Top 10 Best Shade Shrubs

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There are numerous shade shrubs that can thrive in your garden, even without much sunlight. Some can tolerate only light shade, while others can be grown in the deepest shade. However, it might be helpful to examine the definition of “shade” when it comes to gardening.

Gardeners define a shady area as any area in the garden or yard which does not receive at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Areas that receive little to no direct sunlight all day are considered “deep” or “dense” shade. These areas are typically underneath large trees or near large buildings.

It’s also important to note that flowering shade shrubs may not bloom in deep or dense shade. Some shrubs that can tolerate dense shade may do just fine in light to medium shade, while others prefer the deep shade. Determine how much shade your prospective planting site receives per day before deciding on specific shade shrubs.

  1. Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussate) – Evergreen shrub with low crown, small and low growing, can tolerate light shade, flat sprays of foliage with needle-like leaves reaching 2-4 mm long.
  2. Carolina Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) – Deciduous, flowering shrub, medium sized and strongly scented, can tolerate light shade, flowers in early summer after leaves.
  3. Boxwood (Buxus) – Evergreen shrub, slow growing, medium shrubs or small trees, can tolerate light shade, small rounded leathery leaves, and small yellow-green flowers.
  4. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia) – Small evergreen shrub, can tolerate dense shade but may not bloom, white to purple flowers appear in late spring to summer, foliage is toxic if eaten.
  5. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos) – Deciduous flowering shrub, can tolerate dense shade but may not bloom, small greenish-white to pink flowers, fruit is poisonous to humans
  6. Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) – Large evergreen shrub or small tree, prefers medium shade, flowers in spring and early summer, best suited to temperate climates
  7. Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – Deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub, can tolerate light shade, can grow up to six feet tall, white lightly fragrant flowers bloom in early summer
  8. Skimmia (Skimmia) – Evergreen shrub, medium sized, clustered leaves with smooth margin, pungent aroma, prefers medium shade, attractive foliage, leaves, and flowers.
  9. Spotted Laurel (Aucuba japonica) – Deciduous shrub, can tolerate dense shade, best suited for lowland areas, broad opposite leaves, produces purplish-brown flowers and attractive red berries.
  10. Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster) – Woody deciduous shrubs, more than 300 varieties, can tolerate light shade, in the Rose family and also related to Hawthorn, white to creamy pink flowers appear in late spring

These shade shrubs are not listed in any particular order. All of them can thrive in shady areas, and many will also flower. Check specific requirements for individual shade shrubs before planting, or preparing a planting site. Plant your shade shrubs in the fall or spring to lessen the shock of transplanting.

Additional Resources:

  • Shade ShrubsDetailed Profile of 10 different shade shrubs.

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