Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Shrubs for Deep Shade

By J.D. Chi ; Updated September 21, 2017
Ferns are shade-loving plants, and some varieties can grow as shrubs.

Shady areas always seem to provide a challenge for gardeners, but there are many shrubs that will thrive in full shade, and even some that will flower in low-light conditions. Shade-loving shrubs generally require little care once established, and most will thrive either in the ground or in containers, so they may be used on covered patios, under overhangs, in shady parts of the yard, or in an entryway.

Shrimp Plant

Shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana) is native to Mexico and is a warm-weather shade shrub that produces tubular white flowers, but it is the colorful bracts that make it appealing. This plant, which can mound to 4 feet, has copper-colored bracts that form drooping spikes that resemble shrimp. The flowers on this plant attract birds. While shrimp plants can survive in sun, the bract colors fade in direct light and keep color better in shade. Shrimp plants thrive with moderate water.


Many ferns, including the sword fern (Polystichum munitum) and the Christmas fern (P. acrostichoides) thrive in full shade and add plenty of interest to a home landscape. Sword ferns have medium to dark green fronds that grow on individual stalks up to 4 feet. These plants work well in a grouping and may be used as a low hedge. The Christmas fern has dark green foliage and grows to 1 1/2 feet. Hardy in the coldest climates, Christmas ferns will add color to a landscape, even during snowy seasons.


Skimmia (Skimmia) can grow to 6 feet, has glossy green oval leaves and produces clusters of white flowers in spring. Skimmia is a tropical plant and is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 8 to 11. This plant thrives in full shade and may be used along shaded walkways or entryways, as it does well in containers. Skimmia thrives in moist, acidic, organic soil and requires regular water. Plants also produce small, red fruit in clusters during fall and winter.

Sweet Box

Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa) is a shade-loving evergreen shrub that has dark green, waxy leaves and small, fragrant white flowers that appear in later winter or early spring. These plants, which may used in entryways or under overhangs, can grow to 4 feet and are hardy in zones 6 to 9. Plant sweet box in soil that has been amended with peat moss. The plant requires regular to moderate water.


About the Author


J.D. Chi is a professional journalist who has covered sports for more than 20 years at newspapers all over the United States. She has covered major golf tournaments and the NFL as well as travel and health topics. Chi received her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is working toward a master's degree in journalism.