Shrubs For Shade

Count on shrubs to add height to planting areas in part to full shade.

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‘Pink Charm’ Mountain Laurel

Mountain laurel is a go-to favorite when it comes to shrubs that thrive in shady conditions. This native shrub grows as an understory plant in forests east of the Mississippi River. The true native form opens white flowers. ‘Pink Charm’ brings on spring color with bright pink blossoms that attract hummingbirds. Evergreen leaves add to the landscape year-round. Plants grow 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9. Good to know: Light shade with some sun coaxes best flower color.

Opening Day Doublefile Viburnum

This selection of doublefile viburnum earns its name from baseball size blooms that typically appear near the start of baseball season. Flowers begin greenish-white and finish pure white. Leaves add strong interest with a deeply pleated form and strong green hue through summer. Fall lights up the foliage in vivid shades of wine and burgundy. Plants grow 5 to 10 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-8. Good to know: Full sun is the key to strongest flowering.

Dear Dolores Hydrangea

Give your yard’s shady spot a splash of color courtesy of Dear Dolores hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Wyatt LeFever’). This bigleaf or mophead hydrangea opens 8-inch flower heads all season long—pink in alkaline soil, blue in acidic. (Add aluminum sulfate to soil to make it acidic.) The first wave of flowers appears in spring, followed by blossoms from summer to fall. Prune after flowering and/or in early spring to shape the plant. This classic bloomer grows 5 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9. Good to know: Mulch soil around this hydrangea to help maintain moisture and keep weeds down.

Golden Rule Hypericum

Brighten a part shade to full sun setting with colorful, deer-resistant Golden Rule St. John’s wort (Hypericum calycinum). Also known as hypericum, this plant has a form that falls between a small shrub to ground cover. As it establishes, it fills in a planting area with its gold leaves. Yellow flowers appear in summer, beckoning bees and butterflies. Fall color includes orange and gold shades. Plants grow 12 to 18 inches high by 12 to 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 6-8. Good to know: For best growth and color, prune plants in spring and again after flowering.

Large Fothergilla

Discover the native shrub with an odd name—Fothergilla—and wonderful multi-season interest. Fothergilla opens the year with fragrant white flowers in early spring. These blooms resemble bottlebrushes and provide a vital source of food for early pollinators. Flowers appear with leaves, which boast a pleated, strongly veined surface that’s eye-catching. Fall leaf color is stunning, with a single plant showcasing shades of orange, burgundy, purple and gold. Fothergilla thrives in part shade to full sun. Plants grow 6 to 10 feet tall by 5 to 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8. Good to know: Fothergilla tends to send up many shoots and, if happy, forms colonies. Remove suckers as soon as they appear to keep your shrub to a modest footprint.

‘Flaming Silver’ Japanese Pieris

This evergreen shrub is a workhorse in a shrub border, delivering strong year-round color. Evergreen winter leaves provide a beautiful backdrop to white, bell-like blooms that appear in spring. New leaves emerge fiery pink, fading to white-edged green in summer. Plants grow 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9. Good to know: This pieris doesn’t need pruning, but accepts it easily if you need to keep it a certain size or shape. For best results, prune after flowering.

Pink Perplexion Camellia

Camellias steal the show when they burst into bloom, and Pink Perplexion is no exception. This is a sasanqua camellia, known for its small leaves and ability to grow well in containers and landscape beds. Pink flowers up to 3 inches across cover this beauty in fall. Those pink blooms boast a color that defies description, which is why it’s called Pink Perplexion. Give it a spot in part shade to full sun with acidic soil. Plants grow 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7-9. Good to know: Sansanqua camellias take well to pruning and shearing. Best timing is after flowering, in spring, before new flower buds form on stems in summer.

Kodiak Orange Diervilla

Kodiak Orange diervilla is a shrub for the ages. This native plant delivers bright leaf color all season long, drought tolerance, deer resistance and non-stop blooms. It’s also versatile, growing in sun or shade, including the tough environs of dry shade. Diervilla is undemanding—no pruning is needed to keep it in bounds. Leaves emerge orange and hold color through summer. Yellow flowers appear all summer long. Fall winds up the show with blazing orange-red leaves. Plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7. Good to know: Diervilla isn’t picky about soil, thriving in moist or dry locations. It’s a good choice for erosion control on slopes.

Scarlet Beauty Sweetspire

For summer bloom, turn to native, easy-care shrub sweetspire. Scarlet Beauty sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Morton’) unfurls long white flower clusters mid-June to early July, flooding summer days and nights with luxurious fragrance. Blossoms buzz with pollinator activity, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. This is a must-have plant for wildlife gardens. The fall color season unfolds slowly with leaves in shades of vibrant scarlet-reds and deep oranges that hit their peak in early November. Plants thrive in sun to shade, tolerate moist soil and grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9. Good to know: If pruning is needed, do so immediately after flowering, before blossom buds form on mature stems. In early spring, remove any stems that fail to leaf out.

Wedding Ring Boxwood

Embrace a new boxwood that’s hardy, deer-resistant and beautiful. Variegated leaves sport green with a lime margin that deepens to gold as summer unfolds. This winter hardy boxwood adapts well to formal gardens, shrub borders or containers. Or use it as a hedge or foundation planting. Evergreen leaves provide good winter interest. Plants grow in sun or shade, reaching 1 to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9. Good to know: This boxwood tolerates heavy pruning but doesn’t require any pruning. If desired, clip to shape in summer.

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