15 Shade-Loving Perennials That Bloom in the Fall


Also known as fairy candles and bugbane, Actaea simplex sends up big, bottlebrush-shaped flowers on wiry stems that give the plant a stunning candelabra effect from summer through fall. Deeply cut leaves add interest; Dwyer especially likes the varieties with dark foliage in shades of chocolate and maroon.

Blue Mistflower

Conoclinium coelestinum blooms in late summer and fall in delicate-petaled, light purple-blue flowers. "It’s a a nice pop of color that would contrast well with darker greens of different foliage plants," Pickoff says.

Bottle Gentian

Native to low woodlands and shaded riverbanks in the Northeast and Midwest, Gentiana andrewsii pops with clusters of bottle-shaped blue flowers that keep the color coming from late summer through fall. Also known as closed gentian, its flowers never open but are pollinated by bumblebees, who have the strength and size to work their way inside.

Coral Bells (Autumn Bride)

Plant Heuchera villosa (also known as Autumn Bride) en masse along a border, Dwyer says, and you’ll be treated to drifts of white flowers waving above its velvety green leaves from midsummer into fall. One of the most durable coral bells, it can handle the heat and humidity of summer and has good drought tolerance as well.

Goldenrod (Zigzag)

Native to North American woodlands, Solidago flexicaulis will tolerate even heavy shade and brings its beautiful, bright flowers to your landscape from summer until frost, blooming on upright stems that sometimes grow in a zigzag shape. A pollinator magnet, it’s among the latest-blooming goldenrods, Dwyer says.

Japanese Anemone

A member of the buttercup family, Eriocapitella x hybrida—commonly known as windflower or Japanese thimbleweed—produces poppy-like single or double blooms in shades of purple, pink, or white. Flowering begins in late summer and can extend until first frost. Its sharply cut foliage offers additional interest in the fall landscape, Pickoff says.

Japanese Shrub Mint (Golden Angel)

Leucosceptrum japonicum Golden Angel adds pretty gold foliage to a shade garden from spring until fall, sending up fragrant yellow-white flower stalks in late summer. "So it's offering foliage interest through the whole growing season, and then you get the benefit of very late flowers that have a light fragrance," Dwyer says. "I call it a perennial that contributes six to seven months of the year, with the tail end being the flowers."

Japanese Toad Lily (Miyazaki)

A wonderful option for a wet woodland garden, Tricyrtis hirta produces exotic spotted blooms in late summer and early fall. "Miyazaki’ has been an absolute slam dunk for me in terms of reliability," Dwyer says, adding that unless there’s an early frost in southern Wisconsin, he can expect blooms into mid-October.

Korean Angelica

This hardy herb pops with reddish-purple flower clusters from late summer into autumn, and its height makes it a great add at the back of a partially shaded garden bed. Even after the flowers fade, their dried blooms add beauty and structure in the garden, Dwyer says.

Monkshood (Arendsii)

Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii' produces dense clusters of hooded flowers long after the rest of the garden has finished blooming. Dwyer planted it in a public botanical garden he previously managed in southern Wisconsin. "It would inevitably go into October" he says. "And we watched it shed off light frost after light frost until finally, a killing frost would take it out."

Northern Maidenhair Fern

Adiantum pedatum extends the color and interest in a shaded garden, even late in the season. Its delicate fronds emanate from an open central stem area, adding texture among the blooms in a woodland or rock garden. "Even in fall, it has a brighter green color that contrasts really nicely with flowers," Pickoff says.

Short's Aster

Symphyptrichum shortii will fill your fall garden with a haze of small, powder-blue flowers that start in late summer and continue well into fall. These little asters grow vigorously, reseeding quickly to fill in shady ground. Their flowers attract a variety of seed-loving birds, including cardinals, finches, grosbeaks, chickadees, and nuthatches, as well as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Fun fact: Their yellow centers change to brick red after pollination.


Chelone obliqua blooms for three to six weeks, bringing extended color to your fall garden. Unlike most other fall bloomers, which are typically in the purple, yellow, and orange color families, this one has a spring-like pink option. And true to its common name, its sturdy blooms look a lot like turtle heads. “They also have nice foliage that is strong and interesting,” Pickoff says.

White Wood Aster

A member of the daisy family, Eurybia divaricata produces a profusion of starry white flowers from late summer through mid-fall. A host plant for Pearl Crescent butterflies as well as their eggs and caterpillars, it’s also a woodland favorite for fall hikers. "When you look at this one in a mass planting, it’s a really lovely cloud of delicate white flowers," Pickoff says.

Yellow Corydalis

Corydalis lutea starts blooming in late spring and keeps on producing its tubular yellow blossoms until a hard frost. "It’s a powerhouse," Dwyer says. "It just keeps going and going." Fernlike foliage adds to its magic in a woodland garden.

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