Shrubs For Shade Gardens
Adding beauty and color to the shade garden can be a formidable challenge to many gardeners. Of course, there are plenty of annuals and perennials that do well in shady conditions, but when it comes to shrubs the choices seem to dwindle.
No worries … there are many shrubs and flowering shrubs to choose from. Yes, you can have colorful flowers and lovely fall color in the shade and partial shade areas of your yard!
Let’s take a look at some of my favorite shrubs for shade gardens in Zone 5 & 6:
Hydrangea – What’s not to like about hydrangeas? These old-fashioned, showy plants are gaining in popularity with new and hardier varieties introduced each year. Most types thrive in part shade to full shade and bloom in shades of pink & white. Many offer beautiful fall color and winter interest as well.
Pictured is the Twist-n-Shout hydrangea from the Endless Summer Collection. The flowers have deep pink lacy centers, surrounded by blossoms of pink (alkaline soil) or periwinkle blue (acidic soil). Make sure to know what kind of hydrangea you are purchasing. Pruning time is determined by when the next season’s flower buds are set. Some bloom on new wood and some on old wood.
Red Chokeberry – The Red Chokeberry is a deciduous shrub which typically grows to 6-8′ tall and is perhaps most noted for its attractive glossy red berries and red fall foliage color. Makes a stunning hedge.
Clusters of white to pinkish flowers appear in spring. Flowers are followed by abundant glossy-red fruit which appear in dense clusters along the branches. The fruit ripen in late summer and persist throughout fall and well into winter. Birds adore the fruit!
Rhododendron – These acid loving, fragrant shrubs are a delight. They prefer organic, moist and well-drained soil. The lavender/purple flowering ones are my personal fave. Korean Rhododendron is a deciduous shrub with lovely, early spring flowers. Plant some in a grouping in your front yard for a spectacular, early spring display.
The flowers open successively from clusters of buds at the end of the shoots before the leaves even begin to unfurl. Many early butterflies and hummingbirds are drawn to the bright, vibrant blooms. When fall arrives, the foliage offers one last gasp of color with yellow and red shades for your autumn landscape.
Holly – Evergreen hollies offer texture and color to your garden in all seasons. They grow best in partial shade in a site protected from winter winds.
Soil should be slightly acidic, moist and well-drained. To produce berries, a male and female pollinator are needed. Depending on the variety, hollies can grow 6 – 10 ft. high.
Pictured is the Blue Princess Holly. I recommend using a product like “Wilt-Pruf” in late fall on hollies to help prevent moisture loss through the foliage in winter.
Witchhazel – I love the unique flowers of the witchhazel! Pictured is the Jelena witchhazel with its bewitching orange, yellow and red combo blooms. They are fragrant shrubs with great fall color.
They can be grown as either a deciduous shrub or small tree (some reach 20 ft. high). They flower in March…one of the first spring bloomers.
Hamamelis or witchhazels prefer acid to neutral soil, though they can tolerate alkaline soil if given moisture and plenty of organic matter. Dappled sunshine suits them best, but they are also adaptable and happy in sun or full shade.
St. Johnswort – The Ames St. Johnswort, or Hypericum kalmianum ‘Ames’, is a native evergreen shrub with upright branching. It typically grows in a dense 2′-3′ rounded tall mound. A hardy shrub with pretty golden yellow flowers in mid-summer.
The flowers give way to interesting oval, brown seed pods that mature in fall. St Johnswort is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in everything from full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, rich, sandy loams and tolerates some drought.
You can use this versatile plant as a low hedge, for shrub borders, rocky slopes, or pond peripheries.
Dogwood – I recently planted a Winter Flame Dogwood in our yard in a part shade spot. Gorgeous fall color and winter interest! The brightly colored stems are yellow at the base, graduating to orange, then red towards the tips of the branches.
In June, most dogwood varieties bear white flowers. They are adaptable and vigorous flowering shrubs. I’ve also grown Red Twig Dogwoods where the red stems contrast nicely with the snow in winter.
Buckeye – Buckeyes are hardy & disease resistant shrubs or small trees that look great along a garden path, beside a patio or as an accent plant at the edge of a garden. The bottlebrush buckeye (photo at left) has showy white flowers in June and July. It sports yellow fall color.
Another popular buckeye is the dwarf red variety noted for its crimson butterfly and hummingbird magnet blooms in spring. Deer leave it alone! It almost seems to thrive on neglect it’s so carefree. It will grow in any light condition from full shade – full sun.
For more shade-loving plant ideas, be sure to visit my post “Plants For Shady Areas”.