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Perennial Shrubs for Shade

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Yew produce red berries in the fall.
twigs of yew-tree with red berries image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com

Shade garden areas require plants adapted to the specific low-light growing conditions. The various types of shade range from partial shade with a few hours of daily sun exposure to deep shade under the canopy of mature trees. Perennial shrubs enhance the landscape with long-lasting foliage to provide interest and texture. These plants return year after year to beautify the landscape with both foliage and, in some cases, flowers. Shade perennial shrubs include both evergreens and deciduous shrubs that lose leaves during the winter season.

Japanese Pieris

Gardeners often choose this broadleaf evergreen shrub because it produces stunning flowers in early spring. Flowers grow in hanging clusters like a collection of bells. Foliage is evergreen with a deep green color during the summer growing season. Japanese pieris grows well in shade gardens in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 7. This plant reaches up to 10 feet at maturity and should be sheltered in windy locations. Japanese pieris grows slowly but provides dense foliage for the shade garden with an overall upright plant shape.

Japanese Yew

This evergreen shrub features wide-needle leaves and a preference for partial shade locations. Japanese yew produces deep green foliage and prefers well-drained soil regardless of shade or sun positioning. Plants grow to a pyramid shape and reach mature heights of up to 40 feet depending on the cultivar. Smaller cultivars include the Densa that grows to 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Japanese yew grows best in zones 4 to 7. Female plants produce fruits, and both fruit seeds and foliage are toxic. Japanese yew works perfectly for a variety of planting needs such as borders, hedges or simply as a beautiful specimen plant in the shade garden.


Broad leaves characterize the beautiful flowering perennial shrub called the summersweet. This deciduous shrub features dark, round leaves and grows at a relatively slow rate. Summersweet grows in a rounded shape with dense foliage throughout the plant. This plant produces clusters of spiky flowers in white, rose or pink. Flowers are fragrant and grow on new growth from the current season. The summersweet grows to a height of 8 feet and a width of up to 6 feet at maturity. This beautiful plant prefers moist soil high in organic content. Flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees, and the thick foliage provides a pleasing home to many birds. Plant summersweet in zones 3 to 9.