Plant shade-loving shrubs along the foundation on the north side of your house or as “understory” additions to a shrub border or hedgerow. If your yard doesn't get any sun at all, shade-loving shrubs make excellent specimen plants, particularly in urban yards too small even for a small tree.
Native to the southeastern United States, oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is so-called because its leaves greatly resemble those of the oak tree. Its hydrangea-like flowers bloom in midsummer, opening up creamy white and morphing through pink, green and finally brown. Flowers dried upside down will retain the color they were when picked. Oakleaf hydrangea grows best in partial to full shade with normal to moist, slightly acidic soil. Mulch them with a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic matter, such as hay or shredded leaves, for best results. Prune oakleaf hydrangea immediately after the flowers fade; pruning late in the season may prevent them from producing flowers the following year.
Typically grown as a formal hedge and pruned regularly, Burford holly (Ilex conuta 'Burfordii') can also be left unpruned in a hedgerow or as a lawn specimen. Although it grows well in partial shade, Burford holly will produce fewer of its white flowers and red berries than if grown in full sun. It prefers rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. Once established, it requires little irrigation or additional fertilizer.
Grown as either a small tree or large shrub, downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) grows 15 to 25 feet high. Its showy white flowers bloom in spring on pendulous racemes 2 to 4 inches long. Green berry-like fruits change first to red, then to black when they ripen in June. Said to be better tasting than blueberries, serviceberries are also beloved by birds, who will compete with you for them. Grow serviceberry in well-drained soil in partial shade. It is excellent at the edge of woodlands, near small bodies of water or as understory plants in shrub borders.