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 most people picture a vegetable garden, they 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 don't have a site in that perfect location, 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.

Working With Sun and Shade

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

You can use that sunny space to grow the sun-lovers: peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, corn, and squash. The other crops, those that do well in the 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.

Having a shady garden doesn't mean you're destined to live a life devoid of fresh garden vegetables. By making the 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 gr 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 and they take very little effort. There are many varieties of bush beans and pole beans that can deal with some daily shade and they take up very little space.

    There are many types of beans to choose from and they're easy to grow from seed. You can even be frugal and save some beans for next year's seeds. That first fresh-snapped bean while you're watering is just the icing on the cake.

  • 03 of 16

    Beets (Beta vulgaris)

     Getty Images

    Beets sort of break the rules for planting root vegetables in partial shade, but they 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 them watered so the roots don't 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. They look fantastic when growing in a line and with all the colorful varieties available, they can really add a fun splash to a border.

    This is also a relatively easy plant to grow, just keep it watered then wait for the harvest. If you're 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.

    Continue to 5 of 16 below.
  • 05 of 16

    Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea, var. gemmifera)

    Brussels Sprouts Stalks
    GomezDavid / Getty Images

    Brussels sprouts may take a long time to grow, but they're fun to watch mature and that first sprout is exciting. The other benefit of this vegetable is that they can grow well into the cold season and actually prefer it over hot climates.

    This is also a plant that can maximize that shadier spot in the garden. Because they take 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 are among the leafy greens that fall in the class of "cooking greens." They're leafy and great in a salad, sure, but they're also very useful in your favorite non-salad recipes.

    Collard greens need 4 to 5 hours of sun for full flavor, but it's 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's 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 enjoys a container and generally do 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 endiviadoes 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 also have a few options when it comes to planting these great salad greens to enjoy throughout the season. For instance, you could succession plant them or simply use the containers as a "cut and come again" garden, picking 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.

    These greens tolerate partial shade, though they are also fond of full sun. Mustard greens do not do well in hot temperatures. 

    Continue to 13 of 16 below.
  • 13 of 16

    Peas (Pisum sativum)

    Sugar snap peas
    Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images

    Peas are perfect for containers and they 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 they're 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. They also produce tasty greens that most people forget about.

    With radishes, you have many options when it comes to varieties. It's 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 these 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 cool temperatures of spring and fall. 

    Spinach—in particular, baby spinach—is a great salad green for sure, but it's also very useful in your favorite hot, non-salad recipes. Plant the seeds early and you can pick off them 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, but you'll need to overwinter them to save it for the second year.

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