Finding flowering plants that thrive in shade gardens usually means planting annuals. Some perennials thrive in shade, though. The benefit of planting perennials is that you don't have to replace them each year, saving both time and money. Your choices depend on whether the garden receives light shade or is in deep shade all the time. Most perennials require at least dappled sunlight throughout the day.
Unlike annual geraniums, hardy geraniums grow in full to partial shade. Some varieties of hardy geranium require more sunlight than others, so always check the plant tag to ensure exact light requirements. Geraniums are mildly drought-tolerant, so they still thrive even if the soil is allowed to dry out between watering. This makes them suitable for planting under water-hungry shade trees that quickly suck available moisture from the soil.
A flowering ground cover, periwinkle blooms in shades of pink, blue or white. Varieties with variegated leaves add further interest and colour to the shade garden. In many areas, periwinkle leaves remain green all year, providing colour in the winter garden. Periwinkle grows best in dappled shade or areas that receive morning sun.
A showy flower for full-shade gardens, lily-of-the-valley produces an abundance of white bell-shaped flowers on long flower stalks. The white colour of the blooms is striking in the dim background of shade, and the flowers appear to glow at night. Lily-of-the-valley produces red ornamental berries in late summer, and they add colour to fall shade gardens.
Coral bells flower best in areas that receive dappled sunlight or some morning sun. The foliage is as interesting as the flowers, with yellow, purple and variegated leaf varieties available. The flowers appear on stalks emerging from the foliage. Blooms are bell-shaped, and come in a range of shades of lavender, pink and red.
Another striking bloomer for full shade, bleeding heart prefers cooler temperatures and flowers throughout spring and into summer if the soil is kept moist enough. Flowers resemble small dangling hearts with a small teardrop hanging beneath each bloom. It flowers in pink, white purple or red.
Bugleweed thrives when it receives one to three hours of direct morning sun and then shade throughout the rest of the day. A low-growing perennial, it is a suitable ground cover in shaded areas. It produces flower spikes that emerge from the foliage to reveal pink, white or blue flowers. The leaves are also ornamental with purple, and variegated varieties are available.