29 Shrubs That Grow in Full or Partial Shade

best shrubs for shade illustration

Illustration: The Spruce

It can be tough designing a garden in a shady area. You have to make sure you choose the right shrubs for the conditions. Without the proper amount of sun, flowering shrubs may fail to produce blossoms or bloom poorly, and many shrubs will perform poorly overall. Deep shade can even kill your plants unless they are species that naturally grow in shade. The following plants are able to grow in at least part shade, and some can handle full shade.

Many shrubs that grow in shade are poisonous, including:

  • Aucuba
  • Azaleas and rhododendrons
  • Daphne
  • Chinese yew 
  • Heavenly bamboo
  • Japanese pieris 
  • Mountain laurel
  • Red buckeye
  • Skimmia
  • 01 of 29

    African Scurf Pea (Psoralea pinnata)

    Blue Pea (Psoralea Pinnata) shrub
    Andrei Stanescu / Getty Images

    This medium-size shrub is covered with lilac-blue flowers like those of the sweet pea and many other members of the Fabaceae family. They give off a fragrance that reminds some of Kool-Aid, inspiring the common name of Kool-Aid bush. The leaves are reminiscent of rosemary. It can be trained into a small tree.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 02 of 29

    Alder-Leaved Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

    Saskatoon or Serviceberry bush blossoming, Amelanchier alnifolia, near Thunder Bay, ON, Canada.
    Stephen J. Krasemann / Getty Images

    Alder-leaved serviceberries feature spikes of creamy white flowers that appear in April and May. Also known as Saskatoon serviceberry, they produce purple-blue pomes that are edible and a popular wildlife food. Varieties generally offer superb fall color that lasts a long time. This understory shrub is prone to forming suckers or shoots which should be removed to retain shape. Some cultivars will thrive in warmer climates but native plants are found in zones 5 to 9.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 12 feet or greater depending on cultivar
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, dry or moist
  • 03 of 29

    Alpine Currant (Ribes alpinum)

    Red currant shrub—leaves and fruit
    -annalisa-/Getty Images

    Alpine currant is a small fruit bearing shrub, but it is dioecious, so you need both male and female plants for pollination. Both the male and female shrubs produce berries, but the female berries are inedible. Fully frost hardy, be sure to select a cultivar such as R. laurifolium for shade as many require full sun. All currants require fertile well-drained soil. Cut out older shoots and give straggly old plants a hard pruning in winter or early spring. Watch for aphid investations during wet, humid weather.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 6 to 8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, alkaline
  • 04 of 29

    Japanese Aucuba (Aucuba japonica)

    Aucuba (Aucuba japonica), close-up of leaves and fruit
    DEA / S. MONTANARI / Getty Images

    This evergreen shrub is usually planted for its striking leaves. Choose both male and female shrubs to produce the pretty red berries that appear in autumn. Aucuba is poisonous, so it might not be the best choice for gardeners with young children or pets.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Tolerates most soil types and conditions, but must be well-drained
    Continue to 5 of 29 below.
  • 05 of 29

    Azaleas and Rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.)

    Flowers of the Pacific Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, Washington.
    Ethan Welty / Getty Images

    Azaleas and rhododendrons belong to the same genus, Rhododendron, and include both deciduous and evergreen shrubs. While Rhododendron range in height from dwarf to tree-like structures, most Azaleas are much more compact shrubs of up to 5 feet. There are almost endless varieties of Azalea today from which to choose including cultivars that bloom in spring and again in autumn. All Rhododendrons and Azaleas feature showy, brilliantly blooms in a full palette of colors. In addition to being shade plants, they also like acidic soil which is often prevalent in shady areas. Plants are shallow rooted so good drainage is essential. Dead head spent flowers to encourage blooming. Watch for weevils and powdery mildew.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9, depending on variety
    • Height: 4 to 15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade; some varieties can handle full shade
    • Soil Needs: Acidic, well-drained
  • 06 of 29

    Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)

    Burning bush
    zennie/Getty Images

    As the name burning bush suggests, this shrub features a brilliant red color in the fall. A popular landscape plant this bush provides nesting habitat for many small birds. The multi-stemmed shrub is dense and twiggy with thick, tough roots making it extremely hard to remove, so be certain of your choice before planting. You may want to check with your local extension office, as the burning bush is considered to be invasive in some areas.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 6 to 9 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, slightly acid
  • 07 of 29

    California Sweetshrub (Calycanthus occidentalis)

    California Sweetshrub

    (C) Bill Pusztai/Getty Images 

    California Sweetshrub is a deciduous, bushy plant with aromatic, dark green leaves. A summer bloomer, the shrub produces fragrant purplish red flowers with multiple strap shaped petals. Sweetshrub tolerates light shade but will produce better foliage and bloom with some sun exposure.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 6 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, fertile, deep and well-drained
  • 08 of 29

    Camellia (Camellia sinensis)

    Camellia
    Nobuo Iwata / Getty Images

    Several different kinds of Chinese tea are brewed from the leaves and twigs of the Camellia shrub. The leaves are picked at all stages of development. It can grow to a height of 10 feet tall but is usually pruned to about 3 to 5 feet for easier harvesting.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Height: 3 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, acid to neutral
    Continue to 9 of 29 below.
  • 09 of 29

    Carol Mackie Daphne (Daphne × burkwoodii #39;Carol Mackie #39;)

    Carol Mackie Daphne plant

    Lijuan Guo Photography/Getty Images 

    Carol Mackie Daphne features green leaves with a distinct yellow margin. It is a hybrid ('Carol Mackie' is the cultivar) that grows best in partial shade. It has tubular, light pink flowers, but when grown in shade it is favored more for its variegated foliage than its blooms.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, neutral to slightly acid
  • 10 of 29

    Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense)

    fringe plant
    jikgoe/Getty Images

    This evergreen shrub is rounded and well-branched with deep green, oval, asymmetrical leaves. The flowers on this evergreen shrub can be white, yellow, or red, depending on the variety. Blooms appear in late winter and early spring. Half-hearty, the Chinese Fringe Flower can be grown as a potted shrub in northern climates but should be brought indoors when temperatures fall below 41 degrees F.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Color Varieties: White, yellow, red
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained loam, slightly acid
  • 11 of 29

    Chinese Yew (Taxus chinensis)

    Yew Berries
    Colin Varndell/Getty Images

    The Chinese yew grows splendidly in full shade locations, as well as many other conditions, like cold, heat, and a range of soil types. Like most other varieties of yew, this shrub can be heavily pruned without sacrificing shape. A member of the conifer family, this spreading shrub has dark green, needle-like leaves and fleshy bright red berries.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 6 to 12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Sand or loam, well-drained
  • 12 of 29

    Common Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

    Boxwood
    Francois De Heel / Getty Images

    The common boxwood is a favorite evergreen shrub used extensively in landscaping. Dense, dark green leaves can be shaped into topiary and make this shrub useful for hedging, screening and knot gardens. It can grow from 2 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. This versatile shrub will tolerate many different types of growing conditions but does poorly in wet soil.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 2 to 15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained loam
    Continue to 13 of 29 below.
  • 13 of 29

    Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

    Witch hazel plant
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    The Common Witch Hazel brings winter interest to the garden with small, fragrant, spidery yellow flowers. Several cultivars of this shrub are available today, some with showier blooms that may appear from autumn through early spring and are fully frost hardy. Medium sized, this open, upright shrub will benefit with a hard pruning back of new growth shoots in late summer. Many beauty products include extracts from the witch hazel shrub, due to its astringent property.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 8 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained, acid
  • 14 of 29

    Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)

    Dwarf Fothergilla
    Maria_Ermolova/Getty Images

    The dwarf fothergilla is a deciduous, dense, bushy, shrub that will grow in semi-shade. Full sun, though, will bring more abundant tiny fragrant white flowers in early spring. Color carries through into autumn with the dark blue-green leaves turning to a brilliant red.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 3 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moderately moist, well-drained, acid
  • 15 of 29

    Gardenias (Gardenia spp.)

    Gardenia bloom
    Daniela Duncan / Getty Images

    Gardenias are beloved in the southern United States and other warm areas for their fragrant, glossy, white or yellow flowers and dark green leaves. They need humidity or they will falter. In cooler climates, gardenias must be grown indoors and can be maintained with appropriate water and humidity. They can handle full shade in warm locations, but flowering may be affected. Prune after bloom by shortening strong shoots to maintain shape and habit.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, slightly acid
  • 16 of 29

    Glossy Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora)

    glossy abelia
    IHervas/Getty Images

    Glossy abelia is the result of crossing Abelia chinensis and Abelia uniflora. A semi-evergreen, arching shrub, grandiflora has yellowish green leaves with darker center and produces white bell-shaped flowers tinged with pink from mid- summer to mid-autumn. Shade tolerant, this shrub will produce a greater abundance of blooms in full sun. Abelias do best against a south or west facing wall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, fertile
    Continue to 17 of 29 below.
  • 17 of 29

    Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)

    Nandina domestica
    tsuchikure / Getty Images

    Heavenly bamboo is named for its resemblance to bamboo plants. This semi-evergreen shrub has an upright growth habit that produces panicles of small, star-shaped, white blooms in mid-summer followed by spherical red fruits in warmer climates. It is considered to be invasive in some locations, and extremely difficult to eradicate once established, so check with your local nursery or extension office before planting. It is also poisonous, especially for cats and livestock.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Height: 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 18 of 29

    Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla)

    Close-Up Of Hydrangea Blooming Outdoors
    Mitsuru Moriaki / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Many cultivars of Hydrangea are available today but two main types persist. Hortensias produce domed, dense heads of flowers while Lacecap blooms appear as clusters of flat open heads. Flower color can be altered by adding acid to the soil. PH of up to 5.5 results in blooms in the blue to purple color palette while more alkaline soil produces flowers in pink to red shades. White flowers remain unaffected by soil type. Deadhead spent flowers and prune older shoots back to the base in spring. Removal of deadwood encourages new growth.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 6 to 8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained, highly acid to slightly alkaline
  • 19 of 29

    Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica)

    japanese pieris
    Miyuki Satake/Getty Images

    This shade grown shrub requires a sheltered location and moist, peaty, acid soil. Grown for its evergreen foliage, leaves are narrowly oval and bronze in color maturing to a glossy dark green. Pieris japonica produces drooping clusters of red-budded, deep pink blooms in spring.. Several other cultivars produce differently colored leaves and blooms including reds, whites and yellows. This plant is poisonous and you may not want to include it in your landscape if you have children or pets

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8
    • Height: 5 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, rich, slightly acid
  • 20 of 29

    Japanese Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira)

    mockorange
    igaguri_1/GettyImages

    The flowers on this shrub are much like those of orange trees, both in appearance and fragrance giving it the common name mock orange. Frost tender at 45 F, the plant thrives in milder climates. Planting against a south or west facing wall in colder conditions will improve survival. Japanese Pittosporum grows in a dense bushy-headed habit and can be pruned to small tree form. Star-shaped white flowers open in late spring later turning to a creamy yellow. Not all cultivars of Pittosporum will grow well in shade so be certain to pick the appropriate cultivar for your shade garden.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: 10 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained is best but tolerates a range of soils and pH
    Continue to 21 of 29 below.
  • 21 of 29

    Kerria (Kerria japonica)

    Closeup of yellow flowers of single Kerria japonica shrub.
    Tetsuya Tanooka/Aflo/Getty Images

    Kerria adds cheer to your garden with its large buttercup-like double, golden yellow flowers which may bloom more than once during the growing season. Gracefully arching branches oval, sharpely toothed, bright green leaves can reach 10 feet in height. Thin out old shoots after flowering

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-drained loam
  • 22 of 29

    Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

    Closeup of pink flowers of Kalmia latifolia 'Clementine Churchill'.
    Paul Tomlins/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

    The mountain laurel is the state flower of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It is poisonous to humans, deer, and livestock. Large clusters of deep pink flowers open in early summer from distinctively crimped, deep red buds. This broadleaf evergreen shrub prefers cool, moist soil in partial shade conditions, such as morning sun and afternoon shade.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 5 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, peaty, acid
  • 23 of 29

    Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)

    Northern Bush Honeysuckle (diervilla lonicera) flower
    Derwyn / Getty Images

    The flowers of this low-growing shrub are similar to those of true honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), and the plant does belong to the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae. It is prized for its white and golden yellow trumpet-shaped flowers which are often very fragrant and attract pollinators. Cultivars of the lonicera family can also produce extensive vines which along with the shrub spread rapidly and may be invasive in some area. Check with your local cooperative extension office or agriculture officer before planting.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 3 to 8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, can be dry to medium moisture
  • 24 of 29

    Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

    Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye), branches with bright red flowers
    Harley Seaway / Getty Images

    This Red Buckeye is the state tree of Ohio and can be grown as a tall shrub or small understory tree. Showy panicles of four-petaled dark red flowers appear in early summer to attract hummingbirds to your garden. Also known as Horse Chestnut, the common name comes from the shiny seeds, called buckeyes or horse chestnuts, that are encased in roughly rounded seed pods. The poisonous seeds ripen in the fall and should not be consumed by humans.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 6 to 9 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-drained, medium moisture
    Continue to 25 of 29 below.
  • 25 of 29

    Red Tip Photinia (Photinia x fraseri)

    red tip photinia
    sergeyryzhov/Getty Images

    The red tip photinia results from a cross between Photinia glabra and Photinia serrulata. This evergreen shrub produces small white flowers, but is grown primarily for its leaves, which are red or bronze for several weeks after they emerge, eventually turning green. The blooms are not fragrant, and most gardeners prune the plant to prevent flowering.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Height: 12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, neutral pH, well-drained
  • 26 of 29

    Skimmia (Skimmia)

    Abstract close-up of Japanese Skimmia
    GeoStock / Getty Images

    Skimmia is a true shade plant that grows best in dappled light but can thrive in full shade. You will need both male and female plants to produce the red or white fruit, typically found on female plants. It is a poisonous shrub, due to the alkaloid skimmianin present in all parts of the plant. The berries can cause cardiac arrest if ingested in large quantities.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Height: 4 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained
  • 27 of 29

    Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

    toyon
    yhelfman/Getty Images

    Toyon is also commonly known as California holly or Christmas berry. The town of Hollywood, CA is often said to be named in honor of this shrub, which was found in the area. The shrub's small white flowers lead to red berries that are popular among many bird species as well as coyotes and bears. The berries were traditionally eaten by Native Americans, although they contain a small amount of cyanide, which is removed from the berries when they are cooked. This plant may be pruned to form a small tree and kept as a smaller spreading shrub. Plant in a sheltered in area in colder climates.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-drained
  • 28 of 29

    Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

    Tree peony plant
    Lisa Hubbard / Getty Images
    • The gorgeous flowers of the tree peony can come in hues of white, red, pink, or purple and can be as large as 12 inches across. The showy blooms are large, cup-shaped, single or semi-double, with incurving petals. The often show a dark basal chocolate maroon blotch and are often quite fragrant. Tree Peonies prefer dappled shade but will tolerate full sun, although hot sun can be hard on the flowers. If you do plant it in a sunny location, be sure to water regularly.
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Height: 7 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile loam, neutral to slightly alkaline
    Continue to 29 of 29 below.
  • 29 of 29

    Viburnums (Viburnum spp.)

    viburnum opulus - notcutt's variety, october, beaulieu
    Christopher Fairweather / Getty Images

    Viburnums are an excellent choice for the shade garden adding four season color and interest with flowers, leaves, and fruit. There are more than 150 species found throughout the world, most being quite fragrant and providing food and shelter for birds and wildlife. Varieties that do well in full shade include leather leaf, arrowwood, and mapleleaf.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Varies by species
    • Height: 5 to 8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained (typically)