Best plants for a shady patio – 5 dazzling plants to brighten up your outdoor living area

These plants will add a pop of bright color and texture to your patio without a need for lots of sun

(Image credit: EJ-J via Getty Images)

Successful gardening all comes down to right plant, right place and ensuring you're providing plants with their optimal growing conditions. While shade may seem intimidating at first, there are actually many beautiful plants that do well out of the sun and can quickly brighten up darker corners of your yard.

If you've been searching for patio ideas that will work in your shade garden but can't quite nail down a plant list, you'll be pleased to know that there are lots of options available. From trees and shrubs, to container flower plants, making careful choices and opting for shade-lovers is the best way to green up your patio area that doesn't get much natural light.

We've spoken to garden experts to find out more about plants for a shady patio and they shared their top picks.

Plants for a shady patio

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs/Future)

5 plants for a shady patio

Patios that don't benefit from lots of sun can still be beautiful and welcoming spaces to enjoy. If you have a north-facing wall or even a north-facing balcony, these shade-loving patio plants will also work well in your space. Here are our 5 top picks of plants for a shady patio.

1. Begonias

Begonias in pots

(Image credit: YONCA60 via Getty Images)

Growing begonias on a shady patio is the perfect way to enjoy bright blooms in a darker space. The good news is it's easy to grow begonias in pots so you can add it to your patio container garden.

'This old-fashioned flower has big juicy leaves that provide contrast and it also comes in a wide variety of colors,' notes Laura Janney, garden designer and founder of The Inspired Garden. 'There are so many different begonias and they can be used as a thriller or filler depending on your chosen variety,' she adds.

These plants are native to subtropical climates of central and south America, Africa and Asia, and tolerate a range of light levels. Growing best in US hardiness zone 3 to zone 11, begonias growing in hotter climates need protection from direct sun exposure, making a shady patio the perfect position.

To keep begonias blooming, it can be wise to move your potted plant into a spot with plenty of natural light for a few hours in the coolest part of the day before returning it to a shadier place.

The good news is that begonias come in all different colors, like this Pink Delight Fragrant Begonia from Walmart, so there is one for every garden style.

Laura Janney headshot
Laura Janney

A winner of the 2024 Houzz Design award, Laura has over 20 years of experience in gardening and working with clients designing beautiful gardens. She has also spent multiple years working as an indoor plant stylist and consultant, specializing in a wide variety of indoor houseplants and succulents, and designing container gardens.

2. Ferns

Ferns

(Image credit: Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo via Getty Images)

Known for being a shade-lover, there are so many ferns for shade to choose from that can add texture to your patio. Whether you choose to grow ferns in pots or plant them in a patio border, these luscious leaves are perfect for adding a jungle feel to your yard.

'A staple of any shade container, big, showy ferns add texture to a container with their delicate fronds and require zero maintenance beyond watering,' says Laura. 'Choose a perennial, hardy fern like the Christmas fern and you’ll be able to plant it in your garden when summer ends,' she suggests.

Fern varieties can grow across US hardiness zone 4 to zone 8 and are an essential for brightening up shadier corners of your yard. In fact, growing ferns in sunlight can cause your fern to turn brown, so opting for dappled sunlight to partial shade is a good idea for successful growth.

Find the right fern for your patio online, like this Christmas fern from Gardening Know How.

3. Coleus

several coleus plants in a container

(Image credit: DigiPub/Getty Images)

If you're a fan of variegated foliage and funky leaves, then coleus might just be the perfect plant to grow in a container on your patio. With its intricately-patterned leaves and unique hues, coleus is easily one of the best part-shade annuals.

'They thrive in shade and can grow to be quite large, even in a container,' says Laura. 'Simply trim the plant back to your desired shape and size throughout the growing season,' she adds.

When you do prune this bright plant, make sure to keep any cuttings so that you can propagate coleus and grow more of these plants for free.

It grows best in US hardiness zones 10+ and needs some natural light to allow for its variegation to remain bright. You might even find it's a good idea to move your potted coleus into a spot with more natural light for a few hours in the day.

Buy coleus plants online or at suppliers, like this coleus mix from Walmart.

4. Fatsia japonica

Glossy Fatsia japonica (Fatsi, Japanese aralia) with dark green leaves

(Image credit: Iuliia Burmistrova / Getty Images)

You might be hesitant to add trees and shrubs to your shady patio as it can block natural light. However, there are a range of low-maintenance trees for pots that add height to your patio without blocking too much light.

Thanks to its frond-shaped leaves, Fatsia japonica is a great choice for creating a green canopy that still allows light to come through. It's one of the prettiest evergreen plants that will keep your patio green all year round.

Native to Japan and South Korea, this shrub thrives in partial and full shade. 'This beauty practically begs for shade and can handle even heavy shadows,' says Evan Torchio, tree and shrub expert from Tree Mender.

It grows best in US hardiness zone 8 to zone 10 and comes in a range of varieties at different heights, so you can even grow it in containers.

Evan Torchio
Evan Torchio

Evan Torchio is a plant expert and the CEO and Founder of Tree Menders. He earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry and is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture. Evan provides advice on indoor and outdoor plants.

5. Persian shield

Persian shield plant

(Image credit: I love Photo and Apple via Getty Images)

Another one for adding color to your shady patio, Persian shield - or Strobilanthes dyeriana - offers strong foliage in a purple color. It's perfect for gardeners who love shrubs with dark foliage to add a moodier environment to your patio.

'With a metallic shimmer, Persian shield adds an exotic touch to your shade container. Its iridescent purple leaf adds contrast, especially when paired with lime green or chartreuse-colored foliage,' says Laura. 'Use it as a thriller or as an accent to bring a little sparkle to your shady spot,' she adds.

These eye-catching plants are native to southeast Asia, growing as tall as 4ft in height. It does well in pots and needs some exposure to natural light to maintain its vibrancy.

Grow Persian shield plants in US hardiness zone 8 to zone 11. It's available from a range of suppliers, like this Persian shield plant from Walmart.

FAQs

How can I brighten up my shady patio?

As well as using a range of bright, shade-loving plants in your shady patio area, try incorporating some of the best patio lighting ideas. You might also choose not to have many trees on your patio to avoid too much canopy cover blocking natural light. It's also easy to brighten up a darker patio with colorful furnishings, transforming it into an outdoor living room.


Just because your patio sits in shade, doesn't mean you can't create a green oasis on your back doorstep. Opt for shade-loving plants to grow on a shady patio and you can enjoy a range of colors, leaf textures and shape in your outdoor seating area.

If the rest of your backyard is also quite shady, don't worry. There are plenty of beautiful ground cover plants for shade to create a bright carpet across your outdoor space.

Tenielle Jordison
News Writer (Gardens)

Tenielle is a News Writer in the Gardens team at Homes & Gardens with five years of journalistic experience. She studied BA Journalism, Media and English Literature and MA Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University. Before coming to Homes & Gardens, Tenielle was in the editorial department at the Royal Horticultural Society and worked on The Garden magazine. She is passionate about sustainable living and the role gardening has to play in tackling the effects of climate change. Tenielle is also a houseplant lover who is slowly running out of room for her ever-growing collection. She has experience successfully propagating indoor plants and overcoming common houseplant problems.