Shade Annuals: What Are The Best Annuals For Shade?

Annual plants give you the opportunity to update and enhance the appearance of your garden every year.

In this article, we share information about the best annuals for full to partial shade.

Read on to learn more.

Colorful New Guinea impatiens potted in shade

16 Best Annual Plantings For Partial Shade

Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides)

Coleus plants: aka Plectranthus scutellarioides comes in many different colors, leaf sizes, and growth habits.

Some of the most popular Coleus plant series are:

  • Wizard
  • Versa
  • Kong
Coleus multi colored leaf plants

Coleus foliage is dazzling in shades ranging from pale cream to lime green to deep purple.

The foliage is variegated and depending upon the cultivar ranges in size from quarter-sized to saucer-sized.

This traditional front porch plant does well in full shade to bright, indirect sunlight.

Some cultivars have been specially developed for sunny locations.

Depending upon the type of coleus you grow, the height may range from 1’ –  3’ feet, and width may be as great as 2’ feet.

Coleus does flower; however, the blooms are tiny and should be pinched off to prevent having the plant bolt.

Alternanthera ficoidea

Alternanthera ficoidea: Calico plant cultivars include:

  • Red Tread Leaf
  • Purple Night
  • Party Time
  • Little Ruby

This small plant produces pretty deep green foliage adorned with red veins and tips.

Although it does blossom, the flowers are tiny and barely noticeable.

The calico plant can attain a height and width of 6” inches to 2’ feet.

Browallia speciosa

Browallia speciosa traditional annual, corrugated green leaves with purplish blue flowers

Browallia speciosa: Browallia series include Bells and Endless Illumination.

This is a traditional annual flower with pretty, corrugated green leaves and an abundance of purplish-blue flowers.

Browallia is a tall, slim plant attaining a height of 10” – 14” inches but a width of no more than 1’ foot.

These annuals for shade perform best in partial shade.

More on 40 of the Best Shade Flowers

Begonia x semperflorens

Begonia x semperflorens: Wax begonia comes in several different interesting series.

They are:

  • Whopper
  • Bada Bing
  • Cocktail
  • Big

These plants can do well in a wide variety of settings ranging from sunny to shady.

The foliage is very lovely in bright, eye-catching shades of green and red.

In addition to the striking foliage, these pretty shade-loving annuals also produce lots of blooms in a wide variety of colors all summer long.

Rex begonia can attain a height and width of 6” – 12” inches.

Rex Begonia

colorful leaves of begonia rex potted

Begonia rex-cultorum: Rex Begonia cultivars include:

  • Persian Swirl
  • Fireworks
  • New York
  • Escargot
  • Lalomie

This pretty, shady place plant produces large, dramatic foliage variegated in shades of green, pink and deep maroon.

The blooms are small but pretty and come in shades of white flowers, pink, and lavender.

This plant attains a height and spread of 1’ foot to nearly 2’ feet.

Angel Wing Begonia (Begonia coccinea hybrid)

Attractive leaves of the Angel Wing Begonia hybrid

Begonia coccinea hybrids aka Angel Wing begonia cultivars include Baby Wing and Dragon Wing.

This plant is an enthusiastic grower producing large, shiny dark green leaves and full clusters of pretty pink or red flowers.

Angel wing begonia attains a height and width of 12” – 18” inches and thrives in the shade to partial shade.

Begonia tuberhybrida

Begonia tuberhybrida: Tuberous Begonia is available in several cultivars including:

  • Nonstop
  • Illumination
  • Million Kisses
  • Sparks Will Fly

These plants are available in both cascading and upright varieties, and both do very well in shady settings.

Both the foliage and flowers of this plant are abundant and attractive.

Tuberous begonia attains a height and width of 6” – 12” inches.

New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri)

Impatiens hawkeri: New Guinea Impatiens series include:

  • Sun Impatiens
  • Celebration
  • Celebrant

Impatiens is an enthusiastic grower producing large attractive flowers.

The pretty plants have rather thick, waxy leaves and blossoms in a wide variety of colors ranging from white to pink to coral to red.

New Guinea impatiens are some of the best annual flowers for shade and do very well in full shade to part shade.

The plant attains a height of 1’ –  2’ feet and a width of 2’ – 3’ feet.

Caladium bicolor

Caladium bicolor: Caladium is available in two types of cultivars, strap leaf, and fancy leaf.

The fancy leaf types include:

  • Carolyn Whorton
  • Fanny Munson
  • Candidum
  • Aaron

The strap leaf types include new:

  • Jackie Suthers
  • Sweetheart
  • Pink Gem
  • Red Frill
  • Rosalie

Caladium is best appreciated for its pretty foliage which comes in shades of pink, purple and deep green.

All types of Caladium perform the best in deep shade, but the strap leaf types can do well in partial shade and even in full sun.

Caladium of all sorts attains a height and width of 12” – 15” inches.

Torenia fournieri

purple wishbone flowers up close

Torenia fournieri: Wishbone flower series include:

  • Summer Wave
  • Clown
  • Kauai

These plants look quite similar to snapdragons, but their shape is bushy and compact.

They attain a height of 6” – 12” inches and a width of no more than 18” inches.

The flowers are rather trumpet-shaped and come in shades of white, pink, red, and blue.

They do very well in full shade to partial shade.

Good pollinator plant hummingbirds are attracted to.

Fuchsia x hybrida

Bright colored Fuchsia plant flowers

Fuchsia x hybrida: Fuchsia plants are available in several cultivars including:

  • Gartenmeister Bonstedt
  • Koralle
  • Thalia

All of these cultivars do best in Midwestern gardens, but are kept as houseplants in colder areas.

These pretty, cascading plants have small, dark green teardrop-shaped leaves and produce an abundance of blossoms in shades of lavender, pink and red.

They may attain a height of 18” – 24” inches and a width of 1’ foot to 18” inches.

It’s low maintenance overall.

Salvia splendens

Red blooms of the Scarlet Sage (Salvia Splendens)

Salvia splendens comes in a wide variety of cultivars including some wild Salvia.

These plants do exceptionally well when naturalized.

Cultivars available for purchase include:

  • Red Hot Sally
  • Lighthouse
  • Salsa
  • Vista

These tall plants can attain a height of 2’ feet and a width of 18” inches.

The brightly colored spike-shaped flowers come in deep shades of purple and red or bright white.

The dark green, corrugated foliage plant is teardrop-shaped and attractive.

This is a nice plant under bushes or shade trees, and it does well in the sun.

Related Reading:

Hypoestes phyllostachya (Polka Dot plant)

Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes Phyllostachya)

Hypoestes phyllostachya: Polka dot plant is available in Confetti and Splash series.

True to their common name, these plants have big green leaves spotted with polka dots in shades of white and pink.

They perform best in shady areas and attain a height and width of 6” – 12” inches.

Blossoms are insignificant.

Lobularia maritima

beautiful sweet alyssum flowers in purple

Lobularia maritima: Popular Sweet Alyssum plant cultivars include:

  • Snow Princess
  • Snow Crystals
  • Easter Bonnet
  • Giga White

This pretty, fragrant, flowering groundcover does well in partial shade to full sun.

It blooms continuously, and the tiny leaves are barely noticeable.

Pretty flowers come in shades of purple, pink and white.

Looks great planted with sweet potato vine.

The plant attains a height of 6” – 8” inches and a width of 8” – 12” inches.

Lobelia erinus

Blue flowers of edging lobelias

Lobelia erinus: Lobelia cultivars include:

  • Riviera
  • Cascade
  • Hot Springs
  • Techno Heat

The last entry comes in a lovely shade of deep blue.

These cascading plants have very tiny foliage and an abundance of small flowers in shades of lavender, blue and white.

They attain a height and width of 6” – 12” inches and perform best in shady spots.

They make good container plants for porches and other areas receiving indirect sunlight.

Iresine herbstii

Iresine herbstii: Bloodleaf cultivars include:

  • Blazin’ Lime
  • Blazin’ Rose
  • Purple Lady

Of these three, Purple Lady is a trailing variety. Otherwise, these plants reach a height and width of 10” – 15” inches.

They produce shiny, attractive foliage in an array of pretty colors, including bright green and cream and deep red and cream.

These plants do best in full to partial shade and look great in hanging baskets and shade gardens.

Although they do produce blossoms, they are insignificant.

Should Your Whole Garden Be Shade Annuals?

It’s always a good idea to have a stable collection of perennial plants throughout your yard to act as a framework for your garden design.

This video provides good ideas for perennial framework shade plants.

What’s The Difference Between Full And Partial Shade?

Areas with partial shade typically have between four and six hours of shade daily.

East facing locations, those having only morning sun or dappled sunlight under trees are considered partial shade settings.

Locations getting a limited amount of afternoon sun may also be considered to be partial shade settings; however, this type of partial shade is quite hot and punishing so care must be taken in plant selection.

It’s also important to remember to water regularly in areas getting a small amount of bright, hot sun.

A full shade setting is one getting only indirect lighting and no direct sunlight.

This type of setting is typically found on covered porches, on the north side of buildings or underneath very leafy shade trees and bushes.