up to 15 inches tall. They prefer moist, alkaline soil and partial shade, but can be in full sunlight if you water them regularly.

Country & Western Astilbe

Astilbe hybrid
These plants do best in partial to full shade and are perfect in flower beds or as a container plant.
Scientific Name: Astilbe hybrid
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant Size:9 to 12 inches
  • Sun exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • USDA zones: 4 to 8

The Country & Western Astilbe plant consists of green fern-like leaves and clusters of fuzzy soft pink flowers on long stems that bloom in early summer. These are partial to full shade perennials that can get up between 18-20 inches tall and 20-22 inches wide.

You can plan them in containers and flower beds or use them as border plants in shady areas. They are beautiful next to streams or ponds. Plant them in groups to highlight your garden even more. A bonus to these beauties is that they attract butterflies and repel deer and rabbits.

They need moist, well-drained soil to survive and require frequent watering. One way to prevent dry soil is by applying  mulch to the surface of the plants.

If you keep them moist and provide them with the appropriate amount of shade, they will show off their beautiful green foliage all season long. 

Creeping Myrtle

Vinca minor
These plants will help with weed control in your garden.

Scientific Name: Vinca minor

  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 16 in
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 9

If you have seen periwinkle, then you know what Creeping Myrtles look like. Only three to six inches tall and 18 inches wide, their purple pinwheel flowers and flat leaves make great cover plants under trees and areas where grass does not grow. When they spread out, they block weed growth. Blooming happens from May to June

Natives to Europe, the Creeping Myrtles were the flowers of death during medieval times. These potentially invasive plants are tough and low-maintenance. They need full to partial shade and are drought-tolerant but still need water when you first plant them to stay moist.

As long as the soil drains well, you will not need to water them consistently. They repel pests and are toxic to pets, so keep your dog away from the flower bed.

English Daisies

Bellis perennis L
These flowers will thrive best in cooler climates.
Scientific Name: Bellis perennis L
  • Plant Type: Perennial Grown as Biennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 3-6 inches
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • USDA zones: 4 to 8

Other names for English daisies are lawn daisies and European daisies. You will recognize English daisies by their yellow centers and thin fragile colorful petals. They fold in their petals at night and open back up on sunny days and partial shade.

Their stems may reach three to six inches high. These small dainty flowers flourish best in cooler temperatures, such as in the fall. They are perfect for filling in those bare areas in a garden. They prefer soil that is poor or lean and moist.

Ferns have a biennial life cycle where they grow foliage the first year, then their flowers come in the next year. They blend well in a flower bed with pansies and tulips.

Ferns

Tracheophyta
These plants are slow growing and will not produce any flowers.
Scientific Name: Tracheophyta
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Variety Dependent
  • Plant Size: Varietiey Dependent
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • USDA zones: 4 to 8 (variety dependent)

There are different varieties of ferns that are tough and grow everywhere there is shade. What distinguishes ferns from other plants is that they do not flower. They have roots, stems, and leaves, but reproduce themselves via spores. The little black dots on the back of their leaves are spore cases, from which the spores come.

They are tolerant of cold temperatures and sensitive to over-fertilization. Most ferns grow slowly between one and three feet tall and can take years to mature. They prefer well-drained organic soil in moist shady areas in the woods or on the north sides of buildings.

Ferns are ground-dwellers and rock-dwellers and thrive on hillsides, in the woods, and next to ponds with a lot of shade.

Foam Flowers

Tiarella cordifolia
These plants will thrive in cool, moist soil and are known to be deer and rabbit resistant.
Scientific Name: Tiarella cordifolia
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant Size: 12-18 Inches
  • Sun exposure: Partial Sun to Full Shade
  • USDA zones: 3 to 8

Native to the eastern portion of North America, foam flowers make excellent ground covers for flower beds and borders. When they mature, they grow up to one foot tall and one to two feet wide.

You will recognize foam flowers by their heart-shaped green leaves with burgundy veins, and long spikes of small, foamy white star-like flowers in clusters that emerge from the foliage in the spring.

They only last about four to six weeks before you will need to trim the heads. The leaves themselves will fascinate anyone during the year due to their unique appearance. These wildflowers love cool, moist soil that drains well and need at least four hours of shade to stay healthy. They are deer and rabbit resistant.

Hosta

Hosta
These plants can grow to around 6 feet tall and will do best in full shade.
Scientific Name: Hosta
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Plant Size: 2 to 5 feet
  • Sun exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • USDA zones: 3 to 8

The hosta is the most popular problem-free perennial that thrives in the shade.  Their beautiful foliage adds color and style to any garden. They can grow from 6 inches to six feet tall and may take years to mature.

There are over 2,500 types of hosta that vary by leaf shape and color. The color shades vary as well. They love a lot of shade but need sunlight to thrive. Lighter shade and striped leaves need more sunlight than those with solid, deeper colors. They pair well with other plants, and are easy to grow.

In early spring or early fall when temperatures are mild, you may see white, lavender, or pink blooms on long stalks that extend beyond the glossy foliage. They are extremely easy to care for and only need moderately moist soil that drains well.

They attract deer and slugs but there are some things you can do to deter them. If you like butterflies and bees, these plants are inviting to them. Hostas are toxic to pets and horses.

Jack Frost Brunnera

These plants are fairly low maintenance and prefer morning sun and afternoon shade.
Scientific Name: Brunnera macrophylla
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern Europe
  • Plant Size: 18 to 30 inches
  • Sun exposure: Part shade
  • USDA zones: 3 to 8

For a one-of-a-kind look at your landscaping, Jack Frost Brunnera has what you want. This partial to full shade-loving perennial possesses curly heart-shaped velvety leaves with a silver overlay and green veins, and light blue flowers that bloom in early spring.

The Jack Frost can grow 12-18 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide. Some people may think the Jack Frost Brunnera plants have a slight resemblance to forget-me-nots. Those tiny flowers with yellow centers last for three to four weeks, then they creep gradually into the thick mounds of green foliage.

They work perfectly in flowerbeds solo or clusters and blend well with other plants. They are more heat-tolerant than other brunerra plants and enjoy the morning sun, but prefer partial to full shade in the afternoon. Brunneras need moist soil that drains well.

For the most part, these plants are low-maintenance, but you need to water them unless you use a mulch to keep the soil moist. You may start seeing brown spots on the leaves if the plants are too dry. The brunerras repel pests, deer, and rabbits.

Japanese Spurge

Pachysandra terminalis
These plants will produce these white flowers in early spring and prefer the shade.
Scientific Name: Pachysandra terminalis
  • Plant Type: Evergreen Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Plant Size: 5-6 inches
  • Sun exposure: Part shade
  • USDA zones: 4 to 8

The Japanese Pachysandra is an evergreen shade perennial for zone 6 that is ideal for ground cover.  It has leathery dark-green glossy leaves that lack woody stems and produces white flowers in early spring. It can grow as tall as one foot.

After the bloom season finishes, the foliage turns yellow instead of dying and its roots survive under the soil. Once it starts growing, this Japanese foliage continues to spread across the area and will intrude on other plants if you do not give it space.

The best place to plant the Pachysandra is in partly- to fully-shaded beds with poor soil. If you have those hard-to-grow spots, the green plant will work there too. Keep in mind that this plant can be considered invasive in many states, so check with your local regulations.

Japanese Toad Lilly

Tricyrtis
These unique flowers need moist soil, rich compost and a good amount of shade in order to thrive.
Scientific Name: Tricyrtis
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Plant Size: 2-3 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

Another Asian native, the Japanese Toad Lilly appears on rocky hills and near streams. It makes a great border plant for any landscaping. The flowers are unique, sporting about six white petals with lavender speckles and cling onto thin velvety branches that protrude from textured leaves.

Since there is more than one variety, the shape of the flowers may vary. The toad Lilly needs moist soil, organic compost for nutrition, and shade. Feeding it regular liquid food at half-strength will help keep it healthy.

The flowers bloom in late summer and fall and attract hummingbirds and pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. This plant is also great in containers or planters.

Lenten Rose

Helleborus x hybridus
These flowers will grow in the winder and prefer partial to full shade.
Scientific Name: Helleborus x hybridus
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 12-18 in tall and wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 9

The Lenten Rose is a type of evergreen, not a rose. It blooms around the time of Lent in late winter and has rose-like flowers. The white, pink to rose-purple buds and leathery green leaves make up this beautiful plant. This shade friendly perennial flower is a favorite in shade gardens everywhere.

The two to three-inch flowers could be facing down or upward depending on the variety of the plant, and hang on thick stems that are longer than the foliage. Each variety of the Lenten Rose varies in the markings and smooth or ruffled surface of the flowers. The colors of these plants are more vibrant in the spring and fade by fall, making them perfect for shade gardens that need a little color.

Lenten Rose grows over two to three years before it matures. Starting in early fall or late spring it takes eight to 10 weeks to bloom. You can place it in partial to full shade under deciduous trees or other areas away from the summer winds.

This original perennial prefers moist loam soil and more sunlight in the winter. To keep the soil from drying out, apply mulch around it in the early winter months. Though elegant and symbolic, this evergreen is toxic to humans, pets, and horses and is deer-resistant.

Leopard’s Bane

Doronicum orientale
These flowers will bloom twice a year in the spring and again in the fall.
Scientific Name: Doronicum orientale
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: Up to 2 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

This pretty plant is one of the first perennials to bloom in spring. It grows from tubers or rhizomes. The yellow daisy-like flowers and yellow-green heart-shaped foliage prefer moist, well-drained soil in partial to full afternoon shade of warmer climates and full sun in cooler regions. They can grow one to four feet high and live three to five years.

These cold-hardy plants survive in most areas of Utah. They bloom twice a year, in the spring and fall. They need frequent watering because they do not tolerate dry soil. During the summer, they go dormant underground. They flourish well with tulips, daffodils, and other shade-loving plants.

Lungwort

Pulmonaria spp
These flowers are perfect for plant under trees with lots of shade.
Scientific Name: Pulmonaria spp
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe, Asia
  • Plant Size: 6–12 in tall, 12–18 in wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

This perennial has an unusual name that tells its history. Historically, the Lungwort plant was a remedy for lung disorders. Now it perks up landscaping due to its unique look. Some people call it the spotted dog plant because of the white spots on its green leaves.

For best results, plant it in the fall. It blooms in early spring and can have clusters of flowers in different colors on the same plant. It can grow to 18 inches in height and spread rapidly. The Lungwort loves full shade and partial sunlight, oftentimes under trees.

It needs moist soil but will not share with trees, so be sure to plant it in an area that will retain moisture. Flowerbeds by fences or walls that have ample shade will be good places for planting. This perennial attracts pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, and is toxic to humans and pets.

Indian Pink 

Spigelia marilandica
The flowers on these plants will attract many different pollinators.
Scientific Name: Spigelia marilandica
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Southern United States
  • Plant Size: Up to 12-18 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 5 to 9

Indian Pink is native to the southeast region of the U.S. and is a rarity of its species. It is the only perennial that is also tropical. This full-shade-loving perennial loves the heat and can get as tall as one to two feet.

In late May to early June, you will see long tubular red flowers open with yellow stars at the tips, which attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The leaves are dark green and heart-shaped and look great with the colorful flowers.

This wildflower prefers moderately wet well-draining soil. You may find this plant in woodlands and other wood-like areas that get a lot of shade. You will be able to enjoy this beauty for at least two years.

Sun King Aralia

Aralia cordata
These plants can grow to around 6 feet, and prefer to have ample shade.
Scientific Name: Aralia cordata
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Plant Size: Up to 6 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 9

As the name implies, the Sun King Aralia produces bright yellow shoots in the spring and white flowers in summer. The leaves are golden and will keep their color if they stay in a light shade. They can get as tall as six feet and grow fast.

If you need a tall plant, try the Sun King. It prefers partial to full shade in the areas that need some height. It attracts bees, which allows for pollination, and repels deer. Sun King Aralia requires little to no suckering or re-seeding and will eventually turn into tiny dark inedible berries.

You may have to prune it some in May to promote branching. You can plant it with other perennials to add some extra color. To prevent dehydration, you will need to water it during the summer. This herbaceous perennial dies in the winter but comes back in the spring.

Wind Flower

These flowers are fast growers and come in a variety of different colors to choose from.
Scientific Name: Anemone spp
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: China
  • Plant Size: 30 to 36 inches
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Plant Zones: 5 to 8

Several species of windflower exist, some blooming in spring and others in the fall. These unique plants start from beneath the ground in the form of tubers. They grow as stalks from above the soil, anywhere from six inches to six feet tall that sway in the wind.

These fast-growing perennials produce poppy-like flowers that are roughly 2.5 inches in diameter and vary in colors, such as pink, white, red, and yellow. Some plants grow as single blossoms and others have double blooms on their stalks.

It is unusual for perennials to bloom in the fall, which makes the windflowers so different. Windflowers thrive best in rich, moist soil. They are toxic to humans and pets if they consume them.

Final Thoughts

These are only a sampling of shade-loving perennials for zone 6 gardens. Keep in mind that many perennials can operate across different zones, depending on the heat, and time of year. There are even more that you might introduce to your own garden but hopefully, a few of these will suffice and help fill out some of those shadier spots in your garden, or help you create a peaceful shade garden.

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