Shrubs for Light Shade

Shrubs add texture, height and structure to a landscape, acting as a border or as an attraction for wildlife. Shrubs can be manicured to create a rigid, strong form, or left to grow freely to create a naturalized, wild look. Though shade isn't tolerable for all shrubs, many shrub types will thrive in an area of the garden that has light shade.

English Laurel

A native of southeast Europe and southwest Asia, English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is an evergreen shrub that has been used in European landscaping for centuries. The plant is notable for its lush, deep green foliage, which is accented by small stalks of white flowers in late spring. The plant is very tolerant of shade, and will thrive in a light shade. English laurel can be grown in USDA zones 6 to 9, ideally in soil that is slightly acidic. The plant should be watered frequently to keep it looking its best.


Boasting glossy oval leaves in shades of green and red, cleyera (Ternstroemia gymnanthera) is a striking shrub that is adaptable to a range of conditions. The plant will grow well in light shade in USDA zones 7A to 10A. Cleyera is tolerant of acidic, neutral and alkaline soils, and can handle well drained sands as well as heavier clays. In the springtime, the shrub produces fragrant white blooms. The shrub should be watered as needed.

Japanese Barberry

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a shrub that boasts small, green gray leaves that have a purplish tint. The hardy plant has a compact, roundish shape. Japanese barberry will grow in full shade in USDA zones 4A to 8A. The plant is quite adaptable, and will thrive in just about any type of soil. Pest-tolerant and sturdy, Japanese barberry only needs to be watered during the hottest summer months. In the springtime, the plant boasts fuzzy creamy white blooms.


Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) is a flowering deciduous shrub native to the southeastern United States. The plant sports green, slightly fuzzy foliage accented by small reddish brown flowers. In the fall, the leaves change from green to rich golden yellow. Sweetshrub is easy to grow in USDA zones 5 to 9, and the plant will tolerate a range of light conditions, from shade to full sunlight. Sweetshrub will grow in almost any soil type, so long as the plant is watered frequently.

Keywords: shrub types, light shade, shade shrubs

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.