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Flowering Shrubs for Shade

Updated on October 20, 2014
Camellia | Source

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

This is an azalea growing in a pot in my own garden.
This is an azalea growing in a pot in my own garden. | Source

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 thunbergii

Berberis thunbergii 'Orange Rocket' - orange foliage in summer and bright red in winter
Berberis thunbergii 'Orange Rocket' - orange foliage in summer and bright red in winter | Source

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.

Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs
Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

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.

Camellia Japonica

I think this is a perfect flower - the beautiful camellia japonica
I think this is a perfect flower - the beautiful camellia japonica | Source

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 Alnifolia
Clethra Alnifolia | Source

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 Japonica

A fatsia Japonica which can grow much bigger than the example shown here.
A fatsia Japonica which can grow much bigger than the example shown here. | Source

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 inodorum 'Magical Passion'
Hypericum inodorum 'Magical Passion' | Source

Hypericum - Yellow Flowers

Hypericum calycinum

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 dictyota
Mahonia dictyota | Source

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.

Rhododendron Ponticum

Rhododendron Ponticum
Rhododendron Ponticum

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.

Shady Areas in Your Garden

Do you have a problem finding plants for an area of shade?

See results

Do you have any suggestions?

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    • Stazjia profile imageAUTHOR

      Carol Fisher 

      4 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      @LisaAuch1: Good luck with the addition to your garden. I hope you find it fun getting it the way you want it. I love the challenge of planting up a new garden or sprucing up and improving an existing one.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 

      4 years ago from Scotland

      Squeal! so glad I found your page, I have just bought land at the back of our house....well it has a few trees in it! we cannot take them down due to us being in a conservation area and 2 of the trees have preservation orders on them :) I am attempting to find plants I can grow! I have a few azaleas and Rhododendrons stated off in pots! can't wait to see how it all turns out

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 

      5 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      No suggestions, but half of my garden is very shady. I have difficulty persuading plants to grow there. I did have a beautiful dicentra (Bleeding Heart) for several years but it completely vanished without trace this year. I can only assume a passing alien took a fancy to it and beamed it up.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      not really. but i am really in love with rhododendron...

    • allaneaglesham lm profile image

      allaneaglesham lm 

      5 years ago

      A very beautiful lens! A bit confusing for me because I am torn between the different shrubs!!

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 

      5 years ago

      I'm not so sure about Earthjustice. Some of these organizations (especially Sierra Club) are anti-people. Recommend Nature Conservancy instead. Beautiful lens! Thank you for sharing.

    • absolutelycreat profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful! thanks for sharing. Nice lens.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      6 years ago from United States

      Wishing you a year of many new blessings starting with this one! Happy New Year!

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for your suggestion about flowering shrubs for shade. I think it will really help me.

    • RyanBlock profile image


      6 years ago

      I liked the lens, one suggestion I do have is a Rugosa Rose Flowering shrub. Its like a very hardy wild rose.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      6 years ago from UK

      I need to bookmark this page. I'm not much of a gardener but I do love to look out at flowering shrubs. I have some sun, some partial shade, and some full shade... I also think I have acid soil as I have a rhododendron that's doing beautifully (shame about everything else). Thanks for nudging me towards some other lovely flowering shrubs to brighten up my borders.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      6 years ago from Ljubljana

      No, no suggestions here. I have tried with different sorts of plants in shade and there was no success. It's good to see you are doing much better job:)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      6 years ago

      I have several azaleas in the shade but they don't bloom as well as the ones in the sun.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      6 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Since my climate is dry and we're in an official drought, I have used a Berberis which is doing well. I plan to try Hypericum which would look nice next to it. Thank you for the great suggestions and info.

    • infiniti99 lm profile image

      infiniti99 lm 

      6 years ago

      I'm a landscaper in Massachusetts and deal with many shade loving plants.We love our Rhodo's clethra and Berberis.Very nice lens thank you for sharing

    • SoSimplyStephanie profile image


      6 years ago from DeFuniak Springs

      Nice lens and what a lovely azalea you have! I love camellias and have been considering planting them along the front side of my house since that side only gets a a few hours of early morning sun.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks so much for this excellent lens. We live in Massachusetts in a house that faces North, so our entire front lawn is in shade. We love our rhododendrons but I have been looking for some other pretty flowering shrubs to join them. This information is very helpful, and the images are lovely!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Brilliant lens. I sometimes need recommendations on shade-loving plants, and this lens fits the bill perfectly. One shrub that you may want to add to the lens is the 'Flame Of The Forest'. Though I know it's not strictly a flowering shrub, many people think it is, because the new growth in spring comes out in bright red.

    • ferginarg lm profile image

      ferginarg lm 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for this lens, It's awesome, As a very young fellow I worked on a plant nursery in the bottom south island of New Zealand and I can remember creating thousands and thousands of cuttings of berberis, azaleas and rhododendrons, the owner invented a special root prompting hormone especially for the rhodies and was a specialist in creating new variety's, it's one of my favorite flowers and plants.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      6 years ago from USA

      Enjoyed reading about these shrubs. I found some useful information and think I might try the potted azalea idea.

    • curious0927 profile image


      6 years ago

      You have done such a beautiful job, no suggestions. Just Praise! Very nice ! Blessed!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like flowers....................

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful lens.......

    • Rangoon House profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      Such beautiful, colourful images on the lens. Pretty enough to make my day!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      6 years ago from California

      Wnat good timing to find this page on flowers that grow in the shade as I just finished getting the soil ready in my new garden. Problem was 1/2 of it gets a lot of shade in the spring and summer so wasn't sure what to plant. Now I know I want the Hypericum, the 6 ft tall ones would be nice :) *AB*

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My yard has lots of shade, and we often have flowers that grow in the shade in our garden. Thanks for more wonderful info!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The first thing my wife missed about leaving Oregon was being able to grow her Rhodies. She managed to save her hybrid Azalea, but it doesn't flower like it used to. You gave me some great ideas for a new shrub for her! Great lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Lovely selection of flowering shrubs. Congratulations on your front page feature :)

    • TennesseeWoodShop profile image


      6 years ago

      Gorgeous pictures.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Keep going. We need more people who support nature.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love the camelias and hypericum!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 

      6 years ago

      Wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Lovely flowers , i m not into buying but enjoyed your lense

    • jlshernandez profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the tips on part shady plants. I have been looking for some to put in bare shady spots in my garden.

    • hirephp lm profile image

      hirephp lm 

      6 years ago

      Wonderful lens thanks for sharing on squidoo

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      wonderful lens thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      magnificent photos!! can't wait until things starting popping up in the yard.

    • MelonyVaughan profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful lens and great tips!

    • earthybirthymum profile image


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great Lense, I can't wait to start my garden, saying goodbye to winter will be bittersweet. We really have not had a good winter it feels like perpetual fall. Many Blessings.

    • BestToysReviews profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful lens. Saved and bookmarked

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Realistically speaking, most gardens will have a shaded area here and there which tend to be omitted or have less attention spent on it as the plants usually do not bear fruits as well or as quickly as it would in an unshaded spot. Using shrubs will up the level on the beauty quotient and ensure the aesthetic appeal of the garden is not limited to spots which have an abundance of sunlight.



    • dahlia369 profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful collection and images. Blessed! :)

    • Candlemakingsup profile image


      7 years ago

      Enjoyed this lens!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi Stazjia,

      I enjoyed reading your lense. I love Azaleas, just wish they would bloom for a longer period.

      N T T

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i need this lens! I just buy random plants at the home center and they die. I have no idea

    • pramodbisht profile image


      7 years ago

      great lens

    • justholidays profile image


      7 years ago

      Camelias are among my favourite garden flowers, however, mine always die before I could even have the chance to look at the splendid white flowers :(

      Blessed by a passing angel on Squidoo.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      great lens. thanks for the beautiful pictures and useful details.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      I have some rhododendrons and I hope this spring we get some good flowering from them. Haven't had much the first 2 years.

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Many of these are favorites of mine because they grow well here in Florida. Great selection.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      I would like to have a garden. Berberis is popular here in Sweden. Little berries when all colors are gone...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful Lens, very helpful, thank you for sharing!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      7 years ago from United States

      Adding a kiss for luck on this St. Patrick's Day!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love Azaleas too. My mom planted them in our yard when I was growing up and now, every time I see them when I'm out and about, I think of her and those beautiful flowers that brightened up our family home!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I love rhodies, azaleas and camellias!

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the info on azaleas and rhododendrons. I'm contemplated putting them in my backyard.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      8 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I have a shady yard, so your lens gave me some ideas for some additional plants that I might plant.

    • Stazjia profile imageAUTHOR

      Carol Fisher 

      8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      @WindyWintersHubs: I'm glad you enjoyed it and thank you for lensrolling it to your excellent lens.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      8 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Enjoyed learning more about these pretty flowering shrubs. Evergreen shrubs add such beauty to your yard in both summer and winter. I love the color of your Azalea. Lensrolling to Lavender Rhododendron lens. Happy Spring! :)

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Beautiful. Lensrolled to my Beautiful Camellias lens and to Dogwoods and Azaleas.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Beautiful lens and flowers

    • Stazjia profile imageAUTHOR

      Carol Fisher 

      9 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      [in reply to cameliawilliam] How sad.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i am a scentless flower.....when your

      not paying attention....i slowly blossom...

      and quietly whither in a miserable way.....

      without notice......i die.......alone

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      9 years ago

      You've been blessed by a Squid Angel, and this lens was included in Another Day of One Hundred Squid Angel Blessings.

    • Clairwil LM profile image

      Clairwil LM 

      9 years ago

      This is an excellent lens. I'm gardening in a partly wooded area and it seems that everything I want to plant needs full sun. I had no idea there were so many interesting shrubs that didn't mind a bit of shade. Well done *****

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 

      9 years ago

      I have some of these in my yard already. Very beautiful lens.

    • Stazjia profile imageAUTHOR

      Carol Fisher 

      9 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      [in reply to aj2008] You need to buy ericaceous compost which is sold for plants that like an acid soil. There's not much point digging it into a garden bed because it soon gets overwhelmed by the natural alkali of the soil but it works in pots as long as you do use sequestered iron on them. That's because the water you use on the pots is probably more alkali than acid too.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have a shady patch in the garden and it has taken ages to find just the right plants for it. I have an azalea that is very poorly at the moment so have put it in a pot but from what I read here I think I need to change the soil and that may do the trick.

      Another excellent lens and Blessings from a grateful Angel!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      OMG, you have certainly found some beautiful flowering shrubs. The berberis looks lovely. We found a nice tangerine orange flowering bush -- not sure what it is -- but when I find out, I'll let you know. Or, better yet -- I'll send you a picture!

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      9 years ago

      Dwarf Rhododendrons are pretty good, very showy but they don't self seed like the larger varieties. I have one in my front garden and meant to take photos of it in the Spring when it was flowering but missed my opportunity. I'll make sure I catch it next year and add it to my gardening lens. Very nice lens. Great choice of plants. I love the way that Berberis Thunbergii Atropurpurea varies in colour with the new Spring growth often being unnaturally pink, through to quite a deep purple. I used to have one in my last garden, it had spines like barbed wire LOL 5*


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