Most vegetable plants do best in full sun over shade. But leafy vegetables may grow better in shade; their preference for cooler weather means they require and thrive in a shady spot during warmer months. Shade-tolerant vegetable plants require well-drained, fertile soil and plenty of water. Amend sandy or clay soils with organic matter, like compost, manure, peat moss or a combination of the three.
Lettuce has a large selection of varieties and grows easily. Lettuce types include leaf lettuce, butterhead and romaine. Within those types, you can choose from many varieties. Since lettuce prefers cooler temperatures, it grows well in the shade. In fact, during warmer months, always grow lettuce in the shade of other plants or it will bolt, forming flowers and seeds and making the leaves bitter.
Types of spinach include savoy, semi-savoy and smooth leaf. Savoy varieties have curly, crinkly dark green leaves; use savoy for fresh use as it takes longer to wilt or yellow than other varieties. Smooth varieties have smooth leaves that clean easily. These varieties can and freeze well. Spinach thrives in cool weather so shade provides protection from the heat. Cold-hardy spinach can even withstand hard frosts.
Members of the cruciferous family include broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Three types of broccoli grown include sprouting, calabrese and romanesco, with calabrese most commonly grown for its large heads. Cauliflower types include early, autumn and overwintering, which represents the best time to plant each variety. Different varieties of cabbage include green, red and savoy, with green cabbage most popular for its mild taste. Plant these vegetables for a fall and spring harvest, in cooler weather.