Ten Best Annuals for Shade

While it may be true that the selection of annuals that do well in shade is a bit more limited when compared to the number of choices available for sunny locations, there are still quite a few selections to brighten up that shady corner. This list comprises 10 that will do well when grown as annuals in the St. Louis area. For a more comprehensive list, please use the search function on the Plant Finder page. 

Amazonian elephant's ear 
Bulb 
 
You can usually find this plant in the houseplant section at nurseries. Its wavy, arrowhead-shaped, dark leaves have white veining that looks very attractive in a shady location. It will perform great for you in a container or in the landscape. Pair it with tuberous begonias in a container to get the look in the picture, or combine it with a white caladium and your favorite shady impatiens for a little added pop. 

Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Height: 1 - 2 feet

Brazilian joyweed 
Annual 
 
'Purple Prince' is a compact selection of Brazilian joyweed that features glossy, deep burgundy foliage on compact, dense plants.  While most people spot this one in full sun, it can tolerate shade. Pair it with Euphorbia × martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' (which can also take part shade) or use it as a border edging to your landscape. 

Sun: Full sun to Part shade
Water: Medium
Height: 0.75 - 1.25 feet

rex begonia 
Herbaceous perennial 
 
If you are into dinosaurs or other-worldly creatures, 'Jurassic Silver Swirl' may be the plant for you.  Its unique texture and coloring give a feel of days long, long ago. If you've used rex begonias in the past and were less than impressed, you have to try this one. The Jurassic Series has an improved vigor over the others, and because of their dark coloring, they can be used in your shadiest areas. Pair it with some colorful ferns and sit back and imagine a time when those large reptiles roamed the Earth.

Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Height: 1.25 to 1.75 feet
begonia 
Herbaceous perennial 
 
Named after a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, ‘Gryphon’ is an eye-catcher. As its name sake would suggest, it was bred for its superb foliage that combines majestic beauty with strength and durability. Its upright, mounded habit produces large, rich green leaves streaked in silver. The undersides of the leaves and slender stems are a deep orange-red. Pair this one with Fuschia 'Gartenmeister' or a colorful caladium (pictured left) for some tropical flair.

Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Height: 1 - 2 feet
angel wings 
Bulb 
 
If you want a showstopper in your landscape, try 'Burning Heart.' You can't walk by this one without taking notice of its fire engine coloring. It's easy to grow and can take a deeply shaded spot. If you really want to make your landscape sizzle, pair it with the chartreuse leaves of Begonia 'Canary Wings.' Visit our other page, Top Tropicals for Gardens and Containers for other pairing ideas.  

Sun: Part shade to Shade
Water: Medium
Height: 1 - 2.5 feet

 
Broadleaf evergreen 
 
It's true, all Hypoestes phyllostachya are great for shade; however, this one is particularly great. It has a bright white coloring and compact size that make it great for use as a border, in a container, or as a groundcover under your favorite shady tropicals. You could even pair it with most of the plants on this list, and it would look fabulous! Put it next to your patio and enjoy how the moon reflects the white back to you at night. 

Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Height: .5 - 1 feet
Herbaceous perennial 
 
'Silver Sheild' is a treat for the eyes and the nose. Its light-scented foliage is a great addition to shady areas because it compliments almost anything you put next to it. Use it in a border or in a container, but if you really want to make this one stand out, use it with red, burgundy, or your favorite colorful ferns to really make it shine.

Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Height: 2 - 2.5 feet
Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'
Swedish ivy
Herbaceous perennial

Mona Lavender’ features glossy, dark green leaves with purplish undersides and attractive lavender flowers. Use her in hanging baskets, containers, or as a bedding plant. The summer heat will decrease flowering; however, the attractive foliage will still compliment and bring color to your landscape while you wait for it to re-flower in the fall. Plant Mona with a white caladium, Strobilanthes dyerianus, and/or with the Hypoestes 'Confetti Compact White' from above for a great combination. 

Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Height: 1 - 2 feet
Annual 
 
Coleus have long been a favorite for shady locations because of the rainbow of foliage colors available.  From pastels to fluorescents and solids all the way up to marbled patterns—if you can dream it, it's probably out there. A Plant of Merit selection, REDHEAD makes the list because of its ability to maintain its rosy red coloring in both full sun and full shade. It is a taller stature plant, making it a great addition to the back of a border, and it flowers late in the season, so no need to spend your days deadheading this guy. 

Sun: Full sun to Part shade
Water: Medium
Height: 1.5 - 4 feet
Persian shield 
Broadleaf evergreen 
 
Native to Burma, this plant is treated as an annual in the Midwest region. The silvery purple, iridescent leaves with dark purple undersides are this plant’s claim to fame. Place this purple beauty in a landscape bed or in a container near your patio where you can just sit and stare at it longingly, because you just might. Pair this with some of your other shade favorites in shades of pink, white, purple, and even chartreuse to create striking combos that will make all your friends wish they had one as well.

Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Height: 1 - 3 feet