In every garden there are varying degrees of shade. There is the deep shade where serious woodland-type plants are the only thing that will grow. And then there is partial shade. Bliss: you can grow plants with flowers that will give colour and delight in those dark corners. Be careful: you do need a few hours of sunlight, but nothing like direct, full sun over the day.
Here are some of the nicest partial-shade perennials. They spread rapidly, so you may have to do some serious ripping out after a few years.
1. Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma)
Bee balm, as the name hints, is heaven for the bees and hummingbirds. And the gardener: it comes in different shades of red and purple, it blooms in partial shade for weeks in July. If you cut it back, you may even get a second set of blooms in September. It spreads like crazy.
2. Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia Clethroides)
This is another one that spreads like mad and that the bees and bugs love. It is not the bad loosestrife that you are not supposed to plant. Blooming in July, it has a spike of lovely white flowers on a bent stalk (like a goose's neck).
3. Lamium (Lamium maculatum)
Lamium is a great ground cover that needs very little light. Depending on the kind you choose, it has sweet purple or white or pink flowers in the early spring. It will hide a multitude of sins, and ugly places, since it just keeps on going in dry partial shade. The leaves are variegated so add some colour and the flowers are pretty too.
4. Sweet Woodruff (Gallium Ordoratum)
Here's another ground cover that flourishes in the shade, is easily established and will take off. It has nice dark green leaves that catch the light. In early spring it has little white star-shaped flowers that compliment other early spring plantings.
5. Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum Biflorum)
This graceful perennial blooms with white bell-shaped flowers in the early spring. Then the lovely arching stems and leaves keep going all summer long. It comes in a dark green, or the variegated, which does add some colour to a dark spot. It likes dry shade and will spread easily.
6. Tuberous Begonias
When all else fails: tuberous begonias. A perennial that goes dormant in winter and re-sprouts in spring, it comes in yellow, orange and pinks, with nice green leafy foliage. They thrive in moist, but not too wet, shade. Fall frosts kill the plants so hang them in a shed over the winter and re-plant them.