7 Plants for Bright Shade

One of the most frequently asked questions I get this time of year is “What can I plant in a shady area that will give me colorful blooms all summer long?” While we often associate big, beautiful flowers with full sun, there are actually many great annuals that you can plant and have great success with in an area with bright shade. Many plant tags may say full sun, but in reality the plant will also thrive in bright shade. In some cases, the plant might perform better in bright shade than it would in full sun. This is especially the case in our area (southeast Virginia) and further south. The sun in our area is very strong, and as weather heats up in mid-summer, it can actually be too strong for these plants (especially afternoon sun). Too much sunlight can result in diminished blooms, more-frequent watering, and possibly even death of the plant. Today, I’ve put together a list of 7 beautiful plants for bright shade.

Osteospermum (African daisies)

Osteospermum Harvest Moon & Tradewinds Bronze

Although, Osteospermum thrives in full sun, the blooms will fade out significantly when we reach our highest temperatures of summer. For continuous blooms, even through the hottest points, keep them in an area with bright shade.


Coleus is grown for its gorgeous leaves that come in a range of colors and variations. They like to dry out slightly, but you’ll definitely know when they need water – the leaves get very floppy and droop down. Most Coleus like bright, indirect shade, and being in direct sunlight can actually fade their leaf color. Coleus is truly one of the best plants for bright shade.

Dusty Miller

dusty miller
New Look Dusty Miller

Like Coleus, Dusty Miller is grown for the appearance of its leaves, rather than blooms. The silvery, white appearance of the leaves really adds a nice interest to summer gardens. Use in cut arrangements for a fun pop. Cut leaves during cooler times of the day, and then place stems in a vase of water immediately. The leaves will last about 7 days once cut.


heliotrope  - plants for bright shade
Atlantis Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)

A space with morning sun and afternoon shade is perfect for a Heliotrope. It’s a vigorous bloomer that gives a great cottage-garden vibe.


Euphorbia - plants for bright shade
Glamour Euphorbia (Euphorbia graminea)

Profuse, airy flowers or Euphorbia bring a fine textural element to gardens. It forms a soft “hedge” in the landscape and plays well intermingled with other vigorous annuals like petunia. This variety, Glamour, is tough as nails. Its summer performance is outstanding in heat, humidity and drought.


Calibrachoa - plants for bright shade
Chameleon Blueberry Scone Calibrachoa

Calbrachoa is a huge grower and makes a great”spiller” in arrangements. It likes a regular feeding to fuel its profuse blooms. Performs equally as well in partial shade as it does in full sun.


geranium - plants for bright shade
Fantasia Pink Geranium

Although, most will tell you that geraniums need full sun, they will certainly handle partial sun as well. With proper care, geraniums can get huge over a summer. To keep blooms looking nice even in the dead of summer, keep them in an area where they receive bright shade all day long, rather than full direct sun.


petunia - plants for bright shade
Easy Wave Blue and Easy Wave Pink Passion Petunia

Petunias come in a wide variety of colors and are very popular for their all-summer-long blooms. During the hottest points in summer, help extend the bloom period and keep Petunias looking fresh by placing them in an area with partial/bright shade. They do best with continual dead-heading.

Many of the above plants might actually not make it in the middle of July with the hot afternoon sun in our area. Instead, place them in an area with bright shade for more consistent blooms and less watering needs.

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