If you have ever considered shade-loving plants for your garden, this year is the perfect time to jump in!
Gardeners often talk about growing sun-loving tomatoes and heat-basking basils. But what if your garden doesn’t receive much sunlight?
Thankfully, not all plants need a full day of baking in the hot sun to thrive. From herbs and vegetables to shade-loving plants that flower, there are countless possibilities for gardening in the shade!
Why Shade-Loving Plants?
There are many reasons to add shade-loving plants to your yard or garden. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Shade-tolerant plants are an excellent landscaping option for yards with lots of trees.
- Grow shade-loving plants under trellises in the garden to get the most out of your space. While your cucumbers are vining up over the trellis, spinach will grow happily below.
- Shade-loving plants allow those less tolerant of the sun to get out in the garden.
- Shade-loving plants that flower are great for attracting beneficial insects and other pollinators.
These Shade-loving vegetables and herbs are also tasty and nutritious. I love adding them throughout my garden to maximize my growing space and attract pollinators.
How Shady is the Garden?
Before I share some of my favorite plants to grow in shady spots, we need to consider how much sunlight a garden site receives each day. Creating a sun map is an easy way to do this.
A sun map helps you visualize sun exposure in various locations of your yard. I teach you how to make a sun map in my Gardening Basics class. In general, sites will fall into one of these three categories:
- Full Shade – Less than three hours of direct sunlight.
- Partial Shade – Anywhere from three to six hours of direct sun exposure.
- Full Sun – Six hours or more of direct sunlight.
Taking the time to create a sun map made a big difference in my past gardens’ success. It’s an excellent way to get to know the land better, too.
And what I found is that places I thought were too shady for a garden actually had much more sun than I realized.
How Much Shade is too Much?
Most plants need some sunlight to thrive. Densely shaded areas such as those found under a thick canopy of trees or next to walls and fences can be too shady for most plants that you want to cultivate.
I would avoid planting in these areas. Instead, focus your energy on areas of the garden that get three or more hours of direct or filtered sunlight per day.
Experienced gardeners are probably familiar with these shade-loving vegetables. Most of them prefer cooler temperatures and also do well in container gardens.
Lettuce is an easy-to-grow vegetable for beginners. Although it tolerates full sun in cooler temperatures, I’ve found that it grows best with morning sun and afternoon shade.
Celery adds a lovely crunch to summertime salads. Like lettuce, it can tolerate full sun but prefers cooler temperatures. Plant celery in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade to protect it from the midday heat.
Arugula is a leafy green with a tangy, slightly bitter flavor. Plant it in a spot that gets either direct light in the morning or late afternoon. Too much sun and heat can wilt these delicate leaves.
Green onions are like chives. Both deliciously garnish soups and salads perfectly. Although green onions enjoy a sunny spot in the garden, they’ll do just as well (if not better) with a break from direct sun during midday.
Spinach is another excellent vegetable to grow in shady spots. I’ve found that full sun is too much for spinach in our area. It’s a perfect plant for sites that only receive morning or late afternoon light.
Cold-hardy broccoli grows well when given a break from midday heat—especially as temperatures begin to rise. You may find that planting broccoli in full to partial shade extends its growing season since too much heat can make it taste bitter.
Swiss chard is another leafy green that tolerates shade well. It is slightly crunchier than spinach and adds fresh color to salads. It is easy to grow in partial shade and loose, well-draining soil.
These small root vegetables have a slightly peppery taste. The leafy tops can be added to salads or sauteed with other veggies. Radishes prefer cooler temperatures and will do well in an area that gets less than six hours of direct sun exposure.
Beets will appreciate a shady spot in the garden. Like radishes, you can eat both the root and leafy greens. Plant beets in partial shade, allowing the plants to take in either morning or late afternoon sun.
Peas are easy to grow and naturally fix nitrogen into the soil, which benefits neighboring plants. Like many cold-weather vegetables, peas seem to do well in a partially shaded area of the garden. Since they tend to stop producing pods when it gets too warm, keeping them shaded from the midday sun is your best bet.
Kale is often grown in spring and fall gardens. Yet, given a shady spot, kale can produce tender, nutritious leaves all summer long. Try growing kale under trellises where afternoon shade is plentiful.
Experiment with growing these (and other) shade-loving vegetables in your garden throughout the growing season. You might be surprised at what you can grow in areas you thought to be too shady.
These five shade-loving herbs are just a few of my favorites to grow in the garden.
A culinary and medicinal shade-loving herb with refreshing flavor, mint prefers moist, well-draining soil. Growing mint in an area that gets afternoon shade helps to keep the ground from drying out too quickly—and your mint plants happy!
I always let some of my chives go to flower just to see their pretty blooms. In cooler climates, chives can tolerate full sun. But, they’ll do just fine growing in partial shade where summer days get quite hot.
The fresh aroma of cilantro is reason enough to grow this shade-loving herb. Since cilantro leaves are thin, take care to shade them from the midday sun. Doing so will help keep them thrive throughout the hot summer.
A member of the mint family, lemon balm is another lovely addition to the garden. It spreads quickly when planted directly in the garden and prefers consistently moist soil. Protect the lemony-scented leaves from direct sun in places with sweltering summers.
The two most common parsley varieties—flat-leaf and curled—both grow well in partially shaded areas. While flat-leaf parsley thrives in hotter temperatures, curled parsley does not. It tends to become a slow grower without some relief from the midday sun.
Herbs are quite versatile. You can grow herbs indoors, in containers on your porch, or out in the garden among your vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
Shade-loving plants that flower are excellent landscaping options for shady yards. Try growing these flowering plants in partial to full shade in your yard or garden this growing season.
Although also considered a medicinal herb, bee balm is often grown to attract pollinators. It is a lovely flowering plant with blooms ranging in color from red to lavender. Bee balm will thrive in partial shade.
If you are looking for easy-to-grow, shade-loving plants that flower, I highly recommend hostas. But different varieties need varying amounts of direct light. You’ll find everything you need to know about hostas on the American Hosta Society website.
A traditional cottage garden favorite, foxgloves are a perfect fit where height and color are desired.
These stately flowers prefer moist, well-draining soil and can grow in a wide range of light conditions, from full sun to full shade. And in warmer climates, they definitely appreciate a break from the afternoon sun.
To some, deadnettle is considered a weed. But if you are looking for a versatile, shade-loving plant that flowers to act as a ground cover, this plant is for you. Deadnettle spreads quickly and prefers partial to full shade. Enjoy this herbaceous perennial in containers to prevent it from overtaking other plants in the garden.
Another excellent shade-loving perennial is lungwort. Red, violet, blue, pink, or white flowers bloom in the spring. Much like these other shade-loving flowers, lungwort prefers a moist, well-draining site in partial shade. It also makes an attractive groundcover option for shady areas.
Shade-loving plants that flower are lovely to include in landscaping projects. They’re also beneficial planted around the garden for the bees and butterflies.
Plants Possibilities Abound
There are countless ways to incorporate shade-loving plants around your yard or garden. I love experimenting with them to find new spaces and combinations to grow around our homestead.
Whether you are looking to tuck a few spinach plants beneath a trellis of cucumbers or want to dress up shaded areas of your yard with hostas or lungwort, these plants can help!
Which shade-loving plants will you grow this season?