Shade in the landscape doesn’t have to be that dark corner that you sort of ignore and forget about. Shade offers lots of opportunity for color and texture play, just as well as any sunnier location. When choosing plants that suit shady locations, you can afford to be pickier about what you plant. There are lots of amazing options for shrubs that brighten up shady spots - even flowering shrubs for shade.
When choosing plants for brightening up shady spots, there are a couple things to keep in mind. For starters, if you have a choice in bloom colors for a shade plant- opt for the white option first. White is essential in shade, as it literally will pop in a dark area. White will scatter light in the shady area, which will also illuminate the spot and bring out the textures and other design elements you’ve planted there. Aim to create an entire season of light white color- especially in blooms. For a shrub that will bloom in white, and enjoy the shade, try growing viburnum shrubs - especially viburnums like the Carlesii or Japanese Snowball as a foundation shrub in a shady place. For more white blooms all season long, many designers also like to rely on white blooming shade annuals like the ever-so-present seed impatiens to fill in gaps, or fill a pot that can be placed in a dark corner.
Another way to dress up darker areas is through foliage color. Many plants are bred to exhibit variegation in the leaves, which is to say that the leaves are multi-colored, usually with the normal greens but also with white, yellow, silver, or chartreuse. Sometimes variegation can also include pinks, purples, and reds. All of these variants on the green theme will absolutely shine in the shade. Try planting a wonderful stunner of a variegated willow like Nishiki Dappled Willow in a natural shaded area that needs some spicing up, or along a darker area that needs some privacy. Caladiums, which are available as tubers sold in packs at most garden stores in the spring, will also come in a wild array of colored foliage that can add a bright element to the shade.
Finally, try mixing a light pink blooming and variegated weigela for both the light blooming element and the colorful foliage element, and add an extended season of bright color among your blooming shade shrub choices. While willows are best suited for areas away from the foundation of a home, enjoy weigela along the foundation with your viburnums.
Finally, don’t forget to add shade loving perennials to your shrubs and annuals. Perennials can fill in the seasons lull between bloom shows, and are often the first and last of the garden plants to put on a show each season. They will emerge and flower before many shrubs and trees, and will begin filling in the bare gaps in the garden long before you can plant your bright annuals outside. Our favorites are hostas, heucheras, and ferns.