Spring Blooming Perennials for Shade

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Last week I wrote about some striking spring bloomers for sunny spots - now let's step into the shade. Most shade loving perennials bloom in spring or early summer. There are many awesome choices, but since this feature is about "early risers", I'm going to write about three rock stars with lovely flowers AND foliage.


Lungwort (Pulmonaria) 'Pretty in Pink' explodes in bright pink flowers. This is radically different from other lungworts that have pink buds, opening to blue flowers. The rich green leaves are speckled in silver, making them attractive through fall. 'Raspberry Splash' and 'High Contrast' also have foliage that provides three seasons of interest, but the flowers age to a sweet blue. ALL lungworts are appealing to bees and hummingbirds, but detested by deer and bunnies.

Siberian Bugloss

Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera) is a MUST perennial for shade, especially cultivars with massive silver leaves like 'Queen of Hearts'. All Siberian Bugloss have heart-shaped leaves with billowing blue Forget-Me-Not like flowers in spring. The straight species has solid green leaves (and can reseed aggressively), but it's the silver foliaged cultivars that fly off the nursery benches. I like pairing these with Astilbe 'Visions' (vibrant raspberry-purple plumes) and Japanese Painted Fern that has silver, deep green and burgundy fronds. Brunnera is deer resistant.


I can't decide which I like better: Mukdenia's airy white flowers or its funky foliage. Between these two eye-catching features, Mukdenia is eye-candy from spring through fall. The dark green leaves have an unusual fan shape that develop expanding burgundy-red margins starting in late summer.

Other jazzy early spring bloomers include natives like Marsh Marigold (Caltha), Goatsbeard (Aruncus), and Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). All these and more are available at Estabrook's.