Made for the Shade

by | Apr 23, 2021

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: “What can I grow in a spot that doesn’t get much sun?” Our first question in reply, however, is: “When does the area receive direct light?” Locations that do not receive direct sunlight between about 11am-4pm are best populated with plants that are suited to shade. Have a little bit more light on either end, or dappled shade throughout? Then you would be in more of a partly shaded condition. As much as you might really, really want a sun plant for these areas, varieties that need full sun will struggle in a shaded location, so go for the plants that will thrive! To make your decision-making process easier, we have created a list of good choices for shady spots: 


  •  Begonias: fibrous, tuberous, Dragon Wing, Canary Wing 
  •  Browallia 
  •  Coleus 
  •  Fuchsias 
  •  Impatiens  
  •  Ivy Geraniums (Part Shade) 
  •  Lobelia (Part Shade) 
  •  Mimulus (Part Shade) 
  •  Oxalis 
  •  Pansies & Violas (they tend to peter-out by May if not set in partly shaded locations) 
  •  Torenia
coleus plant


  •  Astilbe  
  •  Bergenia 
  •  Brunnera 
  •  Hardy Cyclamen 
  •  Dicentra (Bleeding Hearts) 
  •  Ferns 
  •  Hellebores 
  •  Hostas 
  •  Lily of the Valley  
  •  Japanese Anemones 
  •  Primulas


astilbe plant


  •  Lysimachia (Creeping Jenny)  
  •  Gallium (Sweet Woodruff) 
  •  Hedera (Ivy, but avoid English) 
  •  Pachysandra 
  •  Wood Anemone

The following will tolerate part-shade, but not heavy shade:

  •  Chervil  
  •  Cilantro  
  •  Cilantro 
  •  Lemon Balm 
  •  Lovage 
  •  Mint (keep contained!) 
  •  Parsley 
  •  Sorrel
wood anemone
cilantro herb


The following will tolerate part-shade only (not full shade):

  •  Beets  
  •  Brassicas: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Kohlrabi etc. will do okay in part shade 
  •  Horseradish 
  •  Kale 
  •  Lettuce 
  •  Green Onions and Leeks 
  •  Peas 
  •  Radishes 
  •  Rhubarb 
  •  Spinach 
  •  Swiss Chard 
  •  Note: Fiddleheads (Ostrich Fern Matteuccia struthiopteris) will tolerate shade


The following will tolerate part shade, not full:

  •  Currants 
  •  Gooseberry


  •  Climbing Hydrangea 
  •  Persian Ivy
climbing hydrangea


  •  Aucuba 
  •  Azaleas (part-shade) 
  •  Boxwood 
  •  Camellia 
  •  Fir & Hemlock (dwarf varieties) 
  •  Japanese Holly 
  •  Hydrangeas (part-shade). PG Hydrangeas prefer sunnier spots. 
  •  Kalmia (part-shade) 
  •  Kerria japonica (part-shade) 
  •  Portuguese Laurel 
  •  Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’ 
  •  Mahonia 
  •  Green-leafed Japanese Maples 
  •  Pieris japonica (part-shade) 
  •  Rhododendrons 
  •  Salal 
  •  Wintergreen 
  •  Sarcococca 
  •  Skimmia 
  •  Taxus (Yew)

Be sure to check the label or sign for each plant that strikes your fancy to see if it might work in the location that you have. Several of the above plants can take sun too, which makes them quite versatile for home gardens, and many are quite happy in containers.  

As with all plants, be sure to prepare the planting hole well, and apply bark mulch, bone meal and/or liquid root booster as needed. Even in shade these plants will need regular, deep watering to get established, but without the intensity of the sun on them all day, you may not need to water quite as much (bonus!) once they are.  

Most of us have some spot of shade in the garden, and when the heat of summer arrives, this is the area that we head for. So take some time to plan out and plant your idyllic shade garden now, and you’ll have much to enjoy in the months and years to come!