9 Wildflowers that Love to Grow under Shade

Wildflowers can grow under different light conditions. Choose the correct wildflowers to plant under trees in your garden. Ideally, wildflowers that require shade will thrive along hedges or if you have towering plants on your lawn. Shade-tolerant wildflowers will grow well in damp soils and spread at different times.

1. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

This plant produces blue flowers that attract pollinators. It goes dormant in summer and reappears the following spring. Plant it close to other species to fill the gaps it leaves after it dies.

Under the right conditions, the plant forms underground roots and seeds that help in its multiplications. Grows well in moist woodlands, under full or partial shade. Requires soils rich in organic matter.

USDA zones 3-8. 

2. Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)

This plant is native to Europe but has been naturalized to North America, in shady moist places. It grows to a height of 4-6inches at full maturity.

This perennial produces ½ inch-purple flowers rising above heart-shaped leaves. It is best used as a natural path border or as an addition to your wildlife meadow. 

Ideal for USDA zones 4-9. 

3. Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

This plant blooms late in the summer, producing lavender-blue flowers that attract pollinators. It reaches a height of 2ft at full maturity.

It thrives in poor soil and can tolerate conditions. This perennial grows along woodland edges. 

USDA zones 3-8. 

4. Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Native to North America. This perennial grows bushy, blue-green leaves. It blooms white-shaped flowers with yellow tips in mid-spring. It dies down quickly after flowering. Ideal for woodland gardens, edging, and as a groundcover.

It grows to 12 inches high and spreads 12 inches. Propagates by seeds. Resistant to rabbits. Tolerant to full or partial shade. It requires fertile, moist, alkaline, well-drained soils. 

USDA zones 3-8. 

5. Canada Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Canada Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

This perennial produces heart or kidney-shaped dark green leaves, 6 inches wide. It blooms purple-brown cup-shaped flowers in spring. This plant spreads through rhizomes to make great ground cover.

It is native to woodlands and resistant to deer. Reaches a height of 12 inches and spreads 18 inches at full maturity. Thrives in partial or full shade. Grows best in neutral or acidic, moist and well-drained soils. 

USDA zones 4-6. 

6. White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

A perennial with broad leaves and white flowers that bloom in the spring. The blossoms are long-lasting and turn pink as they grow older. It grows to a height of 18 inches and spreads 12 inches wide.

Trilliums go dormant by mid-summer so they should be ideally planted along with other shade-loving perennials. They grow best in partial or full shade. Require acidic or neutral, well-drained soils rich in humus. 

USDA zones 4-8. 

7. May apple (Podophyllum peltatum)

May Apple
May Apple. Photo by Jack Pearce

This perennial wildflower is dominant in woodland areas and grows in colonies. It goes dormant during the summer months when its foliage disappears. May apple produces a single white flower, 1-3 inches in size and bloom during spring. It reaches a height of 1ft and spreads 1ft at full maturity. Thrives in full or partial shade. Requires rich, well-drained, moist soils. 

USDA zones 3-8. 

8. Jack in the Pulpit (Arapaima triphyllum)

Jack in the Pulpit (Arapaima triphyllum)
Photo by CCLC

This perennial, native to America, produces purple blossoms from mid to late spring. It bears both male and female flowers in alternating seasons. It has red berries that attract birds and mammals in late summer.

It requires minimal maintenance and is easy to grow in a woodland garden. Grows to a height of 2ft tall. Thrives in partial or full shade. Requires fertile, wet soils. 

USDA zones 4-9. 

9. Great Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

This North American native perennial boasts white-green flowers blooming in late spring. They are followed by purple berries in the fall that attract wildlife.

Grow best in full or partial shade, Require humus-rich, dry and well-drained soils. They spread through rhizomes and will form colonies in ideal growing conditions. 

USDA zones 3-7. 

Do wildflowers need full sun? 

Many wildflower species need exposure to full sun so they can grow properly. Most species require around 6 hours of full sunlight daily under optimum growing conditions. Some varieties can tolerate partial shade but will need to be exposed to direct sunlight for a few hours.

Identify the areas of your garden that receive the most sunlight and plant sun-loving wildflowers there. Avoid planting sun-tolerant species close to trees or hedges. 

Sun-loving wildflowers

The following are sun-loving wildflower plants:

1. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

A popular perennial native to the United States. Its purple coneflowers blossom during the spring and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. They are tolerant to poor soils, drought and heat.

Grows to a height of 60 inches and spreads 24 inches. Coneflower is self-seeding and grows aggressively in your garden. It will thrive in full sunlight. Needs dry, well-drained, sandy or loam soils. Resistant to deer. 

USDA zones 3-8. 

2. Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)

A short-lived, North American native perennial which produces large clusters of brilliant yellow flowers blooming in early summer. They attract bees and butterflies. It thrives in full sunlight or partial shade. Requires well-drained, moist soils. 

USDA zones 3-8. 

3. Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea)

Golden ragwort

North American native, semi-evergreen perennial with brilliant yellow, showy flowers. They attract butterflies. Propagates by seeds and underground rhizomes to form large colonies.

Thrives in full sunlight. It is an effective groundcover plant for moist, dry woodlands. Reaches a height of 36 inches and 18 inches wide at full maturity. 

USDA zones 3-8. 

4. Silver Aster (Symphyotrichum concolor)

This American native wildflower produces blue, pink, white or silver showy flowers that bloom during the fall or winter. It is a deciduous perennial that attracts pollinators and its brown fruits are a favorite for wildlife. Requires full sunlight. Grows best in well-drained, moist, clay or loam soils. 

USDA zones 8-11. 

Can wildflowers grow in woodlands?

Yes. Wildflowers native to woodlands require shade, rich soil, and high moisture. They bloom during the spring, go dormant during summer and reappear the following spring. You can replicate woodland conditions in your garden by planting wildflowers in a shaded area. 

Wildflowers native to woodlands

The following wildflowers will grow well in woodlands:

1. Carolina Spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana)

Carolina Spring beauty
Photo by Selena N. B. H.

An American native wildflower that thrives in woodland areas. Grows well under full or partial shade. Requires acidic, well-drained, moist soils. Produces star-shaped, pink or white flowers that bloom during spring. It attracts pollinators, specialized bees and small mammals. 

USDA zones 4-7.

2. Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

It is native to the woodlands of North America. Produces a single flower with purple-green petals and attracts pollinators. Requires highly acidic, dry, well-drained sandy soils. It grows in large colonies. The plant thrives in partial shade conditions. 

USDA zones 4-8. 

3. Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
Photo by Plant Image Library

This North American native wildflower produces clusters of greenish-white flowers, which are followed by dark purple berries in the fall. It grows in colonies. Grows to a height of 3ft at full maturity. Its native habitat is dry woodlands. Requires exposure to partial shade. Thrives in moist, poor, and well-drained soils. 

USDA zones 3-8. 

4. Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia) 

A low-growing American native wildflower with pink flowers, that bloom during May and June. It is native to moist woodland areas. Requires moist, well-drained soils. It reaches a height of 6 inches. The showy flowers attract insects. 

USDA zones 2-7. 


Wildflowers can grow in a variety of conditions, under full shade, partial shade or full sunlight. You can also plant wildflowers naturalized to woodland areas in your garden. Select the ideal mix of wildflowers to mimic their appearance in nature and grow them under ideal conditions.