Minnesota shrubs face a variety of challenges. Not only must a shade plant thrive in low light, but it must also withstand the frigid winter temperatures of this northern state. There are several attractive shade plants that can tolerate Minnesota's climate extremes.
Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus)
Often used as a privacy screen between properties because of its size, the Red Twig Dogwood is a dogwood shrub that grows from 4 to 8 feet tall and is about 10 feet wide. Its bark is red when the tree is young, making it a bright spot in the yard against the Minnesota snow in the winter. Once it is older, the tree's bark will become more grayish-green during the spring and summer months, but it will continue to change back to the familiar red again each fall and winter. Unlike the traditional dogwood with its larger showy blooms, the Red Twig Dogwood has small clusters of 2-inch white flowers that bloom from late May through the first part of July. The tree does bear fruit like its taller relatives, but the less-sweet berries are usually ignored by birds until all the tastier berries and seeds from other trees are gone. The Red Twig Dogwood grows in USDA Zones 2 to 8.
Dwarf Honeysuckle Bush (Diervilla Lonicer)
An easy-to-grow low shrub, the dwarf bush honeysuckle typically grows from 2 to 4 feet in height and tolerates shade but prefers areas with good drainage. Its green leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and grow in pairs that face opposite directions. The dwarf bush honeysuckle blooms in June or July with tiny flowers that look like small open trumpets. There are two main color varieties that include shades of yellow or red. Unable to pollinate themselves, these plants rely on bees and butterflies to do the work for them. The dwarf honeysuckle bush is a hardy shrub, however, and some have been known to live for over 100 years. This plant grows in USDA Zones 3 to 7.
Commonly used as hedges or privacy screens, the Shadbush is a tall shrub with upward-pointing branches that make it ideal for training to grow as a tree. Without pruning, this shrub can reach up to 20 feet in height and has a 5 to 8 foot spread. It does well in sun, part shade or even deep shade. In the spring it produces clusters of white flowers, and it puts on a second show in the fall when its leaves turn to a stunning red or reddish purple. The shadbush produces edible berries that are a favorite to many different forms of wildlife, including birds, squirrels and even raccoons. This plant grows well in USDA Zones 4 to 8.