Vegetables that Will Grow in Shade

Shade Tolerant Vegetables

Garden greens. Marie Iannotti

All plants need some sun, to grow well, but there are a few vegetables that will tolerate and even appreciate partial shade. This is especially true during the hottest days of the growing season. Afternoon shade would be a relief after a few hours of intense morning sun. You can even grow some vegetables in areas near tree branches, that are in dappled shade for most of the day.

Vegetables that grow in shade are predominately leafy vegetables and root crops. Vegetables that produce fruits, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant, really need all the sun they can get.

If you are going to try growing vegetables in shade, remember that they still need plenty of water. And water and shade are perfect conditions for snails and slugs. You'll need to be especially diligent in scouting for these slimy creatures, or they will wipe out your harvest.

Salad Greens Thrive in Shade

Growing Salad Greens. Marie Iannotti

Leafy salad greens are staples in the spring garden. They like the cool, dewy days early in the season and you can succession plant most of them for a long harvest period. It gets a little tricky to keep them growing in the hottest part of the summer. They are slow to germinate in hot, dry weather and quick to blot to seed when they do grow. You can wait until the temperatures cool again, in the fall. Or you can take advantage of a shady spot in the garden, even behind taller corn or tomato plants, and keep them going all summer. It's best if they can still get about 3 - 4 hours of sun per day, although it does not have to be direct sunlight.

These plants will still need extra water, in hot, dry weather. Good choices include arugula, lettuce, sorrel, and spinach.  Two tricks for getting seed started in hot weather are to start your greens in containers, indoors, or cool the ground first outside. By soaking the soil and then laying down a board, you can lower the ground temperature just enough to encourage the seeds to germinate. You'll need to do this for about 3 days before you sow the seed.

Squeeze Cooking Greens in Throughout the Garden

Kale and chard. Marie Iannotti

Leafy vegetables grown for cooking, rather than salads and fresh eating, will actually grow slower and more tender in afternoon shade. They probably won't get as large as their full sun versions, but the smaller "baby" leaves will require less cooking and are often sweeter.

A few to try are Asian Greens (pak choi, mizuna...), chard, kale, and mustard greens. These will still need about 3 - 4 hours of sun per day, preferably in the morning.

Even cabbage and broccoli will grow in a half day of sun. They prefer cooler weather, but will take a little longer to head.

Root Vegetables Don't Need Baking Sun

Paris Market Carrots. Marie Iannotti

Most root vegetables can get by on a half day of sunshine, however, they will grow more slowly and take longer to reach full size. You can harvest some of them, like carrots and potatoes, while they are still small and sweet. You can also harvest beet and turnip greens, while you're waiting for their bulbs to fill out.

You'll want your radishes to grow fast so that they don't become woody or overly hot, but partial shade will prevent them from bolting to seed.  Give them about 4 - 5 hours of sun per day.

Root vegetables for partial shade include: beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes, turnips

Peas and Beans are Very Adaptable Plants

Peas on a trellis. Marie Iannotti

Peas, broad beans, and green beans like cooler temperatures. They need some sun to produce flowers and pods, but they tend to fade out as the temperature warms. Planting them in a cool shady spot will lengthen your growing season.

Bush beans are a better choice for shade than pole beans. Pole varieties start producing beans later in the season and they need sunshine to grow the vines that will eventually hold the beans. Bush beans are quick growers and, like peas, appreciate a little cooling off in the afternoon. (4-5 hours of sun per day)

Tips for growing peas, ​green beans, and broad beans.

Herbs that Will Grow in Partial Shade

Bee pollinating a chive plant. CC0 Public Domain/

Many annual culinary herbs are fast growers. They will bolt to seed quicker than lettuce, in good growing conditions. They may get a little leggier when grown in partial shade, but since you're growing them for their leaves, it doesn't really matter. Cilantro, dill, and parsley may even last longer in a bit of afternoon shade.

Perennial herbs need time to become established in your garden, but once they are happy, these 5 perennial herbs will do fine with only about 3 hours of sun per day: chives, cilantro, mint, and oregano.