When those cold winter months approach, there is nothing sadder than the bare branches of deciduous trees. Planting evergreen shrubs and trees seems the next likely solution, though the lack of natural sunlight often deters many homeowners from finding the best candidates. One option is to search for evergreen plants for shade.
The vegetation remains vibrant and colorful year-round, while only needing a moderate amount of sunlight to thrive. In addition to cultivating a collection of plants you enjoy all year long, evergreen plants that enjoy the shade have many other beneficial uses.
If your yard consists of tall trees, those plants residing beneath it must make do with considerably less sunlight. For those wanting to plant trees along the border of homes, the overhangs also limit the amount of sun the plant receives from time to time.
No matter what your reason for wanting a shade-loving evergreen, we have several jaw-dropping options from which to choose.
- Quick Advice for Maintaining Evergreens in Shade
- Incredible Evergreens that Thrive in Shade
- Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis)
- Andromeda (Pieris japonica): Evergreen Plants for Shade
- Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
- Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
- Boxwood (Buxus): Popular Deer Resistant Shrubs
- Japanese Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus)
- Azalea (Rhododendron): Stunning Tropical Flowers for Shady Areas
- Chinese Fringe-Flower (Loropetalum)
- Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
- Evergreen Witch-Hazel (Distylium racemosum): Low Maintenance Plant for Shade
- Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
- Dogwood (Cornus capita): Small Trees with Year-Round Interest
- Yew (Taxus baccata)
- Dwarf Bamboo (Sasa pygmaea)
Quick Advice for Maintaining Evergreens in Shade
Before you begin, it is crucial to know the basics of how plants receive sunlight. Defining terms like full sun, partial sun, and full shade allow you to choose the ideal candidates for your yard.
Whether you want to grow vegetable plants for shade, privacy shrubs, or trees, learning what “shade” actually means helps to ensure your success with the variety you choose.
How much shade do shade-loving plants need?
Some may hear terms like “full shade” and imagine the plant needs to be in the shadows at all times during the day. The same goes for part shade, expecting the plant to be under partial lighting continuously.
These terms actually refer to the hours of sunlight the plant receives each day, whether directly or indirectly. Those plants that require full sun enjoy at least six hours or more light each day.
Plants that thrive in partial shade flourish with anywhere between 3-6 hours of sun. If planting a shrub that calls for full shade, place them in an area where the sun only shines on the area for less than three hours a day.
Doing this prevents delicate plants from scorching and provides those species that need a little extra sun all the nourishment they could ever want.
Incredible Evergreens that Thrive in Shade
One thing to always consider before placing a plant in the shade is your location. Some plants that prefer shade in warmer regions call for more exposure in areas with limited sunlight. Keep this in mind when selecting and placing your new garden residents.
For a little more color and diversity, add some native ferns with your shrubs. A few perennials and annuals that like shady spots will cap off your shade garden.
Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis)
Just as the name suggests, the tea plant not only produces lovely white flowers from mid-fall through the winter but also contains the elements necessary to make tea.
The green leaves and buds of this shrub create several different types of soothing drinks, including oolong, green tea, and black tea. Yet, despite their obvious utility, most gardeners cultivate them for purely ornamental reasons.
These plants grow approximately 3-7 feet tall and prefer slightly acidic soil. A native of China, they prefer milder weather, typically in zones 6-9 of the United States.
Partial shade works best for them, showering them with anywhere between 3-6 hours of sun each day.
Andromeda (Pieris japonica): Evergreen Plants for Shade
Andromeda is a fabulous way to add color to any garden year-round. Starting in late spring, these evergreen shrubs produce showy red or white flowers.
Throughout the fall and winter months, these vibrant colors remain through the eye-catching foliage, adding magnificent hues to shady spots. If planting them for the first time, fall is the ideal time to do so.
Doing this allows proper root development and ensures the shrub becomes established effortlessly and quickly. Andromeda does best when given a few hours of morning sunlight and full shade in the afternoon heat.
Andromeda is one of the plants to keep cats away and is mildly toxic if they ingest it. Avoid planting it if this is a concern. However, keep cats off your property by planting this shrub along your property line.
Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
Another fantastic plant to add to your shade garden is the climbing hydrangea. Most hydrangeas are deciduous, but this species also comes in an evergreen variety. Hydrangeas as vines for shade can grow up to 80 feet long if not trimmed back correctly.
Giving them plenty of support to develop, such as with a trellis or pergola, is highly recommended. Hydrangeas prefer cooler climates, though not too cold.
They do fine in full sun when areas receive a moderate amount of sunlight. However, to prevent wilting in higher temperatures, provide them partial shade to grow.
Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Despite the dangerous connotations associated with its name, Canadian Hemlock is not the same plant as the deadly poison. Instead, this lovely tree is a part of the pine family, with vibrant dark green needles to match the other members of the family.
These shade-tolerant plants thrive in numerous light conditions, making them easy to care for no matter the location. Having sufficient drainage in the soil when planting these goes a long way to ensure the plant’s success.
Loamy soil is preferred, with a slightly acidic pH level. Even if these conditions are not met, this easy-going plant thrives as long as it receives plenty of water to sustain it.
Boxwood (Buxus): Popular Deer Resistant Shrubs
Arguably the most widely used shrub in all of the United States, there is no denying the appeal of planting Boxwoods. The lovely evergreen leaves of the plant make a stunning backdrop in landscapes as hedges.
Being deer resistant also increases their value as barriers for prized flowering plants in gardens. Boxwood enjoys shady areas, though it still needs a few hours of strong sunlight.
Once established, they are even drought tolerant but do best when their soil is consistently moist. Adding a layer of mulch or some chopped leaves over the earth retains moisture around the plant roots and keeps the temperature nice and cool to stimulate growth.
Japanese Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus)
One of the more popular ways that homeowners use the Japanese Euonymus is as a privacy screen. The size and shape of the plant make them ideal for blocking unwelcome onlookers, especially when buildings are close together.
These colorful evergreen bushes‘ tolerance to shade also contributes to their success in areas around the borders of homes. Euonymus grows either as a small tree or a shrub, typically reaching an average height of 8 feet tall.
Watering it regularly and profoundly ensures sufficient growth and development of the roots. While it likes partial shade, it also handles full sun conditions well, too.
Azalea (Rhododendron): Stunning Tropical Flowers for Shady Areas
Many gardeners recognize the lovely pink flowers on Azaleas as their most appealing quality. While this is true, Azaleas also bring stunning color to gardens all year long with their bright green foliage.
These flowers only bloom for a few short weeks starting in summer, overtaking the whole bush with the fascinating hues. However, you can find azaleas that bloom multiple times throughout the growing season if this is something you desire.
The delicate leaves of this plant require plenty of shade to prevent scorching. On the opposite side of the light spectrum, deep shade robs the plant of much-needed oxygen. Finding a happy balance when determining its forever home is crucial.
Chinese Fringe-Flower (Loropetalum)
A unique evergreen shrub, the Chinese Fringe-Flower, is a beautiful addition to any landscape. In the early spring, the plant produces dainty flowers that vary in color from white to red to pink.
Depending on the particular species, they can reach anywhere from 8-20 feet tall, making them excellent as privacy fences, too. The amount of sunlight to give these plants depends on their location.
Providing full sun only works when placed in the path of morning light, otherwise supply them with partial shade. Soil should be rich in organic compost and nutrients for the best results.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Mountain Laurel is another flowering evergreen that comes from the same family as Azaleas and Blueberries. The shrub is hardy throughout most of the country and produces flowers in late spring.
These bell-shaped blossoms display soft colors like white or pink. In terms of shade, it survives in either deep shade or full sun, though finding a happy medium is preferable.
Too much shade robs the flowers of developing fully, becoming thinner and spindly instead. On the other hand, too much sunlight causes scorching of the leaves.
Evergreen Witch-Hazel (Distylium racemosum): Low Maintenance Plant for Shade
Many beginning gardeners desire nothing more than an easy-to-care-for plant. Luckily, Evergreen Witch-Hazel steps up to the plate as one of the easiest to maintain ornamental plants.
The small shrub is not particular about the type of soil or pH levels and actually fares better when not pruned regularly. The dark green leaves appear all year round, while red flowers bloom in late winter.
The plant grows up to ten feet wide and ten feet high when fully grown. For light requirements, it does well in dappled shade or full sun.
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
Being the state flower of Oregon, the Oregon Grape holds its share of appeal. The shrub reaches heights of up to six feet tall and displays yellow flowers that give off a light, pleasant fragrance.
In late summer, the plant even produces small edible fruits similar to grapes. Oregon Grapes attract butterflies and are surprisingly resistant to pests like deer.
They tolerate different soil types but prefer humus-rich, slightly acidic levels. They are some of the best plants for shade, although they don’t mind partial shade or sun either.
Dogwood (Cornus capita): Small Trees with Year-Round Interest
If a small tree is more what you are searching for, then the Dogwood tree provides many fascinating options. These plants come in many shapes and sizes, including small shrubs only a couple of feet high to trees stretching as far as 25 feet in height.
There are even evergreen and deciduous versions of the plant, with Cornus capita being the best candidate for year-round interest. For only a couple of short weeks in early spring, the tree blooms with either white, pink, or red flowers.
In winter, these red evergreen bushes sport red berries that add appeal to the tree. In addition to partial shade conditions, Dogwoods love well-drained soils that are rich in organic material to support healthy growth and development.
Yew (Taxus baccata)
For heavily shaded areas in your yard, Yew is one of the shade-loving plants that is an excellent option for occupying the territory. While it flourishes most in partial shade, it is tolerant of deep shade as well.
The plant does not produce flowers but instead sports attractive red berries in the summer months. Despite being tolerant of extreme shade conditions, the same cannot be said for severe weather.
Yew prefers to maintain a mild temperature, with too much heat and cold burning the plant leaves quickly. The shrub is also susceptible to pests like mealybugs and vine weevils, so spraying it with an insecticide immediately when problems arise keeps them under control.
Dwarf Bamboo (Sasa pygmaea)
When you think of bamboo, you imagine the tall, sprawling reeds that nearly stretch toward the sky. However, Dwarf Bamboo is significantly smaller, topping out at about one foot high.
This plant does exceptionally well in partial shade, though, and supplies your yard with plenty of year-round interest. The most notable characteristic of Dwarf Bamboo is its bright green, and sometimes variegated, leaves.
It also grows incredibly fast, so keeping it trimmed and maintained prevents invasive tendencies. The size and spread of the shrub make it a wonderful ground cover plant for rock gardens or borders.
We hope you enjoyed learning all there is to know about these shade-loving evergreens. Whether you choose a specimen based on its color, utility, or how well it does in your location, there is something for everyone in your family to love. The hardest part is deciding on only one or two plants.
If you found these evergreen gardening tips useful, then please remember to share your favorite evergreen plants for shade with friends and family on Facebook and Pinterest.