If you have a garden graced by shade, chances are you’re always on the hunt for beautiful plants that work with a smidge less sun. Luckily, several flowering shrubs do beautifully in border gardens and areas where the shade of your home or forest dampens the sunlight. We’ve gathered nineteen varieties for you here. Hopefully, one or more of these is just the sort of plant you’re looking to add to your shady spot.
Nineteen Flowering Shrubs For The Shade
Rhodendron (Rhododendron) is a woody evergreen shrub from the heath family. They’re known for their attractive foliage and masses of blooms occurring in late spring or early summer. These shrubs are numerous in the eastern US’s mountainous regions and the Pacific Northwest’s wooded areas. They are related to the azalea.
Rhododendrons like shade, moist soil, and fairly acidic soil. Many varieties do well with very little care at all when planted in the right location.
Hydrangea (Hydrangea) translates to the meaning “water pitcher.” Lore has it that the name was given in the original Greek because the flower’s shape resembles a water pitcher. These decisions shrubs produce masses of blooms in a wide variety of colors throughout the summer. Varieties are available as vines, trees, and most commonly as landscaping shrubs. They make a beautiful hedge when planted together, though they do lose their leaves over winter.
Hydrangeas need partial shade but can tolerate more sun than some of the shrubs on this list. They’re hardy in USDA Zones 4-9 and do well in all types of soil.
3. Mountain Laurel
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is a broad-leafed evergreen in the heather family. It’s common in the mountainous areas of the Eastern US and can be found from Maine all the way down into north Florida. The blooms are beautiful with white and pink variations. They typically come out in early summer.
They like partial shade, rich and acidic soil, and a fair amount of moisture. These shrubs are deer and rabbit resistant, so a good choice if you battle with your local wildlife over plants.
4. Japanese Rose
Japanese Rose (Kerria japonica), also known as Japanese Marigold, is a deciduous shrub in the rose family. In the spring, they bloom with masses of double yellow flowers that resemble rose blossoms. They’re fast-growing and can reach 8- to 10-feet tall rather quickly. They love the partial shade, are easy to care for and do fine with rain or watering once a week.
Camellia (Camellia japonica) is an evergreen shrub that’s a much-loved favorite in the southern US. It blooms in early spring when not much else is blooming and adds color to what might otherwise be considered a dreary landscape. You can find blooms in red, white, and pinks with sizes from 2-inches to 5-inches in diameter.
Most camellias prefer shade to part-shade with some protection from winter winds. Camellias grow best in well-drained soils with high organic matter and slightly acidic (pH 5.5 – 6.5) soil. They are slow to grow and slow to establish but are long-living plants in the landscape.
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a large multi-stemmed shrub with showy white flower clusters in mid-summer followed by juicy, blue-black fruits. Plants best used for naturalizing or as a back of the border hedge. The fruit has become quite popular as an immune system booster and can be found in tonics, supplements, and cough drops.
Elderberry likes full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. It particularly thrives in acid or alkaline soils. It’s hardy from USDA Zones 3-9.
Sweetspire (Itea) has fragrant blooming foliage that includes draping white flowers in the spring. It is a low maintenance shrub that is super for areas where you want a blooming mass. It’s a favorite of butterflies when it blooms and of birds when its berries appear.
Sweetspire likes moist soil, though it can tolerate some dry periods and full to partial sun. In autumn, its foliage will change colors providing even more radiance for your garden.
Philadelphus (Philadelphus) is more commonly known as mock orange. This shrub produces amazingly fragrant blossoms reminiscent of the blooms of citrus trees, thus the common name. It has a fountain shape, with loose arching branches and oval, soft green leaves. The blooms come in late spring and last for several weeks.
Mock orange likes full sun to partial shade, and though it prefers an average moisture soil, it can tolerate some dry spells without damage. Plant it close to your home or pathways, so you don’t miss out on its incredible fragrance.
9. Callicarpa Dichotoma
Callicarpa dichotoma (Callicarpa dichotoma) is also known as beautyberry or early amethyst. It’s a small, rounded, deciduous shrub that typically grows 2- to 4-feet tall and is primarily included in the landscape for its showy fall display of lilac-violet fruit. Long, arching, slender branches dip downward often to touch the ground. Beautyberry is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil, and full sun to part shade.
Weigela (Weigela florida) is a rounded, deciduous shrub that grows to 6- to 10-feet tall and may spread to 12-feet wide. The branches on mature shrubs tend to arch toward the ground and look slightly messy. The funnel-shaped, rose-pink flowers bloom profusely in spring and are a hummingbird attractant. Sometimes a repeat bloom will occur in mid to late summer.
Weigel is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils. Needs full sun for best flowering and foliage color but will tolerate some light or sun-dappled shade.
Forsythia (Forsythia) has an early spring flower, which is why people love this shrub. Flowers are profuse and open before the leaves emerge on the plant. With a mild winter, the bloom may occur as early as late January but usually occurs in early March. The yellow flower color varies with varieties, ranging from very pale to deep yellow.
The ideal soil for forsythia is loose and well-drained, although it will tolerate almost any soil condition. Forsythia should be planted in full sun for maximum flowering but can tolerate partial shade. It grows quite large and leggy, so be sure it has room to spread out wherever it’s planted.
Viburnum (Viburnum) is a relative of the weigela plant. They vary in height, spread, and style of flower. While most flowers are unscented, those that have fragrance are delightful. The fruit is often also of visual interest, with red, to dark purple to black berries, which serve as a food source for birds.
Viburnum likes partial shade and consistently moist but well-draining conditions. There are different species of viburnum to grown in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3-8.
13. Spirea Japonica
Spirea Japonica (Spirea japonica), also known as Japanese meadowsweet, is a deciduous shrub from the Rosacea family. It gets gorgeous pink blooms from June to July, attracts oodles of butterflies, and is deer-resistant. (More on that here: How To Stop Deer From Eating My Flowers? [5 Proven Tactics].)
Spirea grows to 6-feet tall and will spread as wide as 7-feet tall, making it a great plant for borders or the back of a perennial bed. This one actually flowers best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade as well. It’s low maintenance and likes a medium moist soil.
Daphne (Daphne) shrubs are perhaps best known for their incredible fragrance. Like forsythia, they bloom in late winter or early spring when not much else is going on in the garden.
Daphne is hardy from USDA Zones 6-9, and depending upon the species, it can tolerate full sun or partial shade. Make sure to choose the right one for your location. Most are evergreens, and most get not much larger than 4-feet in both height and spread.
Azaleas are related to rhododendrons (Rhododendron) and come in thousands of varieties. The deciduous varieties are the hardiest and can grow as high as USDA Zones 3 or 4. Evergreen varieties are best in Zone 6 or warmer. They also come in various heights, with the smallest azalea shrubs getting no larger than about a foot and some taller varieties growing as high as 20-feet tall.
Azaleas like a well-drained, humus-rich, slightly acidic soil. They require little care but do need watering during times of dryness or drought. Deer do love azalea, so if you have a bunch of deer around, you’ll need to regularly spray these shrubs with repellant.
Ninebark (Physocarpus) is another shrub in the larger Rosacea family. Ninebark is a cold-hardy tough shrub suitable for mixed borders. Pinkish-white flower clusters bloom in late spring. The seed capsules and exfoliating bark add to the seasonal interest of the plant. The foliage of different cultivars varies in size and color. The leaves range from purple to lime green.
This plant is hardy from USDA Zones 2-7 and does best in sun to light shade, planted in well-draining soil. It grows quite large with arching branches reaching from 7- to 10-feet tall.
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), also known as sweet pepperbush, is a shrub with spikey, peppery smelling bottlebrush style flowers. It blooms in late summer from July to August. It’s a big hit with pollinators, and you’ll find bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds frequently coming to visit this shrub when in bloom.
It’s a highly adaptable plant and can grow in USDA Zones 3-9. It grows about 7-feet to 8-feet in both height and width, so be sure it has the space to spread out. It can be grown in the sun to partial shade and loves moist soil. It will need to be watered during dry spells.
18. Bottlebrush Buckeye
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is a regal shrub with long fluffy white flower clusters that bloom in early July. It’s useful as an understory planting in wooded gardens or a shrub border. Its dark green leaves turn a rich buttery yellow in the fall. This is a large shrub that will grow twice as broad as it is high, so keep that in mind when picking out the location for it.
This shrub works in USDA Zones 4-8. It likes partial shade with at least four to six hours of light daily. It does well in all types of soils. As for growth, though it gets quite large, it tends to be a bit of a slow grower.
19. Japanese Pieris
Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica) is also known as Japanese Andromeda. It’s noted for its bronzed foliage and showy floral buds that mature in late summer and are attractive in fall and winter, and showy white (or pink) inflorescences that bloom in late winter to early spring.
Japanese Pieris prefers full sun to partial shade. It tolerates moist, well-drained, acidic soil enriched with organic matter. It is intolerant of wet soils and needs protection from winter winds. Be careful with this plant, though. It’s highly poisonous to humans and can cause all sorts of problems if ingested, running the gamut from nausea to cardiac arrest and death.
We love all of these beautiful shrubs because if you choose and plant correctly, you can have blooms all year round. And if you’re like us, you love all of that color in your garden!
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