Despite how careful we are when we purchase our first home, sometimes we get stuck dealing with properties with overwhelming amounts of shade. Don’t let a dark yard get you too down in the dumps. Some of the most amazing shrubs for shade can withstand lawn conditions that other plants can’t.
While there are lots of perennials that do okay in areas with low sunlight, there is a much smaller list of fast growing shrubs for shade that bring gardens back to life.
The great news is that not every single plant loves sunshine. You don’t have to cut down every tree in your yard to have color and beauty. If your property has a lot of coverage, there are several options for you to choose from.
- Shrubs and Shade Tolerance
- The Most Amazing Shrubs for Shade: French Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
- Azaleas (Rhododendron indicum)
- Dogwood (Cornus florida)
- Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) – One-of-a-Kind Plants for Shade
- Viburnum (Viburnum opulus)
- Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
- Fast Growing Shrubs for Shade – Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica)
- Rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum)
- Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
- Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – Shade Shrubs with Interesting Flowers
- Serviceberry (Amelanchier lamarckii)
- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Daphne (Daphne odora) – Aromatic Shade Shrubs
- Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
Shrubs and Shade Tolerance
Shade tolerance refers explicitly to a plant’s ability to withstand low levels of sunlight. It’s possible to have amazing shrubs for shade around your home, despite the less-than-ideal conditions.
Even though all plants need UV light to survive, more sunshine doesn’t necessarily mean that they are at their healthiest. In fact, it’s arguable that shade-tolerant plants are smarter than their sun-loving relatives.
For example, do green onions need direct sunlight? What about roses? It all depends on the plant.
Fast growing shrubs for shade often are more energy efficient by producing thinner broad, but thin leaves to catch more sunlight.
They also make better use of the soil nutrients. Shady areas in your garden don’t have to be a nuisance. With the right plants, you’ll be showing off your new shade garden instead of hiding it.
The Most Amazing Shrubs for Shade: French Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
These hydrangeas are known for their hardiness and easy maintenance. One of the coolest things about these amazing shrubs for shade is their ability to change flower color based on the soil’s acidity.
Hydrangeas aren’t picky about soil type; however, well-draining soil is a requirement. Water them well for the first two years until they are established.
Hydrangeas bebloom in the late spring and early summer. The blooms are large and snowball-shaped with dark foliage. Prune the hydrangeas in late fall to encourage new growth.
Azaleas (Rhododendron indicum)
This variety is an evergreen shrub. It has shiny leaves that showcase a flash of red in the late fall and winter months. They have vibrant red and pink flowers that start to bloom in the middle of spring.
Evergreen azaleas prefer cooler summers and grow most well in USDA hardiness zones seven through nine.
Azalea flowering shrubs like moist soil and thrive in dappled sunlight or partially shady spots, which protects them from the hot sun. Prune the leaves and stems as they become damaged or die.
You can find tall varieties or low bushes according to where you want to place them in your yard.
Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Dogwoods are a native shrub to the eastern United States and essential to a shade garden. They have pink, red, and white flowers that bloom for up to four weeks in the spring.
The dogwood’s foliage is bright green in the summer and turns reddish-purple each fall. Some types even grow red berries in the winter that look similar to yew plants. There are also varieties if you prefer a small tree.
Plant dogwood in partial to full shade and water frequently during the hot summer months. They grow best in soil that is slightly acidic, and that drains well. Plant dogwoods in the late fall or early spring and apply mulch to conserve moisture.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) – One-of-a-Kind Plants for Shade
Mountain laurels are known for their delicate, one-of-a-kind flowers that appear in the late spring and last throughout the summer. The shrub’s flowers are light pink and white with maroon markings.
Mountain laurels are hardy in USDA zones five through nine and are beautiful flowers that grow in the shade. These stunning plants add color to borders or as foundation plantings. Mountain laurel thrives when placed in dappled sunlight but handles full sun and partial shade, too.
These amazing shrubs for shade enjoy moist, acidic soil. Don’t overfertilize them, or you may compromise their beauty. They have a shallow root system, so water them more frequently than other similar shrubs.
Viburnum (Viburnum opulus)
Viburnum has unique, tooth-shaped foliage with vibrant red berries. They grow 6-10 feet tall and wide. The tallest plant on record, though, grew 15 feet tall under ideal conditions.
Once they reach maturity, viburnum forms a dense, rounded shape with arching stems. The leaves are dark green during the regular growing season and transition to yellow and red flashy shades during the fall.
It is so tough that it grows well in USDA zones two through eight. Grow viburnum plants in areas of partial shade that receive about four hours of sunlight per day.
Water new plants regularly until well established. Spread mulch around the plant’s base to retain moisture and control soil temperature.
Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
Japanese andromedas are the shrub form of lily of the valley plants. They have creamy-white, bell-shaped flowers that dangle off light green stems. Use these plants in groupings or as a foundation planting.
Japanese andromedas are hardy in zones five through nine. They are shade loving shrubs that enjoy full to partial shade and fertile soil that drains well.
Add organic matter, such as dried leaves, to the ground when planting. If growing more than one, allow them six or seven feet of space between each shrub.
Fast Growing Shrubs for Shade – Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica)
Camellias are fast growing shrubs for shade with colorful blooms and striking, dark green foliage. They bloom for several weeks during both the fall and spring months.
If placed in the right locations, these plants for shaded areas thrive for many years. Camellias prefer slightly acidic soil that is kept moist. Add compost to the ground each year.
They do love partly shady areas and to be protected from the early morning and afternoon sun. Place them in an area where the flowers won’t become damaged from harsh winds.
Rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum)
Rhododendrons are a favorite because of their memorable beauty and minimal maintenance.
Depending on the variety, they commonly have tube-shaped, funnel-shaped, or bell-shaped flowers with leathery, pointed leaves. On top of that, they have a pleasant fragrance.
Rhododendrons typically enjoy moist climates, but there are so many varieties to choose from that you can pick the right type for your zone. Plant rhododendrons in an location that receives morning sun and shade for the rest of the day.
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Oakleaf hydrangeas are some of our favorite fast growing shrubs for shade. They have dark green leaves in spring that grow up a foot wide.
The cone-shaped clusters of flowers bloom in the summer. The foliage then displays shades of crimson, purple, gold, orange, and bronze during the fall.
Oakleaf hydrangeas do best in light shade, and they enjoy more acidic soil. Keep the soil reasonably damp and let it dry between watering. Add fertilizer early in the spring of each year.
Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – Shade Shrubs with Interesting Flowers
Virginia sweetspires are shrubs with clusters of tube-shaped, white and pale yellow flowers. The green leaves of the sweetspire turn yellow, orange, and red every fall.
These shrubs grow six feet high and four to six feet wide. There are also dwarf varieties that grow under two feet tall for those who require smaller plants.
Sweetspire likes wet soil and areas with partial shade. Don’t plant them in deep shade, or the blooms won’t grow. Although it prefers damp soil, mature plants become dry site tolerant shrubs. Fertilize them each year to encourage abundant blooming.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier lamarckii)
The serviceberry or juneberry is popular in Europe and are amazing shrubs for shade in the U.S., too. This shrub has reddish-bronze leaves. Small, fragrant white flowers bloom in the middle of spring and attract essential pollinators like hummingbirds.
The berries are purple and black and used in jams and pies if you can get to them before the birds. Serviceberries grow 15 to 25 feet tall and wide.
They enjoy full sun to part shade and grow best in moist and acidic soils. Serviceberry plants are virtually pest and disease free and make excellent hedges and specimen plants.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St John’s wort may not sound like the prettiest of fast growing shrubs for shade, but this plant offers unique beauty with star-shaped, yellow flower clusters of up to 100 blooms per stem.
This plant was used for centuries in medicine to treat wounds, skin disorders, inflammation, and even depression and anxiety.
St. John’s wort grows three feet tall and two feet wide. They enjoy full sun or partial shade and moist, well-draining soil. It is perfect for slopes, banks, meadows, and ground cover and is one of the best deer resistant shrubs for shade.
Daphne (Daphne odora) – Aromatic Shade Shrubs
Daphnes are shrubs for the shade that are short-lived compared to other plants. Thankfully, the spectacular flowers make up for their life span.
These evergreen shrubs bloom late in winter with clusters of small, pink blossoms. They have a pleasant scent and yellow and green foliage.
Daphne shrubs are prone to root rot, so they must have well-draining soil. They enjoy morning sun and afternoon shade. Prune daphne shrubs as needed and be sure not to overwater them.
Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
Boxwood is one of the hardiest fast growing shrubs for shade. They are dense evergreen plants and a staple in tons of homeowner’s landscapes. They are known for their variegated, bright green foliage and make prominent focal points and foundation plantings.
Boxwood shrubs favor locations with part or full sun and require well-draining soil. If afternoon temperatures are hot in the summer, make sure they have some shade.
These amazing shrubs for shade are a quick fix for brightening up your property. For those stuck with a canopy that prevents light from entering, it becomes frustrating when plants don’t grow.
Carefully selecting the right plants is the first step bringing your flower beds back to life. The last thing you want is a sad yard, and the quickest way to fix is by planting fast growing shrubs for shade around your home.
If this list of amazing shrubs for shade is going to help you transform your yard, share these shade-loving bushes on Facebook and Pinterest.