5 Perennials for Sun and Shade

Bradford Greenhouses Blog

Perennial flowers are a fantastic asset in the garden due to their ability to return year after year. Whether you choose to purchase small plants and watch them grow over time, or buy a mature specimen for instant impact, they are a rewarding addition to your garden.

Just as with annual flowers, you are going to be most successful with perennials if you purchase plants that suit the conditions of your garden. In general this can be divided into two groups, sun or shade, though there are many plants that do well with a little of both worlds, part sun and shade.

Here is a quick break down of what constitutes each light condition:

  • Full Sun: 6 hours or more of direct sunlight each day
  • Part sun: 4-6 hours of direct sunlight each day
  • Shade: less than 4 hours of direct sunlight each day

Always read the plant’s label before purchasing; they will tell you exactly what that plant needs to thrive.

5 Perennial Plants for Sun

Oriental Poppies

Papaver Orientale

Oriental Poppies

These easy and carefree plants produce spectacular blooms from late-May to mid-June. Once established they are quite drought tolerant. In fact, these plants will go through a dormancy in the heat of summer, so don’t be scared when the leaves start to yellow and dry after flowering. New leaves will emerge with the cooler weather in fall. Though because of this dormancy it is advisable to plant a late summer flowering plant next to these poppies to fill the hole in your garden during their summer dormancy.

These poppies come in an array of colours, the most common are orange and red, but countless new varieties have been developed. These poppies are a more permanent option than their annual counterpart the corn poppy. They are also more resilient to the summer heat than the Icelandic poppy, which is a perennial, though usually a short lived one in our climate.

Bearded Iris

Iris Germanica

Bearded Iris

These slowly spreading perennials have been a garden favourite since the beginning of time. They enjoy a sunny, well drained position, with the top of their rhizomes (underground stems) just above the soil line. These plants come in a wide range of colours, including just about every hue except fire engine red. They are called “bearded” irises due to the fuzzy patches they have on their downward facing petals (called “falls”, the upward facing petals are called “standards”.)

These flowers will bloom from late May to late June, though some varieties will rebloom later in summer if they are deadheaded. They also can be divided every few years to keep them from getting too crowded.


Hemerocallis Spp.


Daylilies are an incredibly popular, care free flower for full sun. There are constantly new varieties being developed and these plants now come in a wide range of colours and forms. Daylilies aren’t too picky about soil; they just need lots of sun. But if they don’t get enough light, they won’t flower. These plants are also drought tolerant once established, making them popular for an especially sunny garden.



There are many varieties of anemones available, the main distinction being between those that bloom in spring and those that bloom in fall.

Anemones Silvestris

Anemone Sylvestris

Anemone Silvestris or “snowdrop anemone” blooms in mid-May to June, with beautiful white flowers. These plants can quickly spread, so they are ideal if you’d like to naturalize an area. They can tolerate part shade as well.

Anemones Hupehensis

Anemone Hupehenis

Anemone Hupehensis or “Japanese anemone” bloom in the fall, usually September to October. Once established, these plants produce flowers over the course of weeks in the autumn, providing some much needed colour at the end of the season. These plants can tolerate clay soil, but do best in rich, organic matter. Some varieties can spread very quickly, making them great for a larger planting, but they can become invasive in a smaller space.


Echinacea Purpurea

Coneflower 2

Echinacea or “purple cone flower” is an incredibly attractive perennial flower. These days there are many more colours than purple available. This plant is very popular with bees and butterflies, and if you leave the seed heads on the plant, birds enjoy eating this flower’s tiny seeds. This plant will produce blooms through summer. They are also drought tolerant once established.


5 Perennial Plants for Shade


Astilbe Spp.

Astilbe Visions

Astilbe or False goat’s beard are plants that produce fern like foliage as well as attractive plumes of white, pink or red flowers. Astilbes will bloom in late spring and summer. The flower plumes can be from 6 inches to a few feet long depending on the variety. In general they appreciate a moist shady garden and resent drying out entirely. They can tolerate clay soil as well.


Hostas Spp.


Hostas come in so many shapes, sizes and colours, it’s hard to keep track! Some people even devote their entire gardens to different varieties of hostas. They are a fantastic plant for shade, spreading into larger clumps that can be divided. This plant produces flowers too, they are usually downward facing, purple, sometimes fragrant, lily-like flowers, which would explain its common name “plantain lily”. These are exceptionally easy plants to grow and are a great choice for beginner gardeners.


(Many families and general)

Fern - Ostrich

Ferns are one of the oldest groups of plants around. They evolved before flowering plants, appearing in the fossil record 360 million years ago. Things may have changed since then, but these ancient plants still fit in perfectly in a shady garden. Ferns do not produce flowers, they instead reproduce through spores. Some species, such as the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) can produce colonies from spreading stems (stolons) underground. There are a wide variety of ferns available, their delicate fronds will add a soft texture to a shady spot.

Lily of the Valley

Convallaria Majalis

Lily of the Valley

Lily-of-the-valley is a spreading plant that can produce large colonies in favourable conditions. It produces small, bell shaped, pendulous flowers that can be white or pink in late spring. After flowering there will be a carpet of foliage, it’s important not to disturb these leaves, as the plant needs them to gather energy for next year’s flowers.


Heuchera Spp.

Coral Bells - Sweet Tea

Heucheras or “coral bells” are a group of attractive foliage plants. Their leaves can come in neon green, orange, red, right through to purple and even black. They can bring an incredible pop of colour into an otherwise green shade garden. They will produce flowers as well, which are, as the common name implies, usually coral in colour and bell shaped. The flowers themselves are usually small to inconspicuous, so most of the allure of this plant is in its foliage.

Coral Bells Electra