Shade tolerant plants


Native plants

Common name

Botanical name



Aster sp.

Aster cordifolius, divaricatus and macrophylus all do well in dry shady conditions.
Bleeding heart

Dicentra sp.

These species generally need moist soils and will grow in full shade. They attract hummingbirds.
Bugbane or cohosh

Cimicifuga sp.

Does well in moist soils and takes a few years to get going. It is attractive to bees. Part-shade needed to flower.

Cornus Canadensis

Does well in moist acid soils. Grows in full shade. They attract birds with their berries.


It does well in a range of conditions. Canadian Columbine is pollinated by hummingbirds.
Downy Wood Mint

Blephilia ciliata

Does well in dry part shade conditions and attracts bees.
False Solomon’s Seal  Smilacina racemosa A woodland plant that grows in full shade and moist soils. It attracts birds with its fruit.
FLowering raspberry  Rubus odoratus This shrub grows up to 9 feet. The foliage is quite dense so it provides good cover for birds and also food.

Geranium maculatum

A spring plant that can handle quite a bit of shade and drier conditions.

Solidago sp.

Solidago caesia (Blue-stemmed goldenrod) grows well in dry shade and Solidago flexicaulis (Zig-Zag goldenrod) grows well in moist soils with some dryness tolerated. They both attract a wide variety of insects.

Hydrangea quercifolia 

This native hydrangea grows 6 feet high in dappled shade and moist soil. Its inflorescences attract native bees in late spring.

Impatiens capensis 

Jewel weed grows in moist soils in lightly shaded areas. It is pollinated by hummingbirds. The seed pods are fun for kids. Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season.
Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium sp.

Most species tolerate part-shade and do well in moist soils. Eupatorium rugosum tolerates dry shade and is one of the last plants to flower. They attract bees and butterflies.

Lobelia sp.

They flower well in part-shade and in moist soils. They attract hummingbirds.
Oxeye or false sunflower

Heliopsis sp.

Grows well in part-shade and has a long bloom. It attracts bees and butterflies.

Mitchella repens

Partridgeberries grow in dry shade and attracts birds.
Scarlet Beebalm

Monarda didyma 

Prefers moist soils and grows well in part-shade.

Clethra alnifolia

Grows well in part shade with moist soil. The flowers are quite fragrant and attract bees.

Helianthus sp.

Helianthus strumosus and Helianthus divaricatus are both perennials that grow well in part-shade or on the north side of buildings.

Chelone glabra

Does well in moist soils and attracts bumblebees. It is a host plant of the Baltimore checkerspot.
Virginia Bluebell

Mertensia virginica

Prefer moist soils and tolerate drier soils while dormant. They attract bees and hummingbirds. They grow in full shade.
Virginia Creeper  Parthenocissus quinquefolia  Virginia Creeper is a vine that grows quite well in the shade and provides fruit for birds. It is also a host plant for several species of sphinx moths. Do not plant Boston Ivy which is a member of the same genus.

Gaultheria procumbens

This plant will handle dry shade and feed the birds with its berries.
Woodland Phlox  Phlox divaricata

Woodland phlox flowers in late spring and grows in moist well drained soil. It provides nectar to insects with long tongues. These include butterflies and some of the larger bees.

Woodland violets Viola sp.  Woodland violets tolerate part shade. They are aggressive and invade lawns, but can be used to fill in a woodland garden area quickly. Violets are host plants for Fritillary butterflies.

Non-native plants

Common name

Botanical name



Ajuga Reptans

Can tolerate poor soils and it spreads easily. Its flowers attract bees. It tolerates full shade
Coral bells  Heucheura sp The species commonly available in nurseries is not native to Canada. It
tolerates dry shade and attracts hummingbirds
Foxglove Digitalis sp. These plants grow in moist soils in part shade. They attract bees and hummingbirds.
Fuchsia Fuchsia sp.  These plants are annuals in Canada. They need moist soil and little direct sunshine. They are visited by hummingbirds and flower all summer.
Hosta Hosta sp. These garden plants are escaping into the wild. They flower in dry shade and are said to attract hummingbirds.
Mock orange Philadelphus Fragrant, citrus scent, white spring blooms
Nicotiana Nicotiana sp. This plant has escaped gardens into the wild so be careful where you plant it. It grows in partial shade and is pollinated by hummingbirds. The white forms probably attract sphinx moths as well.
Yellow giant
Agastache nepetoides and Agastache scrophularia Yellow Giant Hyssop can easily grow with just a couple of hours of sun each day while Agastache scrophularia requires part-sun. There are not too many woodland plants that flower in August that are so attractive to bees.