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When Gardeners Buy Shrubs for Shade, What Do They Choose?

By Edited Mar 3, 2016 2 6
Flowering Shrubs For Shade(86177)

Top 6 Plants That Grow In Shade

Discover shrubs for shade that offer flowers, bright berries, sweet fragrance or colorful bark. Plants that grow in shade provide color and texture where showier, more common plants cannot.  We all enjoy a moment in the filtered light of trees during summer’s hot months.  Read on to learn which shrubs for shade will best spice up the shady corners of your garden. 

We all love a little dappled light at times, yet the areas of the garden most often neglected tend to rest in the dark corners.  When gardeners choose shrubs for shade areas, they select proven, disease-resistant varieties first and foremost. Then, they decide what features they want from their plant: should it be evergreen? If it’s deciduous, what will its winter bark look like? How about flowering shade shrubs? Let’s take a look at each category.

Top Three Broadleaf Evergreen Shrubs for Shade

Sarcoccoca hookeriana, Himalayan sweetbox. This lovely, glossy-green leaved plant is a real workhorse! It thrives in shady or lightly sheltered areas, and can handle drought in summer. The real beauty of Sarcoccoca hookeriana is in its smell. A vanilla-like scent wafts through the air in early spring, eventually bearing small black berries during summer months. 

Aucuba japonica, Japanese aucuba. This is one of the funkier shade shrubs, sporting bright yellow spots on its large, glossy leaves. The added color on the leaves is great for bringing colour and lightness to your collection of plants that grow under the trees. These can grow into large shrubs for shade, so I think they are best planted as a background plant. 

Mahonia nervosa, Cascades Oregon Grape Holly. The arching branches of this small-space shade shrub are covered in spiny, grey-green leaves. Mahonia nervosa is a perfect plant for filling in low borders of the garden with evergreen plant material. NOTE: Not to be confused with its tall, ugly cousin Mahonia aquifolium also know as Oregon Grape Holly. Mahonia nervosa is the much more graceful cousin in the shrubs for shade category, believe me. 

Best Pick Deciduous Shrubs for Shade

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, Limelight panicle hydrangea. Chartreuse mop-head blooms top this fabulous hydrangea, making it one of the most popular shrubs for shade. The lime green blooms make great cut flowers, or can be left on the plant for winter interest. It can grow into a rather large shrub, so be sure to place it where it has room or in the middle to back of your garden beds. 

Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward VII’, Winter currant. This sheer stunner is a true winner among shade shrubs. Deep magenta flowers dangle from branches in a glorious and glamorous way. Of all the plants that grow in shade, I think Ribes sanguineum is the one that strikes me most as the harbinger of spring.  

Fothergilla gardenii ‘Blue Mist’, Blue Mist fothergilla. One of the smaller shrubs for shade, fothergilla is a versatile and hardy plant. In spring it will grace you with the scent of honey emanating from white, bottlebrush shaped flowers. This plant also falls into the category of shade shrubs that just keep giving: not only do blooms last several weeks, but the leathery blue leaves eventually put on a colorful show in fall turning many shades of orange, red and yellow. 

Deciduous and evergreen bushes have always provided good bones for the garden. Even in the dimmest parts of your yard, well-chosen plants that grow in shade can have color and interesting features throughout the year. 



Mar 26, 2012 1:38pm
Oh wow I just came across this artice right on time. I'm getting ready to do my gardening and I have a few shade spots to work on.
Guess I have to re-write my garden shopping list.


Mar 26, 2012 5:09pm
Hey Anja -
I am so glad that this article was helpful, best of luck beautifying your shady spots in the garden! I appreciate your comment, thanks for the feedback.
Mar 26, 2012 11:50pm
Hydrangeas are a particular favorite of mine. I have very little shade, but I finally found a place that hydrangeas thrive. Would be interested in reading an article about plants for full sun. Congratulations on being featured.
Mar 27, 2012 12:14pm
Thank you for the suggestion, an article about shrubs for sunny spots is a great idea. I may just include some full sun hydrangeas - I agree that they are fantastic! Thank you for the nice comments.
Mar 29, 2012 2:51pm
Nice article on plants that grow in the shade.
Mar 30, 2012 1:03pm
Thank you!
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  1. Brickell, Christopher, Ed. Reader's Digest A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Montreal: Reader's Digest Association, 1997.

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