Shrubs That Need Little Sunlight

Updated July 19, 2017

Areas of shade may be a problem for many gardeners, but with a little effort, shade gardening can be rewarding. Once established, shade gardens have fewer weeds, are easily maintained and can provide a garden retreat filled with colour and fragrance. While most shrubs require sunlight to grow and produce flowers, there are quite a few shrubs that tolerate or prefer partial and even full shade.

Japanese Rose

This shrub isn't a true rose plant, but a fast-growing perennial shrub that will reach a height of 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Vibrant yellow flowers bloom along arching branches in the spring in partial or even full shade. Japanese rose is a deciduous shrub that needs regular watering, especially during the hot summer months.

Growing from zones 4 to 9, this shrub is beautiful paired with spiraea. Prune in late winter to shape and encourage new spring growth. Feed with an all-purpose fertiliser when the flowers bloom in spring and at regular intervals throughout the growing season.

Scarletta Fetterbush

This low-growing shrub only reaches 24 inches tall but spreads to 4 feet wide. Scarletta Fetterbush prefers consistently moist soil and does well near a garden stream or a wet area in your landscape. This shrub will reward you with beautiful reddish-purple leaves throughout the fall and winter. White flowers bloom in the spring. Scarletta Fetterbush thrives in zones 5 to 8 and prefers slightly acidic soil. This plant does not need to be pruned and propagation is prohibited.

Japanese Skimmia

This evergreen shrub grows to 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide in partial or full shade. Fragrant clusters of white flowers bloom in the spring. Japanese Skimmia grows from zones 7 to 9 and needs consistently moist soil. This shrub thrives under a canopy of trees or in a woodland setting. Spread a thick layer of mulch around Japanese Skimmia to help the soil retain moisture. Though both the male and the female plant produce flowers, the female shrub also bears bright red berries in the fall as long as a male plant is located nearby. Prune to shape in the spring after your Japanese Skimmia has flowered.


Rhododendron's profuse blooms lighten up even full shade in the spring. This evergreen shrub grows from zones 5 to 9 and needs well-drained but moist, acidic soil. Rhododendron flowers can be shades of white, yellow, pink or red. The large frilly flowers are similar to azalea and the plants are related.

Though they tolerate full shade, rhododendrons flower better in filtered shade. Mulch heavily around your plant to protect Rhododendron's shallow roots. Fertilise with azalea/rhododendron food in early summer. Prune away spent flowers to encourage next year flowers production.

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About the Author

Shawna Kennedy has been writing and editing professionally since 2004. She's published numerous articles online and two of her edited manuscripts have been contracted and published by Random House.