annuals for the shade


Hi Master Gardeners, I have a spot in the front of my house that is south facing. However, two large trees cast so much shade that the garden bed only gets 4 hours of sun a day. I am looking for annuals that can tolerate shade and will provide a nice burst of colour during the summer. many thanks.


Hi gardener, I am sure you are not the only gardener with this query. In Toronto, in the older suburbs, there are beautiful old large trees that cool our houses, clean our air, and provide us with a lot of joy. But of course, that means that there are many small gardens with beds and containers that have space to grow flowers, but that do not get enough sun.

The Toronto Master Gardeners have a Gardening Guide for annuals that can be grown in the shade:

It is a very complete list. The Guide divides the annuals into:

  • Hardy annuals: seeds and seedlings can withstand frost and can be planted in the garden in early spring. Pansies, Sweet Alyssum and Forget-me-nots fit this category.
  • Half-hardy annuals: seeds can be planted outdoors after the soil has warmed up but this usually delays bloom, so these are usually sown indoors six to twelve weeks before the frost-free date for our area. Baby Blue-eyes, fibrous Begonias and Bells of Ireland are in this category.
  • Tender annuals: seeds must be started indoors and not planted outdoors until both soil and air temperatures are warm. Examples include Ageratum, Coleus and Impatiens.
  • Also treated as annuals: tender perennials grown from seed or cuttings, and tender bulbs and tubers. Fuchsias, Caladiums and Tuberous Begonias are three examples.

It then gives lists for annuals that are good for dry light shade conditions; partial and light shade; part shade moist conditions; and annuals for full shade. References are also included in the Guide.

Keep in mind that if you are going to start these annuals from seed, you should start them by February 15th so that they can be put outside by May 15th.

Hope this is helpful. Happy gardening.

January 7, 2021