Top Shade Loving Shrubs

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Not everyone has the luxury of a bright yard, and finding shrubs, especially flowering shrubs with beautiful blooms to fill in shady spots can seem like a real challenge. Believe it or not, these six eye-catching, alluring shrubs flourish in filtered sun or shade and can bring a wild beauty to barren spots in your garden. 

Oakleaf Hydrangea 

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, eye-catching shrub, this stunning hydrangea is a perfect fit. Able to adapt to varying levels of light, this plant does best in morning sun with afternoon shade, so plant it accordingly. It has beautiful variegated leaves that change from a vibrant green to classic fall colors such as Burgandy, bronze, and purple as the season comes to an end. Its lovely white flowers are a beautiful addition to floral arrangement and become even more interesting later in the season when they begin to turn pink. Grow it in slightly alkaline, well-draining soil with lots of good organic matter such as compost, and water well in the first year as it establishes roots. Hardy in zones 5b to 9. 


Who actually enjoys pruning shrubs? If you’re like the majority of gardeners, this is probably one of your least favorite chores. Thankfully, the serviceberry requires very little pruning. Though there are many varieties, my favorite is the running serviceberry, a small 4-6 foot shrub that stays compact and doesn’t sprawl out of control. Enjoy lovely spring blooms and edible berries during the summer months, along with attractive fall colors to round out the year. Hardy in zones 2 to 9.


Yew shrubs are ideal if you want something that can be shaped and sheared into any shape you desire without cutting up your arms in the process (the dark green needles are soft and easily managed). Need a good living fence for the shady side of your house? This fast-growing evergreen shrub can easily fill this purpose. Plus, it is incredibly versatile and will thrive in the shade or in full sun, meaning you can have a continuous hedge in different lighting situations. Keep in mind, however, it does best in partial or filtered sun. Choose the type carefully as this plant comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can be trailing or upright. Hardy in zones 4-7.

Mountain Laurel

Though mountain laurel can be grown in deep shade, it prefers moderate to partial shade and will flower more with a little bit of filtered sunlight. Once you see this shrub flower, you’ll understand why you want to encourage more blooms. The large clusters of tea cup-shaped flowers can be purple, pink, or white, and are contrasted by the glossy, dark green leaves. This shrub is not necessarily compact, as it can spread anywhere from 5 to 15 feet tall and wide, so plant it in an area that allows for growth. Be sure to give it properly acidic soil by fertilizing with a granular, acid-specific fertilizer annually. Hardy in zones 5 to 9.

Rhodendron and Azaela

Perhaps one of the most well-known shade-loving shrubs, rhododendron are characterized by their spectacular spring blooms as well as their fantastic second showing in late summer. Azaleas are in the same family as the rhododendron but are usually smaller and a little less flamboyant. Keep both of these plants in part shade or filtered sun, and be sure to give them an acid-specific fertilizer or use pine-straw mulch to help keep important acid in the soil. When it comes to color choices, these closely-related plants don’t disappoint, coming in lavender, pink, white, purple, yellow, rose, and bicolor, to name just a few. Remember, both have shallow root systems, so it is crucial to plant them somewhere where they won’t be competing for nutrients and water with other shallowly rooted shrubs or trees. Be sure to water deeply and regularly to keep the soil moist, but plant in a well-draining area to avoid root rot. Hardy in zones 4-9.


Unlike many of the other shade-loving shrubs on this list, camelia bloom in the winter, all the way from fall to late spring. These delicate shrubs are great for containers and flourish with proper pruning in spring right after the plant has stopped blooming. Enjoy evergreen foliage and a wide variety of color options to help complement your other winter blooms. Hardy in zones 7-9.

-Susan Patterson

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