What Plants Grow Well in Shade?

Published on May 19, 2021

Every gardener wants to make the most of the space in their garden plot. What can you do with shaded areas in your garden? What to do with a garden that is largely shady?

Don’t give up hope! Many people enjoy plenty of success in the garden without the typical south-facing garden with full sunlight. Of course, shade gardening takes a bit more patience and openness to experiment. If you have a garden that is mostly sunny but has some shady corners, or if your whole plot is shady, you’ve got some great options.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to show some patience with your plants and expect a longer growing season than you would with full sun. Any plant that prefers full sun won’t mature as fast in the shade. You also may want to start some of these seeds indoors, so they can get the benefit of bright light to germinate and get established before you transplant them.

If you have an area that gets 3-6 hours of direct sunlight and dappled sun the rest of the day, that’s enough light to grow some of our favorite shade-loving plants. Here are a few of our favorites for you to try in your garden.

Shade garden herbs can also be grown indoors in containers. These herbs taste so much better picked fresh from the garden and are much less expensive than buying them at premium prices from the grocery store.

  • Parsley 
  • Cilantro
  • Basil can also do well in a shady spot, but keep in mind that it will grow slower than it would in full sun.

Vegetables that do well include green leafy vegetables that you typically grow in fall or spring might struggle in the full sunlight of a hot summer. This makes them ideal candidates for experimenting in the shade during the summertime. Our picks for vegetables to grow in shady spots:

Shade Flowers can add some color to a gloomy patch of the garden and bring your favorite pollinators around. It’s such a joy to see something flowering in a spot that you’d given up as hopeless. We suggest you try these varieties:

Pay attention to how your plants are doing. If it seems like something isn’t thriving in a spot that gets 4 hours of sunlight, but the neighboring plants that get a little more light are doing well, take note and adjust as needed. If you are growing in a container garden, you may be able to move your plants or rotate them over time to give them more access to sunlight. Make the most of the light you do have by painting any fences or walls white or a light color to help reflect more light onto your plants.

When you are looking for a potential garden plot, take a little time to observe how much sunlight hits the various areas of the garden. As the sun moves through the day, the shadows fall at different angles. If you have a lot of leafy trees, don’t forget to factor that in. An area that’s sunny in the winter might be shady in the summer. Don’t give up on your dreams of having a thriving garden just because you don’t get 8 hours of sunlight all year round. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with a little bit of knowledge, patience, and persistence.

Written by Teresa Chandler
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