Shade Shrubs & Plants

Many home gardeners are perplexed as to what shrubs and other plants will thrive in a shady garden. The truth is there is a multitude of plants that love partial shade, filtered sunlight and full shade. These plants come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of shapes and sizes that will make a shade garden inviting and beautiful.

Hydrangea and Viburnum

Both hydrangea and viburnum have great balls of flowers. Hydrangea shrubs can grow large, even in dense shade. They produce clusters of flowers that look like delicate, lacey snowballs and come in white, cream, blue and pink. Viburnum bushes are very popular and grow as well in shade as in sun. There are many different varieties that come in sizes small to large. In the spring, small clusters of extremely fragrant flowers bloom in white, cream and lavender.

Bottlebrush and Pepperbush

Bottlebrush shrubs grow to six feet tall and have wispy tufts of flowers in spring. But the best time for this shrub is in the fall when the leaves turn brilliant red, orange and yellow. Pepperbush loves dense shade and will grow up to eight feet high. The flowers bloom all summer in white to pink and are very fragrant. This shrub spreads so plant it where it can roam.


Not all dogwoods are trees. There are shrubs with this name as well. Redosier dogwood is a shrub with dark red bark and white flower clusters that bloom in spring and summer. It grows up to 12 feet tall but can be pruned to keep it smaller. The leaves turn a purple color in fall.

Holly and Boxwood

Holly is a Christmas favorite and does well in shade. The leaves are blue to green and the female produces red berries while the male grows insignificant white flowers. Try American or Japanese holly in a shade garden. Boxwood is commonly seen in sunny gardens but will tolerate shade as well. These dense green bushes can be shaped into hedges or topiaries.

Rhododendron and Azalea

Rhododendrons and azaleas are spring-blooming shrubs that can take a great deal of shade. They bloom in bright to pastel flowers that are beautiful in a shady garden.


There are many perennials that grow well in shade. Astilbe has plumes of white, pink, red and lavender flowers. Bleeding heart has heart-shaped pink or white flowers. Cardinal flower is endowed with brilliant red flowers in late summer. Day lilies bloom best in sun but will bloom in shade too. Hostas have fountain-like sprays of green or variegated leaves with spikes of white to purple flowers.


Coleus leaves are jewel tone with different interesting patterns. A bulb look-a-like is caladium, which grows very large. Begonias bloom in red, pink and white and the green-leaf varieties do the best in shade. Impatiens also produce red, pink and white blooms and there are some other varieties in neon orange and purple.

Keywords: shade gardens, shade tolerant shrubs, gardens in shade

About this Author

Deborah Harding has been writing for nine years. Beginning with cooking and gardening magazines, Harding then produced a gardening and cooking newsletter and website called Prymethyme Herbs in 1998. Published books include "Kidstuff" and "Green Guide to Herb Gardening." She has a Bachelor of Music from Youngstown State University and sings professionally.