16 Vegetables to Grow in Partial Shade

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

The Spruce / Catherine Song

It's a fact that most plants do best if they grow in a sunny location, and this is especially true of vegetables. Most species of edible vegetables need at least 6 hours of daily sun to really produce at optimal levels. This is not a universal rule, however.

As a basic rule of thumb, vegetables that are grown for their fruit or roots—such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash, potatoes, or carrots—require full sun, which is defined as a garden location that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day. But vegetables that are grown for the leaves, stems, or buds often do quite well without full sun. A good number of vegetables can produce nicely with three to six hours of sunlight per day, or with constant dappled sunlight for the entire day.

Keep in mind, though, that no vegetables can thrive in deep, dense shade. While ornamental gardeners have a few choices for plants to grow in full shade, that's not the case with vegetable gardeners.

Here are 16 edible plants that will produce well if they receive three to six hours of direct sunlight each day, or constant dappled light for the full day.

  • 01 of 16

    Arugula (Eruca vesicaria)

    Arugula plant growing in organic vegetable garden.
    Vaivirga / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-draining soil

    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. Some find its peppery bite very refreshing. Arugula tolerates some shade but also does well in full sun. It is easy to grow from seed sown directly into the garden.

  • 02 of 16

    Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

    Mixed Climbing French Beans Including (Phaseolus vulgaris) 'Blue Lake'
    Abigail Rex / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium-moisture soil

    Like peas, beans are a little gift for the hardworking gardener; they 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 varieties of beans to choose from and are easy to grow from seed. You can even be frugal and save some beans to provide next year's seeds.

  • 03 of 16

    Beets (Beta vulgaris)

    Close up of beets

     Corey Monroe / Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil

    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 them 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
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade (shade preferred in hot climates)
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil

    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.

    Continue to 5 of 16 below.
  • 05 of 16

    Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea cultivars)

    Brussels Sprouts Stalks
    GomezDavid / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

    Brussels sprouts, another member of the cabbage family, may take a long time to grow, but they are fun to watch—that first sprout is exciting. The other benefit of this vegetable is that it can grow well into the cold season and actually prefers 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 different short-season crop in between the rows—bush beans and peas are perfect.

  • 06 of 16

    Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea cultivars)

    Cauliflower, extreme close-up

    ZenShui / Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

    Planting broccoli means you're almost compelled 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.

  • 07 of 16

    Collard Greens (Brassica oleracea L. subsp. acephala)

    Collard green leaves
    Inga Spence / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil

    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. 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
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loose, well-drained soil

    Cress, also known as garden cress or pepper cress, is the rare vegetable that does well in nearly full shade. It matures very fast and likes moist soils. It is known for its peppery and sometimes tangy flavor that works well in soups and stews.

    Continue to 9 of 16 below.
  • 09 of 16

    Kale (Brassica oleracea cultivars)

    Farm worker inspecting organic kale leaves
    Ron Levine / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

    Like other cooking greens, this cabbage cousin enjoys growing in a container and generally prefers 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
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

    Endive 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
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade; prefers some shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium-moisture, well-drained soil

    Lettuce—a staple for any salad or BLT lover—is a cool-season green that dislikes too much 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 to enjoy them throughout the season. For instance, you can 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 juncea, Brassica rapa subsp. perviridis)

    Mustard Green Red Frills, lettuce, in raised bed

    Peter Anderson / Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

    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. Some mustard plants can be invasive if they escape the garden.

    Continue to 13 of 16 below.
  • 13 of 16

    Peas (Pisum sativum)

    Sugar snap peas
    Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moisture-retentive soil

    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 the soil at the right time and harvest before it gets too hot, you should have a nice crop. Peas like cool weather.

    This is also a space-saving crop. Many varieties like to climb up a trellis or some sort of support, and once they are done, you can plant a quick-growing, late-season crop like broccoli or try a second pea crop.

  • 14 of 16

    Radishes (Raphanus sativus)

    Hand of Caucasian man picking radish in garden
    Don Mason / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
    • Soil Needs: Sandy or loamy soil

    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 / Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual, grown in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil

    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, but it is also very useful in your favorite non-salad hot recipes. Spinach likes cool weather and usually bolts (sets seed) as the weather turns hot. Plant new spinach for continued harvest.

  • 16 of 16

    Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris)

    Red chard growing in wooden crate
    Maarigard / Getty Images
    • USDA Growing Zones: Biennial, grown as an annual in zones 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil

    Few vegetables can rival the colorful beauty of Swiss chard, so adding these to that semi-shady spot is a great idea. 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.