Shrubs that need little sunlight grow well with as little as three hours of sun a day. Tall trees and buildings create shady spaces that are just perfect for shade-loving shrubs. Taller ones planted by the side of a building and shorter ones planted in the shade of larger trees fill in where other plants just do not measure up.
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) does best when grown in partial shade. The plant is a member of the horse chestnut family and will attract hummingbirds to the garden. Consider planting bottlebrush buckeye in the shade of large deciduous trees. The plant grows from 8 to 12 feet tall with a spread of 8 to 15 feet. The leaves are bronze when they are young, turn to a medium green on the top and a fuzzy grey an the bottom and finally to yellow in the fall. The small, white flowers grow in 8- to 12-inch-long, cone-shaped clusters and produce a brown, pear-shaped in-edible fruit that grows from 1 to 3 inches long. Plant bottlebrush buckeye in a soil that is well-drained and is constantly kept moist. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
Black alder (Ilex verticillata) is also known as winterberry holly and is native to the eastern and central United States and parts of Southern Canada, hardy from USDA Hardiness Zone 4 to 9. The shrub is deciduous, grows from 6 to 10 feet tall and produces thin leaves that grow up to 3 inches long, turning yellow-green in the fall. The plant will be either male with flowers growing in clusters or female with individual flowers. The female plants produce bright red fruit that is a favorite meal for birds. Plant black alder in full sun or partial shade. The more sun the female plant gets, the more fruit it will produce. The plant adapts itself to a variety of soil types.
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a deciduous, evergreen or semi-evergreen member of the saxifrage family. The shrub can reach a height and width of 6 feet and features oblong, burgundy-green leaves that turn a crimson-burgundy in the fall if planted in full sun and a yellow, orange or scarlet if the shrub is planted in partial or full shade. The white flowers grow in clusters that measure 4 inches long by 1/2-inch wide from mid-June to early July. The fruit starts out green, turns brown as it matures and lasts through the winter. Plant Virginia sweetspire in full sun, partial shade or full shade and a soil that is rich and moist. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.