5 Colorful Annual Flowers for the Shade

Gardening in the shade presents special challenges, but plenty of beautiful annual flowers for the shade exist that can help liven up a shady bed, border or container.

by Jessica WalliserMay 10, 2018
PHOTO: Jessica Walliser

Gardeners often believe that without a lot of sunshine, you can’t have a colorful summer garden. But it’s simply not true. There are many colorful annuals that thrive in full to partial shade. The following low-maintenance, eye-catching annual flowers for the shade deserve a place in your farm’s garden.

1. Begonias

There are dozens of different types of begonias that offer both beautiful flowers and stunning foliage in the shade garden. Simple wax begonias may not grow large, but with them, you can add a bright edge to shady areas of the landscape. If you’re looking for something a bit taller, try angel wing or dragon wing begonias. These varieties grow up to 18″ tall and their long, tapered leaves add interest as well. Or, if you want not just lovely flowers, but also brilliant, color-infused leaves, try adding Rex begonias to your garden. There are dozens of different Rex begonias, each with a different combination of leaf patterns, colors and textures. As an added bonus, begonias are generally considered deer resistant.

2. Torenia

Also known as the wishbone flower, this sweet and floriferous plant shuns the sun and much prefers to hang out in the shade. The blue, pink, purple, white or yellow blooms are borne very prolifically on low-growing plants. Some varieties are trailing, too, making them a great choice for edging containers and filling hanging baskets. Torenia does not need to be deadheaded, nor does it require a lot of care. It’s one of those annual flowers for the shade that performs without a care in the world. The slugs don’t seem to like it either.

3. Browallia

If you’re looking to add a bright burst of blue to a shady nook, browallia will fit the bill. Smothered in five-petaled flowers, the mounding, bright green foliage grows thick and lush with little sunlight. Sometimes called amethyst or sapphire flower, browallia is easy to start from seed under grow lights if you can’t find transplants from your local nursery. At maturity they’re just 10-12 inches tall, making them terrific for the front of a shady border or for tucking in between other plants in a low-light garden.

4. Upright Fuchsias

Though pendulous varieties of fuchsias are standards in shady hanging baskets, their upright cousins do best when planted in the ground or in ground-level containers. Some upright varieties, like ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ have dark leaves and tubular orange flowers, while others, like ‘Baby Blue Eyes” with it’s red and purple blooms, have more typical-looking fuchsia flowers and green foliage; they just grow upright instead of trailing. Fuchsias are excellent annual flowers for the shade, and the hummingbirds adore them.

5. Coleus

No list of annual flowers for the shade is complete without coleus. Yes, I know … coleus are typically admired for their colorful foliage, not their flowers, but if left to flower, coleus produce numerous spikes of hooded purple-blue blooms that the hummingbirds and bees adore. Coleus come in a tremendous range of foliage colors, from inky black and chartreuse to brilliant pink and coppery orange, so even when they’re not in flower, they lend incredible interest to the shade garden.

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