Shade loving perennials need the cooler temperatures found in shady locations in order to survive. Full sun exposure burns their leaves and causes too much moisture evaporation from the plants. Many of these perennials attract either birds or butterflies, but only a few varieties attract both to shady areas. The perennials use smell and color to lure birds and butterflies to their blossoms where they act as pollinators.
“Inshriach Pink” astilbe (Astilbe simplicifolia “Inshriach Pink”) grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9 with dark green fern-like leaves reaching 8 inches tall and spreading 1 to 2 feet wide. Clusters of pink blossoms appear on top of 10- to 15-inch-tall spikes in midsummer. Astilbe plants grow well in shady wet areas. “Russian Princess” lobelia (Lobelia x speciosa “Russian Princess”) produce glossy leaves that turn reddish-bronze during the summer with spikes of hot pink flowers appearing from midsummer to early fall in USDA zones 4 through 8. This perennial reaches 18 to 20 inches tall and wide, attracting hummingbirds along with the birds and butterflies.
Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, reaching 2 to 4 feet tall and forming clumps of 4-inch-long dark green lance-shaped leaves 1 to 2 feet wide with red tubular-shaped flowers throughout the summer. This North American native perennial likes plenty of water. Firecracker plants (Russelia equisetiformis) grow in USDA zones 9 through 11, reaching 3 to 5 feet tall and wide with fast growing weeping branches covered in green leaves with red tubular-shaped blossoms appearing from spring through fall. Wild red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) grows as an upright plant reaching 2 feet tall with showy red and yellow bell-like blossoms looming over blue-green leaves. This perennial stays evergreen in USDA zones 3 through 8.
“Hillside Black Beauty” black cohosh (Actaea simplex “Hillside Black Beauty”), growing in USDA zones 4 through 8, produces deep purple-black leaves reaching 3 to 6 feet tall and wide with cream-white flowers appearing in the fall on tall stems. Lily of the Valley plants (Convallaria majalis) produce bell-shaped flowers in early spring in USDA zones 3 through 8. These sweet-smelling perennials reach just 6 to 12 inches tall, but create a green carpet of leaves up to 36 inches wide.
“Britt Marie Crawford” ligularia (Ligularia dentate “Britt Marie Crawford”) grows 1- to 3-foot-tall stems in the early spring, topped by reddish-green leaves with purple undersides and golden daisy-like flowers appearing in early summer. This shade-tolerant perennial grows best in wet areas in USDA zones 4 through 8. Woodland sunflowers (Helianthus divaricatus), grown in USDA zones 3 through 8, produce flowers with orange-yellow centers surrounded by nine ray petals reaching 1 1/2 to 3 inches across all summer. The blooms top 2- to 6-foot-tall hairy stems with lance-shaped leaves.