Shade-Loving Shrubs Along A Body Of Water
(Image credit: Dana Dagle Photography)

Do you want to incorporate shrubs into the landscape but find that most of your space is limited by shade? Don't despair. There are actually many beautiful, shade-loving shrubs that thrive in anything from dappled to heavy shade. Shrubs have many uses in the landscape such as foundation plantings, privacy hedges, and specimen plants. Shrubs can make wonderful focal points in the garden, especially shade gardens.

Types of Shade-Loving Shrubs

There are many types of shade-loving shrubs for the landscape. Some of the more popular ones include:

  • Carolina allspice- Carolina allspice is a shade-loving shrub that not only adds interest with its reddish purple flowers, but this shrub also emits a pleasant, spicy aroma.
  • Honeysuckle- Also worthy in the shade garden is the fragrant honeysuckle shrub. While you may find numerous varieties to choose from, the climbing variety will add height when trained on a trellis or similar structure. Even if you opt for the more shrubby variety, this shade lover should be placed close by, where its fragrance can be better appreciated.
  • Gardenia- If fragrance is what you're after then gardenias are definitely for you, provided that you reside in a warmer climate. Gardenias thrive in light shade and moist soil. They are evergreen, which will provide year-round interest, but it's their intensely fragrant, white flowers that really steal the show.
  • Viburnum- Viburnum shrubs not only provide attractive, fragrant blooms but are also tolerant of shade. These sweet-smelling, shade-loving shrubs can make excellent understory plantings as well.
  • Witch hazel- A rather large shrub but highly fragrant and exceptional for shade, is the witch hazel. This shade lover produces lovely yellow flowers in spring.
  • Goat's beard- Goat's beard is an easy growing shrub and makes a wonderful choice for areas of the garden with partial shade. These shrubs are especially suited to woodland gardens, opening up dark areas with their white blooms.
  • Juneberry- If you want to brighten areas of light shade, consider the Juneberry shrub. This lovely shade-loving shrub is covered with masses of small white flowers in the spring followed by small reddish purple berries later on.
  • Yew shrubs- Yew shrubs can provide a pleasant background for light-colored foliage plants and flowers.
  • Barberry- Perhaps not a good shrub for those having little ones, the barberry enjoys partial shade and happily thrives in a number of growing conditions. This shade-loving shrub is most noteworthy for its thorny stems and red berries but some varieties also produce spectacular yellow blooms.
  • Hydrangea- Nothing speaks shade better than hydrangeas. Many species tolerate areas with light shade. Their clustered, summer-flowering blooms are spectacular, and there are many varieties in shades of pink, blue, and white. Hydrangea shrubs work well in woodland gardens, informal borders, and as specimen plantings.
  • Azalea/Rhododendron- Rhododendrons and azaleas are probably some of the most popular and best loved of the shade shrubs. They not only thrive in shade but also seem to harmonize with it. These shade-loving shrubs are loved for their colorful blooms and interesting, evergreen foliage. They can be used as hedges, foundation plantings, or alone as specimen plants.
  • Camellia- One of the finest choices for shady sites is the camellia. These evergreen shade lovers bloom in late winter or early spring in shades of red, pink, white, or bicolor.
  • Boxwood- Boxwoods are also good choices for partially shaded sites. These evergreen shrubs make attractive backdrops for light-blooming plants.
Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.