Shrubs for Shade

The U.S. National Arboretum defines a shrub as "A low-growing woody plant, usually under 15 feet that often has multiple stems and may have a suckering growth habit." Shrubs line property, define spaces and provide seasonal blooms, fragrance and color all year long. Their natural habitat is the forest understory, so many shrubs flourish in shade.

Full Shade Bloomers

Few shrubs will grow in the dark, but many will tolerate degrees of shade. Since shrubs by definition grow shorter than trees, most are adapted to live in at least dappled shade. Some, like low-growing currant, oak leaf hydrangea and goat's beard (false spirea) will tolerate full shade. Summersweet Clethra is a tall, narrow, late-blooming shrub that works well in a shady perennial border. Bottlebrush buckeye, another late-blooming shade-lover has white flower spikes that resemble reedy lilac panicles. Flameleaf sumac displays spectacular autumn colors and winterberry, a smooth-leaved holly, tolerates wet soil as well as shade.

Herbaceous Shade-Lovers

Nanking cherry, highbush cranberry, currants and gooseberries appreciate dappled or part shade and produce edible fruit. False spirea blooms more impressively in partial shade. Snowball bush, honeysuckle and double-flowering plum bloom in partial shade. Many viburnum and euonymus, including the impressive burning bush, thrive in shade. The Meyers lilac is one of few lilacs that blooms in part shade. Dogwood shrubs of all varieties grow well in part shade, but sucker freely.

Evergreen Shade-Lovers

Evergreens are popular landscape plants because they keep their leaves year-round. Eastern and oriental arborvitaes are favorite shrubs to grow against buildings where they are shaded for at least half a day. Singleseed junipers grow in dappled shade. Swiss stone pine, the Eastern white pine and varieties of Scotch pine all tolerate partial shade, as do most pines. Yews, both cuspidate and media varieties, will grow in full shade as well as partial shade.

Keywords: shade shrubs, woody shrubs, evergreen shrubs

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.