Planning a shade garden in the Midwest is tricky. Plants must be adaptable to various conditions, depending on the region. Harsh winds and hot, humid summers are common, but so are freezing winters, especially in the North. Most of the area falls within USDA plant hardiness zones 2 through 6.
Midwest Shade Plants:
Choosing shade tolerant plants for Midwest regions covers a wide range of zones and growing conditions. The good news is that you can choose from a diverse variety of plants that will thrive in a Midwest shade garden. Below are a few possibilities.
- Toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta): Shade plants for the Midwest include this showy perennial that produces green, lance-shaped leaves and unique orchid-like blooms of pink, white, or variegated with purple spots. Toad lily is suitable for full or partial shade and grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 8.
- Scarlet pearl snowberry (Symphoricarpos ‘Scarlet Bloom’): Shows off pale pink blooms throughout most of the summer. The flowers are followed by large, pink berries that provide sustenance for wildlife into the winter months. This snowberry grows in partial shade to full sun in zones 3 to 7.
- Spiky foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia): Spiky foamflower is a hardy, clump forming perennial appreciated for the spikes of sweet smelling pinkish white blooms. The maple-like leaves, which turn mahogany in autumn, often display showy red or purple veins. This low growing native is one of the loveliest shade tolerant plants for Midwest gardens, zones 3 to 9.
- Wild ginger (Asarum canadense): Also known as heart snakeroot and woodland ginger, this ground hugging woodland plant has dark green, heart-shaped leaves. Brownish purple, bell-shaped wildflowers are tucked among the leaves in spring. Wild ginger, which likes full or partial shade, spreads via rhizomes, suitable in zones 3 to 7.
- Siberian forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla): Also known as Siberian bugloss or largeleaf brunnera, displays heart-shaped leaves and clusters of tiny, sky blue blooms in late spring and early summer. Siberian forget-me-not grows in full to partial shade in zones 2 to 9.
- Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides): A bushy annual that thrives in partial shade, coleus isn’t a good choice for heavy shade because it becomes leggy without a little sunlight. Also known as painted nettle, it is available with leaves in nearly every color of the rainbow, depending on the variety.
- Caladium (Caladium bicolor): Also known as angel wings, caladium plants sport large, arrowhead-shaped leaves of green splashed and splotched with white, red, or pink. This annual plant provides a bright splash of color to Midwest shade gardens, even in heavy shade.
- Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia): Midwest shade plants also include sweet pepperbush, a native shrub also known as summersweet or poor man’s soap. It produces fragrant and nectar rich, rose-pink blooms from mid to late summer. Dark green leaves that turn an attractive shade of golden yellow in autumn. Thrives in wet, swampy areas and tolerates partial sun to full shade.