Full or Partial Shade Perennial Plants for Michigan Gardens

A sampling of some of the many perennial plants that can tolerate shade in a Michigan garden.

Full or Partial Shade Perennial Plants for Michigan Gardens

Perennials return year after year, making them relatively low maintenance for gardeners in terms of not having to replant them every year. While some perennials thrive in the sun, others thrive in the shade. Here are some options for Michigan gardeners looking for shade-loving or shade-tolerant perennial plants.

Bleeding Heart Plants

It should be noted that this popular perennial is poisonous to both pets and people if it is ingested; though some may suffer from slight skin irritation upon contact. The Bleeding Heart plant gets its name from the flower it produces, which looks like a little bleeding heart.

Bleeding Heart plants thrive in moist and rich soil. Flowers can vary in color, from a vibrant ruby red to a deep wine or a rosy red. Though some species can also produce white flowers.


Hostas are another popular perennial plant that can thrive in Michigan under the right conditions. There are several different cultivars of Hostas (according to Ohio State University, there are currently more than 2,500 cultivars available today,) so size, shape and color will vary greatly.


'Viola' is a broad term that is used as the common name and the genus name for hundreds of different flowers. For Michigan, garden violas such as the horned violets (Viola cornuta) are perennial plants that will do well in shade and produce adorable flowers.

Violas are smaller in size, reaching around eight to ten inches in height; according to the University of Vermont. Therefore, avoid planting them in the far corners or back areas of a garden. These little plants deserve to be front and center, but kept in shade as the sun can be damaging for them.

Aquilegia canadensis L.

This particular plant is known by several different names including Canadian Columbine, Red Columbine, Wild Columbine and variations of the three. It can actually thrive in both full sun and shade, so it's an extremely versatile plant; not to mention that it can survive the Michigan climate.

The Canadian Columbine produces orange or reddish yellow flowers that bloom from May into July. It does well in wooded, forest areas and also in sandy areas (and if you know Michigan, that's a perfect description.)


Lastly, it should be noted that there are several different ferns that can thrive when planted in Michigan. Ferns are known for being extremely well adapted to low levels of light. According to the University of Michigan, there are around 2,800 different species of "native and naturalized ferns, fern allies, gymnosperms and angiosperms of Michigan." In other words, you shouldn't have a hard time at all finding the right fern for your shaded garden.

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