Shrubs That Grow in Shade

Choices That Offer Variety

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 those that are evergreen to those that drop their leaves. Some of them provide blossoms while others mostly contribute foliage.

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    Minuet laurel (image) has reddish-pink flowers. The blooms are impressive.
    'Minuet' is a mountain laurel cultivar with deep pink flowers. David Beaulieu

    Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is a native plant in eastern North America. Its natural habitat is in woodland areas, where it is shaded by trees. They sport glossy evergreen leaves and produce showy clusters of flowers in late spring. Cultivars have been developed just for use in the landscape, including the dwarf Minuet laurel. The color of the flowers on this cultivar is more vibrant than that on wild mountain laurels.

  • 02 of 30
    Kerria shrub
    Koichi Oda/flickr CC 2.0

    Among deciduous shrubs, Japanese rose (Kerria japonica) is among the most shade-tolerant. There are many shrubs that grow in shade, in the sense that they will not die for lack of sunlight there. But you want more than for a bush to survive, you want it to thrive. If you are planting the shrub for flowers, you want a full display of blooms, not a sparse sprinkling here and there. Japanese rose furnishes a good display of flowers in partial shade.

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    Climbing hydrangea
    muffinn/flickr CC 2.0

    As their name suggests, climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) are shade-tolerant vines, but they can be trimmed so as to maintain them as if they were shrubs. While they tolerate shaded areas, they tend to yield better flowering displays when exposed to a reasonable amount of sunlight. Peeling bark provides winter interest.

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    Picture of daphne with its white flowers. Buds on daphne start out pink but produce white flowers.
    Picture of daphne with its white flowers. 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 plants are worth growing for their variegated leaves, alone. Their flowers are also noteworthy, especially because they are wonderfully aromatic.

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

    Emerald and Gold euonymus is another bush with bi-colored leaves; in this case, the name tells you exactly what those two colors are. The gold part of that tandem will be brighter the more sun the bush gets, but it nevertheless is worthy of consideration as a shrub that grows 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...MORE rob it of its one selling point: its fall color.

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    Japanese holly photo of 'Hetzii.' As the photo reveals, this Japanese holly has concave leaves.
    Ilex crenata 'Hetzii' has concave leaves. David Beaulieu

    This entry and the next are both Japanese hollies (Ilex crenata). Compared to American and English hollies, Ilex crenata has small leaves, reminiscent of boxwood. The latter is another shrub that grows in shade and is a legendary hedge plant. Unlike the hollies with which you may be more familiar, the berries on this type are black, not red.

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    My image shows Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil,' a narrow, columnar bush.
    Have a tight spot near the house? Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil,' a narrow, columnar bush, could be just the right plant to grow. David Beaulieu

    It is not flowering displays, fall-foliage color, and two-toned leaves alone that catch your attention when you peruse people's landscaping. Another component sure to stand out is any of the so-called "architectural" plants. 'Sky Pencil' holly is one such plant. You can't miss this column-shaped bush. And once you have identified it, you will never forget it.

  • 08 of 30
    Hemlock picture. Hemlock shrubs in picture flank a driveway entrance function as privacy screen.
    The hemlock shrubs in this picture flank a driveway entrance function as a privacy screen. David Beaulieu

    All of the evergreen shrubs presented so far are classified as broadleaf types. But these next two entries are examples of needled evergreens. Hemlocks can be trimmed so as to promote the development of dense foliage, making them great for privacy screens. The shrub cultivars make terrific hedges.

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  • 09 of 30
    Yew shrub
    Colin Varndell/Getty Images

    Yews are somewhat notorious for being 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 in Christmas traditions.

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

  • 10 of 30
    Andromeda shrubs
    Helmut Meyer zur Capellen/Getty Images

    This shade-tolerant bush that 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

     Rebecca Johnson/Getty Images

    This medium shrub, (Psoralea pinnata) produces lilac blue flowers that may remind you of sweet pea. Their nickname is Kool-Aid bush because the fragrance reminds some people of that beverage. The leaves look something like rosemary and you can train it into a small tree. It will grow in full sun to part shade in USDA Zones 9–11.

  • 12 of 30

    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 USDA Zones 2–9. It also produces edible purple-blue fruit.

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    Alpine Currant

    Wikimedia Commons

    Alpine currant (Ribes alpinum) will grow in full sun to full shade in USDA Zones 2–7. You will need both male and female plants for it to produce fruit.

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    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.

  • 15 of 30

    Azaleas and Rhododendrons

    Wikimedia Commons

    Beautiful spring blooms in many brilliant shades can be produced by different species of Rhododendron. They include both evergreen and deciduous varieties and can grow in many different USDA Zones. 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 has a deep red flower and you may think 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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    Camellia or Tea Plant

     Linda Burgess/Getty Images

    Camellia sinensis is also known as tea plant. It can grow in USDA Zones 7–9 in full sun to part shade. Yes, the leaves and twigs can be used for tea.

  • 18 of 30

    Canadian Bunchberry

    Wikimedia Commons

    Cornus canadensis is a subshrub that you can use as a groundcover. It will grow in USDA Zone 2–7 and produces blossoms that give it nicknames including creeping dogwood and bunchberry dogwood.

  • 19 of 30


    InAweofGod'sCreation/Flickr/CC 2.0

    Gaultheria procumbens is also known as American wintergreen as its leaves can produce a minty scent. It can grow in USDA Zones 3–8 as a groundcover in acidic soil.

  • 20 of 30

    Chinese Fringe-Flower

    Wikimedia Commons

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


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    Coast Leucothoe

    KENPEI/Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0

    Leucothoe axillaris needs acidic soil to grow well. It grows in USDA Zones 5–9 in partial to full shade. It produces urn-shaped bunches of small white flowers.

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    Common Boxwood

    Wikimedia Commons

    You'll recognize Buxus sempervirens as the evergreen shrub often used for hedges and topiaries.​ It does well in full sun to partial shade and USDA Zones 5–8.

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    Common Witch Hazel

    Wikimedia Commons

    Witch hazelHamamelis virginiana, will add fall color to your garden. It is a tall shrub and grows in USDA Zones 4–8. You can make extracts from the witch hazel shrub that use its astringent properties.

  • 24 of 30

    Dwarf Fothergilla

    Wikimedia Commons

    Dwarf fothergillaFothergilla gardenia, grows happily in full sun to full shade in USDA Zones 5–8. It's known for its fluffy white flowers in spring and its fall leaf colors.

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    Red Buckeye

    Wikimedia Commons

    You can attract hummingbirds with buckeyeAesculus pavia, also known as firecracker plant. It will grow in full sun or part shade in USDA Zones 5–9. It will grow as a shrub or a tree.

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    Red Tip Photinia

    Wikimedia Commons

    The red tip photinia Photinia x fraseri is an evergreen shrub that produces young red leaves while the older leaves are green. It also produces white flowers in spring. It can grow into a tall hedge in USDA Zones 7–9.

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    Wikimedia Commons

    Japanese skimmia, or Skimmia japonica, will produce red or white fruit if you have both a male and a female. It grows in USDA Zones 6–8.


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    Wikimedia Commons

     This is the shrub that gave Hollywood its name.​ Heteromeles arbutifolia is native to California and grows in USDA Zones 7–11. It has small white flowers that produce red berries.

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  • 29 of 30

    Tree Peony

    Wikimedia Commons

    The Paeonia suffruticosa shrub can produce very large flowers in different shades from white to pink, red, or purple. It can grow in USDA Zones 4–8 and needs regular watering.

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    Wikimedia Commons

    Different species of Viburnums can give your garden color in different seasons, not only with flowers but also with their leaves and fruit.