Flowering Shrubs for Shade
Some Flowering Shrubs Will Grow in Shade
Finding species to grow in shade can be difficult as many flowering shrubs demand a position in bright sunlight .
In my last garden I had two big trees growing quite close together. This meant they provided shade over about a quarter of the garden. Luckily it was partial shade so it was possible to find shrubs and other plants to grow nearby.
The bigger problem was that the trees' roots made it a dry area with relatively impoverished soil. The roots just out-competed for water and nutrients. I enriched the soil with compost, horse and chicken manure, blood fish and bone and good thick mulches to retain as much moisture as possible. It's important to remember that the problem is not always lack of sunlight, it can be the soil nutrients and moisture.
The flowering shrubs I suggest are probably not going to do very well in deep, constant shade but they should succeed in partial or dappled shade. Even a few hours sunlight a day can make the difference between success and failure.
Picture: Camellia x williamsii 'Debbie'
Copyright © A. Barra - Creative Commons
Azalea - for Acid Soils - Azalea Flowers Glow Like Beacons
An Azalea Growing in My Garden
I'll begin with a confession. The azalea in the picture was grown in a pot but it did live outside in my last garden. The reason it was kept in a pot was because the county of Wiltshire, where I live, is mostly on chalk and azaleas hate alkali chalk soils. They are only successful in an acid soil.
Nevertheless, azaleas like partial shade as long as you provide the right soil conditions. I wouldn't recommend trying to grow them in an alkali soil and all the messing about that involves. Mostly, because it's usually not very successful. No matter how much sequestered iron you give them, they still don't look happy and end up with rather yellow leaves.
As well as shade, they like a well drained soil and are part of the rhododendron family. They flower profusely in spring and are a particularly welcome sight after the dreariness of winter.
Berberis - Flowers, Berries and Beautiful Leaves
There are many varieties of berberis. According to the variety, they grow to between 2ft and 10ft.
The shrub has yellow flowers in late spring or early summer. Even without its flowers, it is still a great asset with its ornamental foliage and berries in autumn which are good for encouraging birds into your garden.
It is a relatively undemanding shrub as it isn't fussy about the type of soil nor conditions. It doesn't usually need pruning. The yellow flowers and bright berries brighten up any shady spot so this trouble free shrub is also ideal for a novice gardener.
This is the definitive reference book on the subject containing the information most gardeners will need.
A Definitive Encyclopedia for Gardeners - Information on all types of trees and shrubs
I think everybody with a garden needs good reference books on trees and shrubs because they provide the background and bones of your garden.
Shrubs are also usually the longest lasting of everything you grow, apart from trees, and the most expensive to buy.
With reference books like this one you have the information at your fingertips about trees and shrubs.
The Beautiful Camellia - Camellias Love an Acid Soil
This is one of my favourite flowering shrubs because of the sheer beauty of its blossoms.
There are many varieties of camellia and the family includes the tea plant. I am not suggesting, however, that you attempt to set up a tea plantation in your backyard! I think you should choose a variety famous for its flowers.
Nobody is certain exactly how many varieties of camellia there are - perhaps up to 250. They vary from small shrubs, growing to just 2ft, up to large trees attaining heights of 60ft. If you buy a camellia, check its expected height and spread first.
You can grow camellias in the sun but they prefer light shade. Like the azalea, they insist on an acid soil and they need plenty of water. These aren't suitable to grow in dry places at all.
Flowers vary from pure white to dark red with all shades in between.
Clethra - Spikes of Flowers
The clethra can vary from a shrub of 8ft to a tree of 25ft, depending on the variety.
This is another shrub that demands acid soil. It likes some moisture, so it's not suitable for dry conditions, and it likes light shade so don't put it in a very dark spot.
Luckily, it doesn't need pruning so that's one thing less to worry about.
It produces its spikes of fragrant white flowers in late summer to autumn (fall). You can find both deciduous and evergreen varieties.
Fatsia - An Architectural Plant
As you can see, the flower on the fatsia isn't stunningly beautiful, or not in a conventional way. The whole shrub, including its flowers, presents a lovely architectural form in the garden and injects a little drama into what might be a boring part of your garden.
The fatsia isn't fussy about the type of garden soil. Although it looks tender, it is fully hardy in temperate climates and it flourishes in shady positions. It eventually can attain the height of about 6ft.
Hypericum - Yellow Flowers
There are many varieties of hypericum and they range in height from 1ft to 6ft.
The hypericum produces its large, showy, yellow flowers from spring through to autumn. It is charmingly unfussy about its conditions. It will grow in any kind of soil and flourishes in shade. If only more shrubs were like hypericum, a gardener's life would be easier!
Colourful Plants for Shade
Mahonia or Is It Berberis?
As experts can't agree whether the mahonia is a separate genus from berberis (see above), I'm going to leave the question unanswered. Whatever the experts say, most people will call the 70+ varieties of this shrub mahonia or know what you mean, if you do so.
Depending on the variety, they range from about 1ft to 12ft in height. They are grown as much for their glossy, evergreen foliage as for their yellow flowers, produced in winter to early spring. Care needs to be taken when pruning because the leaves are prickly. The mahonia produces beautiful blue to blackberries which are said to be edible although I've never eaten any.
It will thrive in full or partial shade and likes well drained soil.
Rhododendrons - The Big Hollywood Star of Shrubs
I love rhododendrons although living in Wiltshire with its alkali soil means I've never been able to grow them. They are part of the same family as azaleas and, as for them, an acid soil is essential.
The many kinds of rhododendron flowers come in a range of colours from white through to fuchsia pink and deep red and appear in spring when the shrubs are covered in a mass of blossom. Height varies from 2ft to 30ft. They are evergreen and flourish in full or partial shade. In fact, rhododendrons can flourish so well that they are driving out native plants from some areas because their spread is so relentless.
Read About Plants for Shade - What do gardening experts suggest for shady places?
I have only made a few suggestions for shrubs that will do well in shade or partial shade but a garden usually needs more than shrubs.
Check out this book written by experts which list many plants, as well as more shrubs, that will grow well in your shady garden.