Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Dwarf Shrubs for Shade

holly bush image by Sunshine Photos from

Dwarf shrubs add color, structure and seasonal interest to the shade garden. They are easy to maintain and need very little, if any, pruning. Their ultimate size will be determined by the amount of irrigation and fertilization they receive. Some dwarf shrubs will grow in full shade, but flowering shrubs will have more blooms in partial shade.

Evergreen Shrubs That Bloom

Evergreen blooming shrubs provide year round interest in shady garden areas. Creeping Gardenia (Gardenia radicans) is a spreading shrub that grows 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide, and has fragrant white flowers in the summer.

Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium) and Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) grow 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Winter Daphne has a rounded form and flowers during the winter. Oregon Grape Holly grows in an upright clump and has yellow flowers in late winter.

David’s Viburnum (Viburnum davidii) and Dwarf Indian Hawthorne (Raphiolepsis indica) have rounded forms, while Drooping Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana) and Dwarf Glossy Abelia (Abelia grandiflora ‘Compacta’) have arching shapes. The Viburnum and the Leucothoe have white flowers. The Indian Hawthorne and the Glossy Abelia have either white or pink flowers.

Deciduous Shrubs That Bloom

Deciduous shrubs add seasonal color to garden areas in the shade. Japanese Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is a densely branched deciduous shrub that grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide and has red flowers in the spring. Slender Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis) grows 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide in a rounded shape and has white flowers in the early summer. Thunberg Spirea (Spireae thunbergii) has a loose spreading form that grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide and has white flowers in the spring.

Shrubs Grown for the Foliage

Foliage plants provide structure and continuity in shady gardens. Dwarf English Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’) has any upright spreading form and grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.

Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Dwarf Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. Both have compact rounded forms.

Dwarf Chinese Holly (Ilex cornuta “Rotunda’) and Dwarf Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Helleri’) are rounded shrubs that grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Dwarf Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’) also has a rounded form but grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.

Garden Guides