Shade plantings can create an oasis of lush, cooling greenery in your landscape — but not if your shrubs and bushes are lanky and yellowing due to lack of enough sun. Select shade-loving species for planting to ensure that your shade plantings stay healthy and dense, with rich growth that provides privacy or creates an outdoor room for comfortable summer enjoyment.
Hydrangea bushes, Hydrangea spp., have long been a beloved landscape plant. Available in large and dwarf forms, bearing large snowball blossoms in shades of white, pink and blue, hydrandeas will tolerate light shade under trees. Witchhazel, Hammamelis virginiana, is a forest shrub that thrives in the light shade of deciduous tree cover, and has the delightful landscape surprise of blooming in the late winter or earliest spring months before even the earliest crocus and snowdrops have emerged. The traditional hedge shrub boxwood, Buxux sempervirens, will also tolerate partial shade at the edges of woodlands.
Medium shade, where plants are in shade most of the day but receive dappled sunlight through an overhead tree canopy, presents greater growing challenges than the light shade found along the edge of tree plantings. Different cultivars of yew can tolerate medium shade; the University of Minnesota Extension recommends the Taunton yew, Taxus x. Media "Tauntonii." Many of the numerous varieties of viburnum and rhododendron will also thrive in medium shade, providing flowers and, in the case of viburnum, attractive berries along with glossy green foliage in your shady corners.
Full Sun to Heavy Shade
One of the hardest areas to landscape is near walls, where plantings receive full sun during some periods of the day, and dense heavy shade during other times of day. Among the few shrubs and bushes that will thrive in these wildly diverse light conditions is the the yew cultivar Taxus cuspidata "Dwarf Bright Gold," which will also add feathery golden texture to your plantings. Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii, also tolerates extreme lighting environments. The red-twig dogwood, Cornus sericea, adds year-round color to spots subject to full sun and dark shade.
Most shade environments are also damp, with soil holding moisture that is not evaporated due to warm sunshine and drying winds. Dry shade areas like well-drained upland hardwood forested locations make landscaping all the more difficult. Don't try to change the underlying soil conditions to make it more moisture-intensive, advises the University of Delaware Extension, but select bushes and shrubs that are naturally adapted to dry shade conditions. Fothergilla major adds copper autumn foliage color and feathery white early summer blooms to dry shade plantings. Mountain adromeda Pieris floribunda, and the evergreen mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, will create a dense understory in dry woodland shade.