Shade Shrubs

Dress up the darkness or illuminate the shadows

Shade shrubs thrive in low-light conditions and add interesting textures and colors to even the darkest corners of the garden or landscape. Those with pale flowers, light-colored bark, or chartreuse-, gold-, or yellow-hued foliage not only dress up the darkness but also illuminate the shadows by creating the illusion of light.

However, shade shrubs vary in the degree and type of shade they require or tolerate. Shade-loving shrubbery prefer full shade, like that provided by some north-facing exposures and heavy tree canopies. Shade-friendly shrubs may tolerate full shade but grow best in bright or filtered shade, functioning well as understory plants, where some dappled sun reaches their leaves. And some shade shrubs can even grow in full sun but generally prefer to be shielded from it at midday, especially in the heat of summer, when their leaves may burn. Keep in mind that most flowering shade shrubs bloom best with some sun, like hydrangeas, which perform best with some morning sun and afternoon shade. With the proper amount of sun, flowering shade shrubs can be showstoppers, just as dramatic as flowering sun shrubs, just as fragrant, too. So, before you choose your shade shrubs, it’s important to evaluate your location to determine the type and amount of sun it receives, considering how the light reflects off light-colored surfaces and how it changes with the seasons.

Whether grown for their fabulous foliage or their beautiful blooms, shade shrubs are especially good candidates for woodlands and naturalized areas, but they’re also perfect for cool, shadowy spots in gardens and landscapes; and when combined with shade-loving perennials, they can create some of the most beautiful and exotic areas in the garden.