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31 Tall Shrubs for Shade Gardens

Count on shrubs to add height to planting areas in the shade. This collection of shade-loving shrubs includes heirloom bloomers, native plants and lots of low-maintenance gems.

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Add Color to Shady Spots With Tall Shrubs

Transforming a shady spot in your yard into a colorful garden escape isn’t always the easiest thing to do. One way to dress up the dark is by adding shrubs that unfurl eye-catching leaves or flowers, like this 'Pink Charm' mountain laurel.

This native plant is a go-to favorite when it comes to shrubs that thrive in shady conditions. It naturally 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.

Discover more ways to brighten the shadowy corners in your landscape with shrubs that are made for the shade.

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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.

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Photo: Julie Martens Forney


When a rhododendron flowers in spring, it literally buzzes due to bees visiting blooms. These evergreen plants grow best with acid soil and part shade. Root systems are shallow; keep plants mulched to help conserve soil moisture and protect roots. Depending on variety, rhododendrons can grow 3 to 20 feet tall and up to 25 feet wide. Look for rhodies that are native to North America or East Asia. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Good to know: Rhodies open flowers in a rainbow of hues, including purple, red, orange, yellow and white. To ensure you get the flower color you want, buy a plant with open blooms. Choose one with at least four stems at the base for the fullest look in the landscape.

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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.

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