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Bushes & Shrubs That Do Well in Full Shade

By Janet Bayers ; Updated September 21, 2017
Hydrangeas are at home in shade.

Full shade refers to areas of the garden that get no direct sunlight. The shade may be caused by buildings or fences, or by the thick canopies of trees. It’s a tough area for plants to thrive, although many shrubs will tolerate it. Shrubs that grow dense and compact in sun, such as boxwood, bush honeysuckle and huckleberry, grow in a more open, airy form in shade.


Serviceberry bush

Amelanchier, or serviceberry, is a deciduous woodland shrub at home in shade or sun. It matures at about 12 feet tall in urban conditions. It produces pendulous white flowers in spring, followed by summer berries that turn from yellow to red to purple and provide food for birds. It also has good fall leaf color and attractive bark for winter interest.



Hydrangeas are deciduous shrubs that produce large clusters of mophead or lacecap flowers in late summer. Their colors are affected by soil acidity and range from white to pink to lavender to blue. They grow well along the north side of a house or fence, or in a woodland, provided they get plenty of regular water, as their name indicates.


Berries on a Yew tree

Yew, a dark evergreen conifer with soft needles, is a good choice for shade. It grows in an upright form to about 15 feet but can be sheared; it is often used for hedges. Varieties include Standishii, with golden-tipped foliage, Hicksii, a narrow column, and Densiformis, which grows to only 4 feet but spreads to about 8 feet. Female plants bear red berries if pollinated by a male plant. The berries are not edible.


Leucothoe is a low-growing evergreen shrub whose leaves add welcome color to the shade. Scarletta is a red variety and Girard’s Rainbow is a variegated variety, but all leucothoes color to red, bronze or wine in winter. They grow 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, with drooping branches and bear small white flowers in spring. Nana is a dwarf variety that grows 2 by 2 feet.


About the Author


Since 1981 Janet Bayers has written on travel, real estate trends and gardening for "The Oregonian" newspaper in Portland. Her work also has appeared in “Better Homes & Gardens,” “Traditional Home,” “Outdoor Living” and other shelter magazines. She holds a Master of Arts in linguistics from Michigan State University.