14 Flowering Shrubs for Shade

Rev up your yard’s shady spots with surprisingly colorful shrubs.

Photo By: Photo by Felder Rushing

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Proven Winners

Photo By: Image courtesy of ProvenWinners.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Photo by Lynn Coulter

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Proven Winners

Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)

Both lacecap and bigleaf hydrangeas bring color to partly shaded locations. Flowers start the show in early summer and continue an eye-catching display until—and beyond—fall frost. Hardiness varies, but new hybrids offer winter hardiness to Zones 4 in bigleaf hydrangeas. Lacecaps are usually hardy in Zones 6 to 9.

Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica)

Bright yellow blooms brighten shady nooks in spring. Japanese kerria thrives in partial to very deep shade and can hold its own beneath mature trees. Branches tend to arch, giving the plant a weeping look. Prune after flowering. This shrub forms an ever-enlarging clump. Remove suckers to control spread. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

Rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Handy Man Purple’)

Nothing says spring like a rhododendron in full bloom. You can find varieties with blossoms in nearly any shade, although pastels and reds are most common. This flowery beauty grows best in part to full shade. Avoid clay soil to prevent root rot. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Bottlebrush buckeye opens spikes of white flowers in summer, just as days start to sizzle. While the blossoms attract butterflies and pollinators, the entire plant is deer-resistant. Bottlebrush buckeye forms colonies, spreading by suckers. Remove suckers as they appear to keep the shrub in bounds. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Sansanqua Camellia (Camellia sasanqua)

Often called the fall-blooming camellia, this shrub puts on its show from late summer into fall and through December, depending on where you live and which variety you’re growing. Plants thrive in light shade. A woodland setting provides perfect light. Look for hybrids that open flowers in pink, red, white and ruby tones. Hardy in Zones 7 to 9.

Black Beauty Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’)

Pink flowers pair artfully with this elderberry’s purple-black leaves. Blossoms appear in midsummer, attracting all kinds of pollinators. Flowers fade to edible berries, tasty in jams and pies, although native elderberries have better flavor. Tuck elderberry into partial shade. This shrub tolerates clay soil. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

‘Little Henry’ Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’)

This native shrub is a summer bloomer, opening spikes of tiny white flowers from early to mid-summer. Blossoms have a sweet fragrance that pollinators like butterflies and bees can’t resist. Virginia sweetspire is versatile, thriving in partial to full shade in wet or dry soils. Clip suckers to prevent plants from forming dense colonies. ‘Little Henry’ is a dwarf hybrid suitable for small yards. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica)

This evergreen shrub typically opens white flowers in early spring. The blooms are fragrant and bell-shaped, strongly resembling lily-of-the-valley flowers. You can find varieties that flower in shades of red or pink, as well. Flower buds form in summer and remain on plants through winter, adding strong seasonal interest. Give pieris partial shade. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Mountain laurel is native to the Eastern United States, where it thrives in partially shaded settings, including mountaintops, sandy meadows and woodland edges. Pink blushed blossoms open in spring to form little cups. Look for varieties with flowers in deep pink to red hues. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

White bottlebrush-like blooms form at the ends of summersweet branches from mid- to late summer. This versatile shrub can grow in full shade, full sun and anywhere in between. Include summersweet in butterfly and rain gardens. Hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Azalea (Azalea spp.)

Welcome spring with a flourish of colorful azalea blooms. These pretty shrubs open flowers in a host of hues, including gold, pink, orange and white.  Most azaleas prefer partial shade—the filtered, dappled light beneath mature trees is ideal. Remove lower limbs on trees to increase the amount of sunlight peeking through. Winter hardiness varies by species and variety, but can cover Zones 4 to 9. Check the tag of the plant you’re buying to be sure it will survive in your garden.

‘Diabolo’ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’)

Pink-tinted flower heads appear in late spring, contrasting nicely with ‘Diabolo’s’ dark leaf color. Tuck this plant into partial shade in the southern end of its range. In northern areas, choose part shade to full sun. Prune after flowering in spring. Hardy in Zones 3 to 7.

‘Arnold Promise’ Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’)

Brighten the late winter garden with witch hazel’s yellow, strappy blooms. Witch hazel is a native shrub that naturally grows in woodlands, where partial shade prevails. Plants do send up suckers to form thickets, so trim the suckers if you don’t want this shrub to spread. Hardy in Zones 5 to 8.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Long, can’t-miss flowerheads appear on oakleaf hydrangea from late spring through summer. Flowers linger through fall and winter, slowly changing colors with the seasons. Oakleaf hydrangea also offers intense fall color, with leaves boasting reds and oranges in autumn. Patrial shade yields the best display. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9.