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What are the Best Shrubs for Shade?

By Licia Morrow
Updated May 16, 2024
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Although sunlight is often a crucial element in growing plants, many varieties of shrubs thrive in and prefer shady areas. Shrubs are characterized by thick, woody trunks and stems, with varieties that range from those with simple green foliage to those that flower or bear fruit. The rate of growth is individual to each type of bush, but for the most part they are useful in occupying larger amounts of space. Shrubs are also easier to maintain and longer lasting than most other types of plants.

The first trick in choosing an appropriate, shade tolerant shrub for the garden is to determine the climate zone in which the plant will live. These zones are broken down into geographic sections which are assigned numbers. The zone number for a particular plant can often be found on the plant's container or packaging, and a comprehensive list of what each number means can be found by a quick Internet search. Paying attention to this numbering system can make the difference between a shrub that becomes a showcase and one that is a miserable failure.

Camellia is a shrub that can be tolerant of the sun depending upon variety, but they still grow best in shady conditions. These shrubs maintain green leaves all year long with a splash of colorful blooms for a few weeks a year. Most need a nutrient-rich soil, protection from the wind, and adequate drainage. Established camellias can survive a fair amount of neglect, but many varieties require fertilizer and mulch.

The colors of the fuschia bush range from lavender to white to fiery orange to bright red and are easily identified by their upside-down, bell-shaped flowers. They do not grow well in some areas, so climate information and zone awareness is crucial before purchasing these plants. In the proper conditions and with adequate watering, these bushes can become a landscape highlight.

Hydrangeas enjoy cool, shady environments but require vigilant watering and pruning to maintain their best appearance. They are characterized by large bunches of flowers in various colors. The flowers are long lasting, but the shrubs are deciduous, so they will lose all of their flowers at some point during the year.

Gardenias provide a garden with shiny green leaves and large, white strongly scented flowers. Although they do well in shady conditions, they need warmth to survive. These plants can remain strong with a bit of attention, or become a disappointment when overcrowded or placed in a less-than-perfect environment. They need well-saturated soil, mulch, plenty of room to grow, and insect control measures.

The hardy varieties of philodendron can withstand shady conditions well, while some do depend upon a bit of sunlight. Some of these shrubs can be used indoors if the outdoor climate does not suit them. They are known for their lustrous leaves that provide greenery all year long.

Depending up on the climate zone, it is possible to choose many interesting varieties of shade-loving shrubs to build an interesting and beautiful shady yard. If you remember that there are partial-shade and full-shade types of plants and follow the information on the plant's packaging, you should be able to choose great shrubs for your garden that thrive in the shade.

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Discussion Comments
By oscar23 — On May 03, 2011

I just adore these kinds of shade loving plants in my yard, particularly hydrangeas. But, I saw a new way to use them that I never would have thought of myself. I went to a summer wedding, which was not exactly formal nor exactly casual either.

The bride, who was on a budget, was really smart with her flowers. Her grandmother had several huge hydrangeas in her yard which were really more like tree shrubs. The bridesmaids and bride had went the day before and cut many of the blooms.

They had arranged some of them in traditional ways, but had also made them into unique attendant bouquets. They were round in shape, all held together in a kind of ball somehow (I don’t know how they stayed fresh looking, but they were gorgeous). There was a silk rope handle added, and a little tassel that matched hanging from the bottom. I thought they were just as pretty as florist flowers anyday!

By tlcJPC — On May 02, 2011

I have both camellias and gardenias in my yard, and have had some mixed success. The gardenias tend to do really well, and I am letting them grow tall to be a hedge row. They have turned out to be some fast growing shrubs. However, my camellias have me quite confused. They have the beautiful green leaves you would expect, and they grow the prettiest little buds in the world. But that’s it. The flowers never actually open up but turn brown and just fall off. I have no idea what’s causing it, but I suspect it could be the location of the plant in full sun.

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