Plants that keep their leaves all year long fall into the evergreen category. While most evergreens prefer sun or partial shade, a few evergreen plants work well in shade; an area is considered shady if it receives less than four hours of sun per day. In addition to knowing if a plant will do well in low light, make sure conditions such as water drainage, air flow and competition from other, taller plants work with the evergreen plants you select. Also, make sure you know how much sun the area gets in the winter, as this can affect the growth rate of the plant.
While some rhododendrons do well in partial-to-full sun, a large number of these evergreen plants grow well in partial-to-full shade. Varieties like Ball of Snow with its mounded white flowers, and Elvira with its bright red blooms thrive in shade. Smaller rhododendrons with heights that only reach 3 to 5 feet tall also grow well in the shade; these plants include Black Satin with its dark, rose-pink flowers or Counterpoint with its semi-double bright pink flowers. If space is at a premium in your shade garden, consider planting Laurie, a compact rhododendron with showy, light pink flowers. Try Olga Mezitt when you need to fill your space with a fast-growing plant, as it spreads quickly and features peach-pink flowers.
This evergreen grows in both shade and full sun, making it an ideal plant for borders where you have low-light conditions next to full sun conditions. Most yews take awhile to grow, but can live a long time. Yews sport compact, needle-like foliage and come in a variety of choices. Choose from compact forms such as English Yew and Pyramidal Yew, which top out at 5 to 6 feet in height. Or select larger Brown's Yew, which eventually reach 8 to 10 feet in height; the shrub makes a great hedge. Plant yews in well-drained soil and water frequently until the plants get established.
In the early spring, evergreen azaleas are ideal display plants with their funnel-shaped flowers in a variety of colors. While azaleas prefer cooler weather, the shade varieties can thrive as long as temperatures don't drop below 10 degrees F. Varieties such as Carol Kittel, with its double white flowers edged with lavender, or Fairfax, with its pink-edged flowers, grow well in shade. Pale Lilac is one of the cold hardiest evergreen azaleas, and features pale purple blooms. Plant azaleas in acidic, well-drained soil.