Deep shade shrubs?

liltingbelle(4/5 - Minnesota)May 7, 2004

I need suggestions for smallish/medium sized shrubs that will do well in FULL shade. This is too fill up a corner in a north foundation planting, so the only sun this plant will get is indirect ambient light - NO direct sun AT ALL.

(I understand that this will rule out many flowering shrubs - I can live with that. I'd love some suggestions for something with interesting foliage, berries, bark, etc. Because it's a dark corner, something with lighter or variegated foliage would nice.)

I currently have a snowberry/coralberry planted there, but it's too invasive for me - it has actually managed to push its way through the porch wall, and sends out all sorts of suckers. So I'm pulling that out and looking for a replacement. Any ideas?

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clairabelle(z4 Quebec)

I have 2 aruncus dioicus (Goat's beard) in my back yard next to shed. Full shade. Flowers every year.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2004 at 8:25PM
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liltingbelle(4/5 - Minnesota)

Thanks Clairabelle, goat's beard is lovely, and a shrub I wasn't familiar with. However, the links I've found with information about it say that it should be given plenty of room to grow, as it spreads by creeping rhizomes - the same thing that's causing me to rip out the snowberry I've currently got in that spot. Has yours spread much? How big does it get when mature?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2004 at 9:55PM
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dentaybow(Z3A MN)

Goatsbeard isn't a shrub.....just a perennial. In zone 3 it sure is not invasive.

Most of the currants/gooseberry shrubs (Ribes) will do o.k. in shade. Many varieties to choose from. If you have white pine in the within a mile, don't plant it since it is the alternate host for White Pine Blister rust. If no White Pine are around it is good shrub for shady areas.

You might want to think about perennials for that shady nook. Goatsbeard was mentioned. Astilbe, Aconitum, Ligularias and Old Fashion Bleeding Hearts will all do fine in shade. Ligularias would be my choice since some have very dramatic leaf color.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2004 at 11:06PM
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Yews and boxwoods can stand full shade, and they are quite tough. They also can come in a variety of growing habits, so you can chose the one that best fits your situation. Hostas can stand full shade also, and their leaves come in many colours, from yellow to bright green and also they can be variegated with white and green and other combinations.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2004 at 8:05AM
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liltingbelle(4/5 - Minnesota)

Thanks for the ideas so far - please keep 'em coming.

I'm open to a perennial there, but it would need to be a substantial one - this is a corner that's already surrounded by perennials (penstemon, pulmonaria, astilbe, hosta, physostegia), and I need something fairly tall and wide enough to fill the corner and balance/anchor the perennials in front of it. I'd also like something that has some winter interest, since everything else near it pretty much dies to the ground in winter. That's why I was thinking a shrub would be better than a perennial.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2004 at 10:17AM
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cindra(z5b Ont)

Here are a few that might work in your situation and they offer flowers also

Mapleleaf viburnum
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Summersweet Clethra (Clethra alnifolia)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2004 at 10:07PM
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I've been looking for the same thing for along the north side of my house, and would really like something evergreen.
I'd highly recommend any variety of pieris--they are slow growing, but beautiful flowers in spring, and evergreen. Mine are also quite hardy.
I'm looking for something else as well.
Does anyone know how the following will do in full shade?
mexican orange
heavenly bamboo
Also, what species of rhodo will work in full shade?
And, what is the best boxwood for a mounding (but tall) habit (ie not upright).

    Bookmark   May 19, 2004 at 8:21PM
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MarieEve(2b SK)

My favourite small shrub for shade is the Annabelle Hydrangea. It is a hardy shrub that gets large white flowerheads (last year's blooms were 8" across) in the summer. In zone 4/5, you would likely not even have much die-back.

I grow mine in a full shade spot Saskatchewan garden and it comes back faithfully every year. Because it dies mostly to the ground, mine reaches a high of only 2 1/2 to 3ft each year, but the huge blooms are so worth it! (I use a modified peony ring for the first 10 inches because the blooms are quite heavy.)

A caveat: I have tried growing it in a raised bed, and the roots can't handle our winter. It needs a spot out of the winter winds.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2004 at 12:08PM
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euka(ottawa (zone 4))

really? Boxwood in full shade? Haleluja!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2004 at 4:12PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Goat's beard gets fairly large. I had one that was about 6' tall and spread quite wide after a few years, but that was in full sun. Its a beautiful shrub!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2004 at 7:31PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Honeysuckle bushes grow well in shade too. I see them in the woods all the time.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 8:11AM
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Treaty(z5 Niagara Fall)

I have some toad lilies growing in full shade...they are two years old now and getting to be a nice size. The small but unusual flowers come in quite a variety of colors.....I have cream with a mauve stripe down the center, blue with burgundy polka dots and cream with burgundy poldka dots. I do have the botanical names if needed just not at my fingertips right now. I noticed a verigated leaf one growing and for the life of me I can't remember planting it so it will be a wonderful suprise when it blooms.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 7:30PM
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some of the viburnums
some arborvitae
canadian hemlock
some yews

Your state's Extension Service will have additional information:


Here is a link that might be useful: Database of zone 4-hardy plants with criteria search

    Bookmark   June 11, 2004 at 8:10AM
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darlene87(z7 Wa)

If you want some seeds of Cherry Laurel, I have some. They grow well in shade, but check if they are ok for your zone. Here in Wa., leaves all yr. round, flower in spring, and seeds in fall. Sell seeds on the ground, so baby plants, or shrubs to give away. Never feritilze either.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 3:47AM
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Thank you thank you thank you all. I have hope. Anymore suggestions for zone 7 deep shade.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 4:20PM
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cwodrich(Zone 5 Indiana)


Check out the following publication/link:

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 1:26PM
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I have Mock Orange growing on the North side of my house with beautiful whie fragrant flowers every year.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2005 at 9:36PM
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shapiro(5a Ontario)

Lilting Belle: There is a big, big difference between shade with moisture and shade with little or no moisture. For instance, Astilbe, Ligularias, Old Fashion Bleeding Hearts and the beautiful Goose-neck Lysimachia or Lysimachia clethroides - they do well in shade BUT it has to be shade with moist soil. So determine what kind of shade you have: dry shade or moist shade. THEN make your selection. I have moist shade (luckily) and the shrub that I grow is Clethra Alnifolia - with late summer white wands of flowers that smell exactly like bubble gum.
Dry shade is very, very difficult.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 10:12PM
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All I can add is Ivory Halo dogwood. VERY VERY Nice!!!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 1:23PM
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Here's a link to the best full shade shrub!

Here is a link that might be useful: Best Full Shade Shrub

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 4:15PM
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cfpfox(5 close to 4)

There should never be a problem with lack of a reasonable amount of moisture in any garden according to my perennial guy. He advised to plant a large bolus of soaked peat moss below any new planting. The peat should be soaked for a couple days with as much water as it will absorb. The planting hole should be deep enough to bury the peat, cover with some regular soil and then add the plant. He claimed that if a garden is properly prepared and planted it should never need watering!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 11:34AM
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A great native plant is American spikenard (Aralia racemosa). It's a perennial that acts like a shrub and fills space beautifully with its loose, spreading habit. For pictures and more information, go here:

Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Botanical Garden

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 9:36AM
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There are many things that will bloom in the shade. My favorite three are Rhododendrums,azealas, and wintergreen. They first two need acid soil. The last does well under my deck in poor soil (clay and rock). I have never ferilized it. I do have to fertilze the the firt two. I use pine needle mulch. It provides enough acidity to the soil without using an chemicals. If you don't have that available Miracle Grow makes a special fertilizer for acidic loving plants.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 12:17PM
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I have an eye on flowering raspberry for more or less the same criteria. I want a small shrub that can take shade and blooms. You do need to prune the canes, but it is supposed to be quite manageable in shady situations.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flowering raspberry at MOBot

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 4:16PM
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mistascott(7A VA)

This thread has been particularly helpful for me in researching deep shade perennials. One that I haven't seen mentioned here yet is Polemonium (Jacob's Ladder) which loves full shade and produces purple flowers.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:16AM
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microbiota dessicata is a russian cypress that is low growing and spread to 6 foot wide- around a foot high. it tolerates shade- not sure how how much but its a very attractive evergreen shrub

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 3:31PM
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I know this is seven years later, but I thought if someone else viewed this question in search of an answer to shrubs for deep shade, then maybe my answer might be useful.
Any of Summersweets will thrive in shade and are hardy to zone 3 or 4. EUONYMUS 'EMERALD N GOLD' will also thrive in shade and adds bright yellow and green variegated foliage to the shade garden landscape, but be aware that if it is planted next to a structure it will climb it, and it is hardy to zone 5. Finally, Curly Red Leucothoe will thrive in shade and add pretty red foliage to your shady areas, but it is only hardy to zone 6. I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 4:19PM
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I have a false spirea in dense shade that grows beautifully. I think because it is in shade it maybe doesn't get as big as its suppose to, which is perfectly fine with me. It's 6 years old and is about 4x4. If it does start growing too big, I just whack it back and up it comes again:)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 2:51PM
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Cimifuga (bugbane) comes in diffrent sizes, white or pink spire-like flowers, grows taller than wide. Can have the blackest leaves, or plain green. Tolerates morning sun, grows in deep shade. Takes longer to grow to full size but worth it, however- its one detration is, it is SO aromatic (in a good way) it is a bee magnet. Don't plant it near the patio.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:34PM
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I have one lingularia growing in deep damp shade, and I wanted more, in a dry neglected spot. I dug the planting hole , then dug down another two-ish feet, lined the bottom of the hole with a heavy plastic bag, then back filled the soil to planting level. I planted three lingularia that way, four years later they are growing fine.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 10:42PM
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Viburnum 'Shoshoni' is a very nice shrub (deciduous) and will tolerate dry shade as well. Flowers in spring, fruit & dazzling foliage in fall.

Here is a link that might be useful: Viburnum 'Shoshoni'

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 10:28PM
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The original poster posed the question and was quite clear there was NO sun. Yet most of the entries offered are part shade to sun. Dry shade vs damp shade -- well, welcome to the Pacific Northwest where we have dry shade 3 or 4 months per year and wet shade through the rest; especially Oct - March! Finding the right plant is very difficult when dealing with deep shade. I agree with the post from the person who suggested you contact your county extension office, particularly a Master Gardener there; if they don't have the answer they have the resources to find out what is appropriate in your area. I was amused to see a couple of suggestions that are noxious weeds in Washington state!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 1:17PM
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Hello: Have you thought about Caladiums? They are some of the most beautiful and stunning plants on earth and they thrive in shade. They are available in various shapes, sizes, colors and growth patterns, some small, some larger. They would brighten up any corner. The only drawback is that they must be dug up and stored over winter. Here are a couple samples.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 7:23PM
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In deep shade not a drop of direct sun I have a beautiful 7 foot Acanthopanax (I think they were previously were called Five Leaf Variegated Aralia) they are also easy to propagate by layering.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 2:43PM
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