Reader Question: Shrubs that Thrive in Shade


Today’s Reader Question comes from Jesse in Prince George, VA:

I have a shady yard and am looking for advice on shrubs that thrive in shade. I have azaleas but am looking for something a little more exciting.

Well Jesse, it really depends on how much shade you have. As a general rule, if your garden only has morning shade you can grow many full sun shrubs as the afternoon sun is much more intense. If your garden only has afternoon shade, you can consider your landscape to be a shady one. Of course, there are always variables to take into account such as the denseness of your shade and your sun exposure in the winter.

Assuming that you have a shady yard as you indicated, there are a number of shrubs that will fit the bill. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  1. AZALEAS – I know you said that you were looking for something a bit more exciting but have you considered the Encore azaleas? They reliably rebloom in the fall so they offer you two seasons of color. They come in all sorts of colors and heights so there is probably one that will work for your landscape.
  2. CAMELLIAS – I love, love, love camellias but many are only hardy to Zone 7. Since you’re just a couple of counties away from me in Prince George, camellias will offer you beautiful evergreen foliage and fantastic blooms. There are two types of camellias: sasanqua types which bloom in the fall and japonicas which bloom in the late winter and early spring. Instead of making it an either/or decision, why not plant both?
  3. PIERIS – These gorgeous shrubs bloom in the spring and also have evergreen foliage. There are many cultivars available ranging in color from red to pink to white.
  4. shrubs that thrive in shadeHYDRANGEA – Hydrangeas are deciduous but well worth it for their blooms. There are two types of hydrangeas…mopheads and lacecaps. On top of that, many of the older hydrangea cultivars bloom on old wood while the newer varieties bloom on new wood. The newer cultivars can be cut back in the spring without the fear of pruning away your blooms. The picture here is the foliage of ‘Mariesii Variegata’ emerging in the spring.
  5. GARDENIA – In the southern portion of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening region, gardenias appreciate some shade from the afternoon sun. Their blooms are fragrant and make beautiful cut flowers. They can be prone to whiteflies if they are sited in too much sun so take care to plant them in at least light shade.
  6. GOOSEBERRIES – If you are looking to grow a shrub that also produces edible fruit, consider the gooseberry. They won’t thrive in dense shade but if they are afforded good air movement, they will produce a bounty of fruit that can be used in preserves, pies and jams.


Jesse, I hope that I’ve given you some ideas regarding shrubs that thrive in shade. All of these plants are low maintenance shrubs that will thrive with little care once established. If other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers would like to chime in with their favorite shrubs for shade, leave me a comment below or e-mail me at Happy gardening!

March 22, 2012Permalink 9 Comments

9 thoughts on “Reader Question: Shrubs that Thrive in Shade

  1. I had recently asked about this on a gardening forum. I have an area where my husband is building a small ornamental pond and I’d like to put some plants around it, but there is so much shade I wasn’t sure what to plant. I’ll be looking into these suggestions and I believe some will be adaptable to my Texas (HOT!!) climate. Thanks for the article.

    • You’re welcome Dene! Thanks for all that you do on The Road to 100K! If you want to send some pictures of the area in question, I’d be happy to make some further suggestions. In Texas, the full sun plants probably appreciate some shade too!

  2. Thanks for the list, I’m always on the lookout for shady perennials. Even better when they provide something in return. I’ll have to check and see if it isn’t too warm for gooseberries here. Now to find the shady trellis growing plant I want.

    • Heidi, I have a shady yard too…I managed a perennial nursery for 8 years so I have lots of experience with perennials for shady areas. Where do you live? What zone are you? As for the shady trellis, have you considered Akebia quinata? It should do quite well unless its a densely shaded area. Get back to me on your location and zone and I’ll see if I can come up with other suggestions. Thanks for reading!

      • Please reconsider using Akebia quinata. It is an invasive plant that is quickly getting out of control in many areas of the country.

  3. I think the Akebia would work well for you based on your location. Clematis paniculata (Sweet Autumn Clematis) is another option but you won’t have as many blooms as you would in full sun. The good news is that both of these are evergreen so you’d have something to look at during the winter. Hope this helps!

  4. Pingback: Reader Question: Shade PerennialsMid-Atlantic Gardening

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