Annuals for Shade

A couple of months ago, I wrote about annuals for color. That article focused on annuals for color in full-sun locations, however there are a lot of great choices for shady locations of your landscape as well or if you live in an apartment with only shade on your balcony or have a patio or garden space in the shade. So, I thought I would take the time to give you a selection of good shade tolerant annuals as well.

Tuberous Begonia

Tuberous Begonia is a common shade plant found at the garden center. They can be found in basically all flower colors except blue and the flowers may be single or double. The plants can grow upright or as a trailing plant. Trailing varieties of tuberous begonia are often found in hanging baskets and are popular as a Mother’s Day gift. Tuberous begonias can also be kept over the winter to replant and enjoy new each season. Save the tubers from the plant and then repot them in February to early March and enjoy them as they grow again the next year.


Caladium is a fun plant for the shade that will not survive our winters, so it is grown as an annual here. This is a plant that is used mostly for the leaves, not for the flowers. The leaves can be found in shades of green, white, red, and pink and they are large and tropical in appearance. They grow best in moist, shady areas of your landscape where many other plants will not thrive. They will take part shade as well. If caladiums are planted in areas with too much sunlight, the leaves will scorch and turn brown and papery. Caladiums can also be planted in containers placed in a shady location.


Coleus is another shade plant that we grow for the foliage, not for the flowers. Coleus can be found in many shades of green with pink, purple, white, red, and orange. There are even mixes that have multiple color combinations together. Depending on the variety they can be only 1 foot tall up to 3 feet tall and wide. There are also sun varieties but be sure to plant shade varieties in the shade and sun varieties in the sun for brightest colors and most vigorous growth. These plants can be grown year-round indoors in a container, but outdoors in Nebraska, they will not survive the winter conditions.


Impatiens are a fun addition of color to a shady spot in your garden in shade planters. The typical impatiens are coral or a mix, but they can be found in the pinks, reds, oranges, coral, and white. These are tough and fairly easy to grow for the gardener of any age. There are now varieties of impatiens that can be grown in full sun, called the SunPatiens. They will grow in full sun, part shade, and full shade, making them very adaptable and a great addition to our landscapes and container gardens. Impatiens often get downy mildew, choose a variety that is resistant to this disease to help maintain your flowering through the season. New Guinea impatiens are another species of impatiens that can survive in more sunlight than traditional garden impatiens but require a lot of water to thrive in that location. New guinea impatiens are the impatiens with large, brightly colored bronze or purple leaves typically with a pink midrib. For a full sun option with less water requirements, choose the sunpatiens that are better suited for this location and have resistance to downy mildew.


Torenia is a fun shade annual. I added it to my shade container gardens one year when I lived in an apartment with a North facing patio to add something different. They have a small, blue flower that reminded me of a snapdragon style of flower but it grew well in the shade. It is a little less known, but it can be found at most garden centers.

The plants in this list are shade loving, but not necessarily full shade. They will all tolerate part to full shade. They should have 4 hours or less of sun and that sun shouldn’t be only in the afternoon. It should be more morning sun with some early afternoon or early evening sun as well. So, even if you have a location where you can only have containerized plants and you only have space for them in a shady location of your landscape, there are still great choices for the shade. Annual plants can be fun to put into containers or in the ground around your perennial choices.

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