30 Low-Maintenance Shrubs for Shade

Shrubs That Love the Shade

The Spruce / Catherine Song

Shrubs that grow in shade can add color and cheer to drab nooks as well as canopy-covered areas of your property. Ranging from short bushes to tall hedges, shade-loving shrubbery includes both evergreen and deciduous plants.

Some shade-tolerant shrubs produce beautiful blossoms, while others are famous for their attractive foliage. Many offer year-round appeal, making them perfect for shady yards where sun-loving plants simply cannot thrive.

Learn about 30 low-maintenance shrubs that will spruce up shaded areas of your lawn and garden without a lot of effort.

Low-Maintenance Shrubs for Shade

  • 01 of 30

    Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

    Mountain laurel plant with white flower clusters with small pink dots and pink buds

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Mountain laurel is a native plant in eastern North America. 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.

    Where soil is not sufficiently acidic, fertilizing with an acid-enhanced fertilizer, like that used for azaleas and rhododendrons, will help mountain laurel thrive.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Rose, pink, white; blooms may have purple markings
    • Sun Exposure: Prefers part shade, but can tolerate full sun
    • Soil Needs: Thrives in cool, rich, acidic soil that is moist but well-drained; does not do well in clay
  • 02 of 30

    Japanese Rose (Kerria japonica)

    Japanese rose shrub with yellow fluffy flowers in sunlight closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Among deciduous shrubs, Japanese rose is one of the most shade-tolerant shrubs available and will do better than survive in shade. This bush flowers in spring and may bloom multiple times in partial shade. The bark is kelly green to greenish-yellow throughout the winter. 

    Seriously overgrown shrubs can be revived by cutting them all the way back to the ground in the fall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil
  • 03 of 30

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

    Climbing hydrangea shrub on wooden fence with small white flowers

    The Spruce / Loren Probish

    As their name suggests, climbing hydrangeas are vines, but they can be trimmed and maintained as if they were shrubs. They tolerate shaded areas, but they tend to yield better flowering displays when exposed to a reasonable amount of sunlight.

    Naturally peeling bark on their stems provides winter interest.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, blue, pink, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Acidic, well-draining
  • 04 of 30

    Carol Mackie Daphne (Daphne x Burkwoodii)

    Daphne × burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’
    kongxinzhu / Getty Images

    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 plants are worth growing for their variegated leaves alone. Their flowers are also noteworthy especially because they are wonderfully aromatic.

    Daphnes do not like acidic soil; adding lime can help neutralize soil that is too acidic.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White to light pink
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining and moist soil


    Both the berries and leaves are toxic and should not be eaten. They may also irritate the skin. Do not plant Daphne shrubs if you have children or pets that live or frequent your garden.

    Continue to 5 of 30 below.
  • 05 of 30

    Emerald n Gold Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei)

    Emerald and gold euonymus shrub with yellow and green bi-colored leaves

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Emerald and Gold euonymus is a 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, the winged spindle tree.

    While this is a shrub that grows in shade, lack of sufficient sunlight may rob it of its primary selling point: its fall color.

    Euonymus can be a very fast-growing plant; you can control it with hard pruning in the spring.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist and well-drained
  • 06 of 30

    Hetz Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata)

    Hetz Japanese holly shrub branch with black berries closeup

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

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

    Like boxwood shrubs Hetz's Japanese holly can be closely sheared to form shaped hedges.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White insignificant flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Prefers full sun but tolerates shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil; will tolerate clay
  • 07 of 30

    Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata)

    Ilex crenata Sky Pencil, a narrow, columnar bush.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Sky Pencil holly 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. Sky pencil, with its smooth-edged leaves, works well in corners and tight spaces. Its black berries attract a wide range of birds.

    Unlike some hollies, this one does not require much pruning, but if you do choose to trim it, do so in winter, when the shrub is dormant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Greenish white and small
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained acidic soil
  • 08 of 30

    Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

    Canadian hemlock shrub with single trunk and needle-like leaves hanging from branches

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

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

    In the northern end of the hardiness range, hemlocks appreciate a thick layer of much over their roots in winter.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Small, non-ornamental, yellow to light green
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, acidic, and moist
    Continue to 9 of 30 below.
  • 09 of 30

    Yews (Taxus genus)

    Yews shrub with needle-like leaves and small red berry-like cones hidden between branches

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    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.

    Yews should be trimmed in early summer to keep the shape attractive.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Sun, partial shade, or full shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil


    Yews are toxic plants. Do not plant if you have children or pets that live or frequent your garden.

  • 10 of 30

    Andromeda (Pieris japonica)

    Andromeda shrub with small pink flowers and buds on thin branches in sunlight

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    This shade-tolerant bush offers the best of both worlds; it is not only a flowering shrub but also an evergreen shrub. Andromeda shrubs may offer something else, too: fragrant flowers. Some people find their smell offensive, while others find it pleasing.

    Feeding is best done with an acid fertilizer, such as that used for azaleas.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade; flowering is reduced in shady conditions
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil; prefers slightly acidic soil
  • 11 of 30

    African Scurf Pea (Psoralea pinnata)

    African Scurf Pea
     Rebecca Johnson/Getty Images

    African scurf pea 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, has a fine texture.

    The plant can become straggly unless pruned to maintain an attractive shape.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 12 of 30

    Alder-Leaved Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

    Saskatoon serviceberry

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Serviceberry trees and shrubs are members of the Rosaceae family, which includes roses and many flowering, fruiting trees and shrubs. Deciduous serviceberries are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

    Alder-leaved serviceberry has clusters of flowers in spring and produces edible purple-blue fruit. They offer four-season interest with their beautiful blossoms, pome fruits, autumn leaf colors, and bark color in winter.

    Alder-leaved serviceberry can be prone to rust and powdery mildew fungus; maintain good air circulation to minimize these problems.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, but well-drained, soil
    Continue to 13 of 30 below.
  • 13 of 30

    Alpine Currant (Ribes alpinum)

    Alpine currant

    Liisa-Maija Harju / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    Alpine currant is a European native that features bright green foliage. It is often used to create a border or hedge. You will need both male and female plants for this small, dioecious shrub to produce its berries, which are ornamental rather than edible.

    These shrubs are easy to maintain for shape, as they can be pruned at any time.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Greenish yellow flowers and red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Prefers moist well-draining soil but is tolerant of drier conditions
  • 14 of 30

    Spotted Laurel (Aucuba japonica)


    PAVEL IARUNICHEV / Getty Images

    Aucuba also called spotted laurel, is a rounded evergreen shrub with colorful leaves. If you have both male and female plants it will produce red berries in the fall. Aucuba can grow up to 15 feet tall with glossy elliptical leaves. Tiny spring flowers usually bloom in early spring.

    These shrubs should be fertilized once a year as new growth appears, using an acid-based fertilizer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Reddish-purple
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, organically rich, well-drained soil
  • 15 of 30

    Azalea and Rhododendron (Rhododendron)

    Azalea and rhododendron shrub with white blooms clustered together near large leaves closeup

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Several different species of Rhododendron produce beautiful spring blooms in various brilliant shades. They include both evergreen and deciduous varieties and can grow in many different climates. Rhododendrons are often used as foundation plantings but can grow quite large unless regularly pruned.

    Unless your soil is already heavily acidic, fertilize yearly with an acid-enhanced fertilizer in late winter or early spring.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9 depending on the variety
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, yellow, purple, red
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Acidic soil
  • 16 of 30

    California Sweetshrub (Calycanthus occidentalis)

    Calycanthus occidentalis

    Andrei Stanescu / Getty Images

    California Sweetshrub is a low maintenance shrub that produces a pleasant fragrance that some say resembles that of red wine. This plant is often used to control erosion along creeks and riverbanks. It's also a good choice for areas frequented by deer, as they avoid it.

    Pruning is best done by removing old, overgrown stems all the way to ground level, rather than by pruning the tips of branches.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Deep red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist soil; won't tolerate drought
    Continue to 17 of 30 below.
  • 17 of 30

    Camellia (Camellia sinensis)

    Camellia shrub with bright red ruffled flowers surrounded by glossy leaves closeup

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Camellia is also known as tea plant because its leaves and twigs can be used to make a fragrant tea. But if you are growing it for ornamental purposes, you will be more interested in its glossy foliage, fragrant fall flowers, easy maintenance, and long life.

    A slow-growing plant, it needs little if any pruning and only light fertilizing.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White or pink
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, acidic, well drained loam
  • 18 of 30

    Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

    Canadian bunchberry shrub with a four-petaled white flower surrounded by large green leaves closeup

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Canadian Bunchberry is a subshrub that you can use as a ground cover for damp, shady areas. Bunchberry is a relative of the dogwood, and produces blossoms that give it nicknames such as "creeping dogwood" and "bunchberry dogwood."

    Bunchberry is an ideal choice for cold, damp areas where other shrubs may struggle to survive. Mulching with peat moss will help provide the acidity this plant craves.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 6
    • Color Varieties: White with red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic soil
  • 19 of 30

    Checkerberry (Gaultheria procumbens)

    Checkerberyy shrub with dark green leaves with bright red berries

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Checkerberry 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 three inches tall), it can be used as a ground cover in acidic soil.

    Prune in winter or early spring, before new growth begins.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White or pale pink
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Low nutrient and good drainage
  • 20 of 30

    Chinese Fringe-Flower (Loropetalum)

    Chinese fringe-flower shrub with pink fringe-like flowers on stall stems with leaves

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Chinese fringe-flower is an evergreen shrub also known as Chinese witch hazel. Like witch hazel, it has fringe-like flowers that bloom very early in the spring. Chinese fringe-flower has a spreading form and can grow up to 12 feet in height. Its foliage is usually green, though some varieties feature purple leaves.

    Mulch the soil heavily to keep it moist.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, yellow, or red flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, acidic, well-drained loam
    Continue to 21 of 30 below.
  • 21 of 30

    Coast Leucothoe (Leucothoe axillaris)

    Coast Leucothoe

    KENPEI/Wikimedia Commons/CC By 2.0

    Coast Leucothoe produces urn-shaped bunches of small flowers that are similar to those on Pieris japonica; in fact, the two bushes belong to the same family (Ericaceae). This weeping evergreen shrub is native to the U.S. and is often used in place of boxwood for hedges and boundaries.

    Before planting, dig in a good amount of peat moss to a depth of 18 inches, which will provide acidity and improve moisture retention.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Partial to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Acidic soil
  • 22 of 30

    Common Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

    Common boxwood shrub with dense light-green leaves

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    You'll recognize Common Boxwood as the evergreen shrub often used for hedges and topiaries.​ A classic plant for formal landscape design, it boasts dense light-green leaves and a compact shape. English boxwood shrubs grow to about three feet, but their slow growth makes it easy to keep them pruned and looking pristine.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
  • 23 of 30

    Common Witch Hazel ( Hamamelis virginiana)

    Witch hazel shrub stem with yellow string-like flowers closeup

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Witch hazel is a tall shrub that will add fall color to your garden. It's a very early-blooming plant, with fragrant flowers appearing as early as mid-March in most locations. A vase-shaped plant, it grows to tree height if not kept pruned.

    You can make extracts from the witch hazel shrub to harness the plant's astringent properties.

  • 24 of 30

    Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)

    Dwarf fothergilla flowering shrub with white bottlebrush-like flowers closeup

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Dwarf fothergilla is a deciduous flowering shrub known for its fluffy flowers in spring and its fall leaf colors. In spring, this shrub is tipped with 1- to 3-inch-long flowers that look like bottlebrushes and smell a bit like licorice. The leaves are dark green on top, and bluish-gray on the bottom.

    In the colder hardiness zones, this plant may need to be wrapped with burlap in the winter to prevent windburn.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Moderately moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil
    Continue to 25 of 30 below.
  • 25 of 30

    Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

    Red buckeye shrub with bright pink flower stalks growing from branches against blue sky

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    You can attract hummingbirds with buckeye, also known as the firecracker plant. It will grow in all textures of soil and can be maintained as a shrub or a tree. Red buckeye is especially desirable because of its bright flowers, textured bark, open structure, and appeal to all kinds of wildlife.

    Red buckeye can be grown with multiple or single trunks.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Orange, Red/Burgundy
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun or partial shade (stays more shrub-like in shade)
    • Soil Needs: moist, well-drained, rich soil that is slightly alkaline


    Buckeyes produce a toxic nut that can cause kidney failure in children and pets. It also produces abundant fruit, twigs, and leaves which can produce a great deal of garden litter.

  • 26 of 30

    Red Tip Photinia (Photinia x fraseri)

    Red tip photinia shrub with young red leaves with small white flower clusters

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    The red tip photinia is an evergreen shrub that produces young red leaves, while its older leaves are green. If you prefer red leaves, you can simply trim new growth on a regular basis, and the plant will continue to produce new leaves all year long. While red tip photinia typically grows to about 10 feet tall, some cultivars can grow to 20 feet.

    It is an excellent low-maintenance shrub for hedges and privacy screens, and can also be shaped as a small specimen tree.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11
    • Color Varieties: White (grown for foliage)
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, sandy, or loamy
  • 27 of 30

    Japanese Skimmia (Skimmia japonica)

    Japanese skimmia shrub with small white flower cluster heads on dark brown stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Japanese skimmia will produce white flowers and red fruit if you have both a male and a female. It is a broadleaf evergreen with greenish bark, leathery green leaves, bright flowers and berries, and a pleasant fragrance. It grows slowly, topping out at about four feet tall and expanding to about five feet wide.

    While pruning isn't essential, a light pruning during the dormant season can keep the plant neat.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White flowers, red fruits
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist and rich with a slightly acidic pH


    All parts of the skimmia plant are toxic.

  • 28 of 30

    California Holly (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

    California Holly

    Andrei Stanescu / Getty Images

    California holly, also called toyon or Christmas berry, is the shrub that some suppose gave Hollywood its name.​ It's indigenous to California, is drought-resistant, and has small flowers that produce red berries. All these qualities make it a favorite plant for California xeriscaping.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil
    Continue to 29 of 30 below.
  • 29 of 30

    Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

    Tree peony shrub with large light yellow flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The tree peony is a deciduous sub-shrub that blooms in mid to late spring. It produces big, beautiful peony flowers in many different shades. Tree peonies are good borders or hedge plants, particularly because their foliage is nearly as attractive as their blooms. This is a different plant from Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora), a perennial, although the two share certain traits.

    Tree peonies have modest water needs and react badly if they are overwatered.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White to pink, red, or purple flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, well draining loam
  • 30 of 30

    Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

    Arrowwood viburnum shrub branch with blue berries closeup

    The Spruce / K. Dave

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

    These flowering shrubs bloom with clusters of flowers in spring, and they produce both red fall foliage and blue berries in fall. They can grow up to 10 feet and are equally as wide.

    Viburnum shrubs will spread by suckers unless you remove them.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Tolerant of many soil types including wet soil

Watch Now: Tips for Selecting the Right Shrubs

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. A Dangerous Garden Thug Exposed: Daphne Laureola. Master Gardeners Association of British Columbia.

  2. Labossiere Alexander W., Thompson Dennis F. Clinical Toxicology of Yew PoisoningAnnals of Pharmacotherapy, vol. 52, no. 6, pp. 591-599, 2018. doi:10.1177/1060028017754225

  3. Amelanchier alnifolia. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  4. Hamamelis virginiana. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas.

  5. Red Buckeye. University of Kentucky, Department of Horticulture.

  6. Japanese Skimmia. Washington State University Extension PNW Plants.