Vegetables You Can Grow Without Full Sun

Maximize Your Garden and Use the Shade for These Veggies

Illustration of beets, broccoli, cabbage, radish, peas, spinach and brussels sprouts

Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018 

When you picture a vegetable garden, you might imagine a spot that bakes in the sun all day. For some vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, full sun is ideal. But if you do not have a garden in the best location or have an large periphery with less light, there are plenty of vegetables that will grow well without full sun. 

Basically, a good rule to remember is that if you grow a plant for the fruit or the root, it needs full sun. If you grow it for the leaves, stems, or buds, a little shade will be just fine.

Keep in mind that no vegetable will grow in full, dense shade. The following crops will produce with three to six hours of sun, or fairly constant dappled shade each day.

Work With Your Sun and Shade

The best thing about knowing that these crops will successfully grow with some shade is that you will be able to get more produce from your garden. Even if you are lucky enough to have an area with full sun that you can reserve for a vegetable garden, if you know which plants will take some shade, then you can get the most out of your space.

You can use your sunny space to grow the sun-lovers: peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, corn, and squash. The other crops, those that do well in partial shade, can be tucked in anywhere. Grow some beets or Swiss chard in your part-sun perennial border. Grow some lettuce or radishes in a container or window box. Make use of the space you have, in both sun and shade, and you can easily double the number of vegetables you would usually get.

If you have a shady garden, that does not mean that you are destined to live a life devoid of fresh garden vegetables. If you make most of what you have, you can harvest lettuce, peas, and other tasty veggies from spring through fall.

  • 01 of 16

    Arugula (Aruca sativa)

    Arugula plant growing in organic vegetable garden.
    Vaivirga / Getty Images

    Arugula is among the fastest growing leafy greens. It is one of those greens that people either love or hate as it can have musky odor and taste. Others find its peppery bite very refreshing. Arugula tolerates some shade but also does well in full sun. 

  • 02 of 16

    Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris cult)

    Mixed Climbing French Beans Including (Phaseolus vulgaris) 'Blue Lake'
    Abigail Rex / Getty Images

    Like peas, beans are a little gift for the hardworking gardener; beans take very little effort. There are many varieties of bush beans and pole beans that can deal with some daily shade and take up very little space.

    There are many types of beans to choose from and are easy to grow from seed. You can even be frugal and save some beans for next year's seeds.

  • 03 of 16

    Beets (Beta vulgaris)

     Getty Images

    Beets sort of break the rules for planting root vegetables in partial shade and can do surprisingly well. While the shade may impact the size of your beetroots, the plants will still produce delicious greens.

    If you're short on space, beets can also do quite well in a deep container. For a continual harvest, keep planting a few seeds every week or so. Just be sure to keep it watered so the roots do not turn woody.

  • 04 of 16

    Broccoli (Brassica oleracea, var. Italica)

    Broccoli (Brassica oleracea botrytis var. Cymosa) 'Montery' F1, September
    Cora Niele / Getty Images

    Broccoli is one of those vegetables that you can line alongside the shadier edges of any garden space. It looks fantastic when growing in a line and with all the colorful varieties available, it can really add a fun splash to a border.

    A member of the cabbage family, this is also a relatively easy plant to grow, just keep it watered then wait for the harvest. If you are in a hotter climate, you may even be able to sneak two crops into the extended season by replacing the old plants with new seedlings.

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  • 05 of 16

    Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea, var. gemmifera)

    Brussels Sprouts Stalks
    GomezDavid / Getty Images

    Brussels sprouts, another member of the cabbage family, may take a long time to grow, but are fun to watch mature; that first sprout is exciting. The other benefit of this vegetable is that it can grow well into the cold season and actually prefer the cooler temps over hot climates.

    This is also a plant that can maximize that shadier spot in the garden. Because it takes so long, you can plant a short-season crop in between the rows. Bush beans and peas are perfect.

  • 06 of 16

    Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea, var. botrytis)

    Cauliflower, extreme close-up
    ZenShui/Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

    Planting broccoli means you almost have to plant cauliflower as well. Staggering this beautiful plant alongside its taller, nutty-flavored cousin can really add a splash of design to an otherwise difficult shady garden space.

    Cauliflower can tolerate some cold, so it's a good last-minute addition to the garden. It does take a little work, especially if you want white cauliflower with a sweeter taste because it will need to be blanched. Yet, fresh cauliflower is worth the effort.

  • 07 of 16

    Collard Greens (Brassica oleracea, var. acephala)

    Collard green leaves
    Inga Spence / Getty Images

    Collard greens, another cabbage relative, are among the leafy greens that fall in the class of cooking greens. It is leafy and great in a salad, but perhaps best prepared as a sauteed green dish.

    For good growth, Collard greens need about 4 to 5 hours of sun for full flavor, and it, too, is a good plant for colder climates.

  • 08 of 16

    Cress (Lepidium sativum)

    Bed of Lepidium sativum, Cress, close up, high angle view
    Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    Cress, also known as garden cress, is the rare vegetable that does well in nearly full shade. It matures very fast and likes moist soils. It is known for it's peppery and sometimes tangy flavor.

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  • 09 of 16

    Kale (Brassica oleracea, var. acephala)

    Farm worker inspecting organic kale leaves
    Ron Levine / Getty Images

    Like other cooking greens, kale, another cabbage cousin, enjoys a container and generally does well with some shade preferring cool soils, making it a good choice for shady locations. It will tolerate very cool temperatures including light frosts.  

  • 10 of 16

    Endive (Cichorium endivia)

    Germany, Upper Bavaria, Weidenkam, Mature woman cutting endive
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Endive (Cichorium endivia) does well with only a few hours of daily sun. Especially in midsummer, the shade will prevent the plant from bolting (setting seeds). 

    Better yet, endive does great in pots just like arugula, leaf lettuce, and cress, so you can fill your deck with a salad-lovers container garden.

  • 11 of 16

    Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)

    Growing lettuce
    Elena Pejchinova / Getty Images

    Lettuce—a staple for any salad or BLT lover—is a cool-season green that dislikes direct sun. Some gardeners even shelter lettuce with shade cloth to prevent it from burning out. 

    You have a few options when it comes to planting these great salad greens as a way to enjoy it throughout the season. For instance, you could succession plant it or simply use the containers as a "cut and come again" garden, picking (and using) the oldest leaves as needed.

  • 12 of 16

    Mustard Greens (Brassica nigra)

    Mustard Green Red Frills, lettuce, in raised bed
    Dorling Kindersley: Peter Anderson / Getty Images

    Mustard greens join collards and kale in the cooking greens category. This green tolerates partial shade, though it is also fond of full sun. Mustard greens do not do well in hot temperatures. 

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  • 13 of 16

    Peas (Pisum sativum)

    Sugar snap peas
    Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images

    Peas are perfect for containers and do fine in a partially shady spot. The key to growing peas is timing. If you get the seeds in soil at the right time and harvest before it gets too hot, you should have a nice crop.

    This is also a space-saving crop. Many varieties like to climb up a trellis or some sort of support and once it is done, you can plant a quick-growing, late-season crop like broccoli or try a second pea crop. The best part is eating fresh peas while you work.

  • 14 of 16

    Radishes (Raphanus raphanistrum, subsp. sativus)

    Hand of Caucasian man picking radish in garden
    Don Mason / Getty Images

    Radishes are another surprising root vegetable that can tolerate some shade. It also produces tasty greens that most people forget about.

    With radishes, you have many options when it comes to varieties. It is fun to sprinkle many different radishes throughout your garden. Some mature fast, some like the fall season, and the sizes vary as much as the color. Have fun with all the possibilities.

  • 15 of 16

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)

    Full Frame Shot Of Spinach Growing In Garden
    Alexandra Ribeiro / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Spinach does well with only a few hours of sun and it prefers the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. Spinach—in particular, baby spinach—is a great salad green for sure, but it is also very useful in your favorite hot, non-salad recipes. Plant the seeds early and you can pick the leaves off all summer long.

  • 16 of 16

    Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris)

    Red chard growing in wooden crate
    Maarigard / Getty Images

    Few vegetables can rival the colorful beauty of Swiss chard, so adding these to that semi-shady spot is a great idea. It's also a biennial; you will need to overwinter it to save it for the second year.

    Beyond its stunning color, chard is extremely easy to grow and needs hardly any maintenance. You can direct sow the seeds and thin it as needed. Plus, if you cut older leaves new ones will grow back.