30 Shrubs That Grow in Shade

Best Choices for Those Hard-to-Plant Areas

Illustration of shrubs that like shady gardens

Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018

Shrubs that grow in shade are a diverse lot. These bushes can provide color and interest to a drab nook in your yard. They range from short bushes to tall hedges and include both evergreen and deciduous plants. Some produce blossoms, while others are planted mostly for their foliage.

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Watch Now: Tips for Selecting the Right Shrubs

  • 01 of 30

    Mountain Laurel

    Minuet laurel has reddish-pink flowers.
    David Beaulieu

    Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is a native plant in eastern North America USDA planting zones 5 to 9). Its natural habitat is in woodland areas, where it is shaded by trees. This shrub sports glossy evergreen leaves and produces showy clusters of flowers in late spring. Cultivars have been developed just for use in the landscape, including the dwarf Minuet laurel, which has more vibrant flowers than those on wild mountain laurels.

  • 02 of 30

    Japanese Rose

    Kerria shrub
    Koichi Oda/flickr CC 2.0

    Among deciduous shrubs, Japanese rose (Kerria japonica) is one of the most shade-tolerant and will do better than survive in shade; it will thrive. This zone-4-to-9 bush furnishes a good display of flowers in partial shade.

  • 03 of 30

    Climbing Hydrangea

    Climbing hydrangea
    muffinn/flickr CC 2.0

    As their name suggests, climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) are vines, but they can be trimmed and maintained as if they were shrubs. Suitable for zones 4 to 7, they tolerate shaded areas, but they tend to yield better flowering displays when exposed to a reasonable amount of sunlight. Peeling bark on their stems provides winter interest.

  • 04 of 30

    Carol Mackie Daphne

    Carol Mackie daphne in bloom with its variegated leaves.

    David Beaulieu

    As with climbing hydrangeas, the blooming of Carol Mackie daphne shrubs may be enhanced if the plants receive sufficient sunlight. But this fact is hardly problematic, as these zone-4-to-8 plants are worth growing for their variegated leaves alone. Their flowers are also noteworthy, especially because they are wonderfully aromatic.

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  • 05 of 30

    Emerald and Gold Euonymus

    Emerald and Gold euonymus
    Gary J. Wood/flickr CC 2.0

    Emerald and Gold euonymus (zones 5 to 8) is another bush with bi-colored leaves; in this case, the name tells you exactly what those two colors are. The gold color gets brighter with sun exposure, but this plant is plenty attractive in shade.

    There are many kinds of euonymus. One is quite notorious as an invasive plant and is called, in common parlance, "burning bush." While this is a shrub that grows in shade, lack of sufficient sunlight may rob it of its primary selling point: its fall color.

  • 06 of 30

    Hetz Japanese Holly

    Japanese holly, Hetzii cultivar, with black berries.
    David Beaulieu

    One of two popular shade-tolerant Japanese hollies (Ilex crenata), the Hetz holly has smaller leaves than the American and English hollies, giving it the nickname "box-leaved." The berries of this zone-5-to-8 plant are black, unlike the familiar red berries on other hollies.

  • 07 of 30

    Sky Pencil Holly

    Ilex crenata Sky Pencil, a narrow, columnar bush.
    David Beaulieu

    Sky Pencil holly (zones 6 to 8) is a variety of Japanese holly with a distinctive tall, columnar shape. You can't miss this "architectural plant." And once you have identified it, you will never forget it.

  • 08 of 30

    Hemlocks

    Hemlock shrubs flanking a driveway entrance.
    David Beaulieu

    A type of needled evergreen (as opposed to a broadleaf), hemlocks can be trimmed so as to promote the development of dense foliage, making them great for privacy screens. The shrub cultivars of this zone-3-to-7 plant make terrific hedges.

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  • 09 of 30

    Yews

    Yew shrub
    Colin Varndell/Getty Images

    Yews (Taxus; zones 4 to 7) are notorious poisonous plants, but unless you have children or pets that will be grazing outside, this shouldn't be a major drawback. On a lighter note, yews are one of the plants used in Christmas traditions.

    These needled evergreen bushes are valued for their showy, red, berry-like cones and as shrubs that grow in shade. Some people find them boring or overused, but the versatility of these tough plants makes their case for them. Common plants are common for a reason; do not hold their popularity against them.

  • 10 of 30

    Andromeda

    Andromeda shrubs
    Helmut Meyer zur Capellen/Getty Images

    This shade-tolerant bush for zones 5 to 7 offers the best of both worlds, in terms of being not only a flowering shrub but also an evergreen. Andromeda shrubs (Pieris japonica) may offer something else, too: fragrant flowers. Some people find their smell offensive, while others find it pleasing. If you dislike strong flower aromas, you may land in the former group.

  • 11 of 30

    African Scurf Pea

    African Scurf Pea
     Rebecca Johnson/Getty Images

    Hardy only in zones 9 to 11, African scurf pea (Psoralea pinnata) is a medium-size shrub (you can also train it into a small tree) that produces lilac-blue flowers that may remind you of sweet pea. It is nicknamed "Kool-Aid bush" because the fragrance can be reminiscent of grape Kool-Aid. The foliage, which looks something like rosemary's, has a fine texture.

  • 12 of 30

    Alder-Leaved Serviceberry

    Alder-Leaved Serviceberry
    F. D. Richards/Flickr/CC 2.0

    Alder-leaved serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) has clusters of white flowers in spring. It grows in full sun to part shade in zones 4 to 9 and produces edible purple-blue fruit.

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  • 13 of 30

    Alpine Currant

    Alpine Currant
    Wikimedia Commons

    Alpine currant (Ribes alpinum) will grow in full sun to full shade (in zones 2 to 7). You will need both male and female plants for this small, dioecious shrub to produce its red berries, which are ornamental rather than edible.

  • 14 of 30

    Aucuba

    Aucuba
    Wikimedia Commons

    Aucuba japonica is also called spotted laurel and is valued for its colorful leaves. If you have both male and female plants it will produce red berries in the fall. However, it is poisonous, so it's not the best choice for everyone. Grow this foliage plant in zones 7 to 9.

  • 15 of 30

    Azalea and Rhododendron

    Rhododendron
    Wikimedia Commons

    Several different species of Rhododendron (hardy, on average, to zone 5) produce beautiful spring blooms in various brilliant shades. They include both evergreen and deciduous varieties and can grow in many different climates. They like acidic soil and do best in partial shade, although some varieties can handle full shade.

  • 16 of 30

    California Sweetshrub

    California Sweeschrub
    Wikimedia Commons

    Calycanthus occidentalis (zones 6 to 9) has a deep red flower, and you may find it produces the fragrance of red wine. It will grow in full sun to full shade but needs moist soil and won't tolerate drought.

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  • 17 of 30

    Camellia or Tea Plant

    Camellia
     Linda Burgess/Getty Images

    Camellia sinensis is also known as tea plant. It can grow in full sun to partial shade. Its leaves and twigs can be used for tea. But if you are growing it for ornamental purposes, you will be more interested in its white or pink, fragrant fall flowers. Grow it in zones 7 to 9.

  • 18 of 30

    Canadian Bunchberry

    Canadian Bunchberry
    Wikimedia Commons

    Cornus canadensis is a subshrub that you can use as a ground cover for shade in zones 2 to 7. It produces blossoms that give it nicknames such as "creeping dogwood" and "bunchberry dogwood."

  • 19 of 30

    Checkerberry

    Checkerberry
    InAweofGod'sCreation/Flickr/CC 2.0

    Gaultheria procumbens (zones 3 to 8) is also known as American wintergreen. Its leaves can produce a minty scent, and its edible, red berries taste like wintergreen gum. A tiny shrub (often just 3 inches tall), it can be used as a ground cover in acidic soil.

  • 20 of 30

    Chinese Fringe-Flower

    Chinese Fringe-Flower
    Wikimedia Commons

    Loropetalum chinense is an evergreen shrub also known as Chinese witch hazel. It will grow in partial shade. Different varieties produce white, yellow, or red flowers for zones 7 to 10.

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  • 21 of 30

    Coast Leucothoe

    Coast Leucothoe
    KENPEI/Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0

    Leucothoe axillaris (zones 6 to 9) needs acidic soil to thrive and will grow in partial to full shade. It produces urn-shaped bunches of small white flowers that are similar to those on Pieris japonica; in fact, the two bushes belong to the same family (Ericaceae).

  • 22 of 30

    Common Boxwood

    Common Boxwood
    Wikimedia Commons

    You'll recognize Buxus sempervirens as the evergreen shrub often used for hedges and topiaries.​ A classic plant for formal landscape design, it does well in full sun to partial shade in zones 5 to 8.

  • 23 of 30

    Common Witch Hazel

    Common Witch Hazel
    Wikimedia Commons

    Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is a tall shrub for zones 5 to 8 that will add fall color to your garden. You can make extracts from the witch hazel shrub to harness the plant's astringent properties.

  • 24 of 30

    Dwarf Fothergilla

    Dwarf Fothergilla
    Wikimedia Commons

    Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia) grows happily in full sun to full shade in zones 5 to 8. It's known for its fluffy white flowers in spring and its fall leaf colors.

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  • 25 of 30

    Red Buckeye

    Red Buckeye
    Wikimedia Commons

    You can attract hummingbirds with buckeyeAesculus pavia, also known as the firecracker plant (zones 4 to 8). It will grow in full sun or partial shade and can be maintained as a shrub or a tree.

  • 26 of 30

    Red Tip Photinia

    Red Tip Photinia
    Wikimedia Commons

    The red tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri) is an evergreen shrub that produces young red leaves, while its older leaves are green. It also produces white flowers in spring and can grow into a tall hedge (zones 7 to 11).

  • 27 of 30

    Skimmia

    Skimmia
    Wikimedia Commons

    Japanese skimmia (zones 6 to 8), or Skimmia japonica, will produce red or white fruit if you have both a male and a female. It is a broadleaf evergreen with fragrant foliage.

  • 28 of 30

    Toyon (California Holly)

    Toyon
    Wikimedia Commons

    Heteromeles arbutifolia is the shrub that some suppose gave Hollywood its name.​ It's indigenous to California (zones 9 to 11) and has small white flowers that produce red berries.

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  • 29 of 30

    Tree Peony

    Tree Peony
    Wikimedia Commons

    The Paeonia suffruticosa shrub (zones 4 to 8) can produce very large flowers in different shades from white to pink, red, or purple. It needs regular watering. This is a different plant from Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora), a perennial, although the two share certain traits.

  • 30 of 30

    Viburnum

    Viburnum
    Wikimedia Commons

    Different species of viburnum can give your garden color in multiple seasons, not only with flowers but also with their leaves and fruit. The arrowwood type is an excellent choice for shade in zones 2 to 8.