7 Shade Plants to Bring Birds to Your Garden!

Plants have different sunlight needs, depending on the climatic region. When choosing the best plants for your garden, you have to consider how many hours of direct sunlight are required. It can be difficult to plant anything in the shady areas of your garden. It is therefore essential to select plants that do not require direct sunlight and thrive in the damp, shady areas.

Plant these beautiful plants in the shaded areas of your garden or backyard that also attract birds:

1. Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

Columbine is an American native plant that thrives in the shade. The plant produces small, rounded leaves and tall flower stalks that produce blooms in the spring. The bell-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds and bees. Many species of columbine bloom for around four weeks. They are shade-loving perennials that grow to a height of 1-3ft and spreads 1ft at full maturity.

The following are varieties of Columbine that you can grow in your bird garden:

Aquilegia ‘Crimson Star’– Characterized by red flowers that bloom in late spring. 

Aquilegia ‘McKana Hybrid’– Identified by bi-colored flowers, either blue and white, or red and yellow. 

Aquilegia caerulea– Known for its foliage that resembles ferns and white flowers with yellow stamens and violet-blue sepals. 

Aquilegia Songbird ‘Bluebird’– Produces blue and white flowers. 

  • Prefer well-drained, slightly acidic, sandy or loamy soils. 
  • Grow best in partial shade or full sun in colder climates. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 3-9. 

2. Hosta (Hosta spp.)

Hosta (Hosta spp.)
Mike McCune

Hostas are hardy perennials that love the shade. They are reliable and easy to grow. Many hosta varieties mature at a height and spread of 1-3ft. The colors of the foliage vary from lime green, blue-green or variegated white and the shape from heart-shaped to ridged.

The blooms appear in the spring with a range of colors such as white, pink, blue or lavender. It is very popular among hummingbirds and other pollinators. Hostas are best planted in the spring or fall. They propagate through root divisions. Hostas are popular with deer and rabbits.

You can grow the following varieties of hosta in your garden:

Hosta fortunei ‘Aureo Marginata’– Characterized by deep-green leaves with a golden edge. The foliage is oval shaped. 

Hosta ‘Blue Cadet’– Heart-shaped blue leaves and blue flowers in the summer. 

  • They perform well in slightly acidic to neutral, well-drained, compost-rich soils. 
  • Grow best in the shade.
  • USDA hardiness zones 3-9. 

3. Oak leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oak leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Michele Dorsey Walfred/Flickr

Oak Leaf Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub native to the US. It is popular for its beautiful foliage and a profusion of creamy white flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer.

The flowers remain in bloom for around 3-4 weeks before turning pink towards the start of fall. The leaves turn bronze or crimson in the fall, making it suitable for your winter garden.

Oak Leaf hydrangea is winter hardy. It can be used along hedges, or shrub borders. Hydrangeas attract birds and pollinators to your garden. This variety matures at 6-8ft tall and wide. It does not require regular watering. Oak leaf hydrangea is best pruned in early spring. 

  • Performs well in acidic to neutral, moist, well-drained soils.
  • Grows well in partial shade or full sunlight.
  • USDA hardiness zones 5-9. 

4. Common Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)
Photo by Natalia Wilson

Bleeding heart is an elegant, herbaceous perennial native to Siberia, Japan, Korea and China. It is characterized by heart-shaped pink flowers with protruding white petals. Further, it has bluish-green foliage that adds interest in your garden.

The flowers have a sweet smell that attracts birds and butterflies. They bloom for about 4-6 weeks in the summer. Bleeding heart is a great addition to woodland gardens or shaded borders.

It matures at 30-36 inches high and wide. It contains alkaloids which make it toxic to humans and pets. The plant can be grown indoors and in containers. Bleeding heart is resistant to deer and rabbits. 

  • Performs well in fertile, humus-rich, neutral or alkaline and well-drained soils.
  • Grows well in partial shade. It produces fewer flowers in full shade and requires regular watering under full sunlight.
  • USDA hardiness zones 3-9. 

5. Leopard Plant (Farfugium japonicum)

Leopard Plant (Farfugium japonicum)
Drew Avery/Flickr

Leopard plant is a versatile perennial native to China. It can be identified through its flower spikes and colorful foliage. The dark green leaves on black stems are of great ornamental value.

Small, bright yellow flowers appear in mid to late summer. They attract birds and butterflies to your garden. Grow leopard plant together with other shade-loving perennials to make it thrive in sunny conditions.

  • Performs best in organically rich, moist, fertile, well-drained, clay or loamy soils. 
  • Thrives in full or partial shade.
  • USDA hardiness zones 4-8.

6. Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)

Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)
Peter Stevens/Flickr

Jacob’s ladder is an Asian and European native perennial characterized by cup-shaped blue flowers with yellow stamens that bloom in the spring. It produces densely packed leaf stems with tiny leaflets, resembling a fern.

The plant grows to 1-3ft high and 1.5-2ft wide at full maturity. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It requires little maintenance once established. Jacob’s ladder propagates by seeds planted in the autumn or by division in the spring.

  • Performs well in organically rich, moist, well-drained soil. When the root system is established, the plant is drought resistant.
  • Grows well in full shade or partial shade.
  • USDA hardiness zones 4-9. 

7. Fuchsias (Fuchsia spp.)

Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica)

Fuchsias are Central and South American native, low-growing perennial, semi-evergreen shrubs. They are known for their narrow, grey-green leaves and red, blue, pink, orange or purple trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom profusely in the summer.

They are rich in nectar and attract birds and bees to your garden. Fuchsias will require regular cutting back to encourage the growth of new blooms. They propagate by seeds, division or stem cuttings. Fuchsias are generally disease free.

  • Perform well in well-drained, moist soils.
  • Grow best in full shade or partial sun.
  • USDA hardiness zones 6-11.

In conclusion, these shade-loving plants not only add color to shady spots in your garden but also attract birds and butterflies. Most plants are low maintenance and will therefore not require much input, except occasional pruning. Select the best shade-loving plant for your region and enjoy the year-round presence of birds in your lawn.