Shade-Tolerant Plants

Check out 11 shade-tolerant plants and the planting information for each zone.

autumn brilliance serviceberry has edible fruit

This shrub has good red/orange fall color.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance'

  • Small deciduous tree noted for its white flowers in spring followed by edible fruit in summer.
  • Has good red/orange fall color.
  • Plant in full sun to partial shade.
  • Height: 25 feet
  • Width: 30 feet

Hardy in USDA zones 5-8:

  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in sun; mulch after first hard frost; protect from salt; fertilize in spring and again in fall.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in sun to light shade; mulch after first hard frost; fertilize in spring and again in fall.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in early fall; plant in sun to partial shade; mulch after first hard frost; fertilize in spring and again in fall.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in early fall; plant in sun to partial shade; mulch in fall; fertilize in spring and again in fall.

Silver and Gold Yellowtwig Dogwood

Silver and Gold Yellowtwig Dogwood blooms little

This deciduous shrub can tolerate wet or dry soil.

Cornus stolonifera 'Silver and Gold'

  • Deciduous shrub
  • Variegated foliage with yellow stems
  • Tolerates wet or dry Soil
  • Height: to 10 feet
  • Width: to 10 feet
  • AHS Heat zones 8-1

Hardy in USDA zones 2-8:

  • Zone 2 -- Plant in spring to establish before winter; plant in full sun; minimal pruning needed in this zone; protect with mulch after ground freezes.
  • Zone 3 -- Plant in spring to establish before winter; plant in full sun; prune severely in early spring to encourage vigorous red growth but little flowering or prune after flowering; protect with mulch after ground freezes.
  • Zone 4 -- Plant in spring to establish before winter; plant in full sun; prune severely in early spring to encourage vigorous red growth but little flowering or prune after flowering; protect with mulch after ground freezes.
  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring to establish before winter; plant in full to light shade; prune severely in early spring to encourage vigorous red growth but little flowering or prune after flowering.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun to light shade; red color will be better in full sun; prune severely in early spring to encourage vigorous red growth but little flowering or prune after flowering;
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in early fall; plant in full sun to light shade; red color will be better in full sun but may be muted in this warmer climate; prune severely in early spring to encourage vigorous red growth but little flowering or prune after flowering; water regularly in dry periods during growing season.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in early fall; plant in full sun to light shade; red color will be better in full sun but may be muted in this warmer climate; prune severely in early spring to encourage vigorous red growth but little flowering or prune after flowering; water regularly in dry periods during growing season.

Ostrich Fern

ostrich fern can reach up to four feet

For all zones, this fern should be planted in medium to full shade.

Matteuccia pensylvanica

  • Large, deciduous fern reaching upwards of four feet
  • Plant in rich, wet to moist soil
  • Plant in medium to full shade for all zones
  • Hardy in AHS heat zones 8-1

Hardy in USDA zones 3-8:

  • Zone 3 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; mulch heavily after first hard frost; pull back mulch in early spring; divide as new growth appears in early spring.
  • Zone 4 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; mulch after first hard frost; pull back mulch in early spring; divide as new growth appears in early spring.
  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; mulch after first hard frost; pull back mulch in early spring; divide as new growth appears in early spring.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or fall; mulch in the fall; pull back mulch in early spring; divide as new growth appears in early spring.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in spring or fall; mulch in the fall; pull back mulch in early spring; divide as new growth appears in early spring.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in spring or fall; mulch in the fall; pull back mulch in early spring; divide as new growth appears in early spring.

Bowles Golden Sedge

bowles golden sedge needs dividing every few years

The bowles golden sedge is a perennial with grass-like variegated foliage.

Carex elata 'Aurea' (aka 'Bowles Golden')

  • Evergreen clumping perennial with grass-like variegated foliage of yellow and green
  • Prune to 3-4 inches before new growth appears; divide every few years
  • Plant in full sun to full shade; color is better in partial sun
  • Plant in rich, moist soil; tolerates damp soil
  • Height 28 inches
  • Width: 18 inches

Hardy in USDA zones 5-8:

  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun to partial shade; mulch in fall.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun to partial shade; mulch in fall.
  • Zone 7--Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; mulch in fall.
  • Zone 8--Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; mulch in fall.

Japanese Painted Fern

japanese painted fern has silver metallic fronds

The Japanese painted fern has silver-metallic fronds.

Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'

  • Deciduous fern with silver-metallic fronds that are tinged with burgundy and purple
  • Plant in average to moist garden soil rich in organic matter
  • Plant in partial to full shade
  • Height: 12-17 inches
  • Width: to 18-24 inches

Hardy in USDA zones 3-8:

  • Zone 3 -- Plant in spring to avoid winter heaving; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; avoid contact with salt; water during dry periods; remove dead foliage after frost; divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 4 -- Plant in spring to avoid winter heaving; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; avoid contact with salt; water during dry periods; remove dead foliage after frost; divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring to avoid winter heaving; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; avoid contact with salt; water during dry periods; remove dead foliage after frost; divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; water during dry periods; remove dead foliage after frost; divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; water during dry periods; remove dead foliage in fall; divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again in fall; water during dry periods; remove dead foliage in fall; divide in spring every few years.

Remote Wood Fern

Remote rood fern is semi evergreen fern

The remote wood fern has bright green fronds.

Dryopteris remota

  • Semi-evergreen, spreading fern with long fronds that emerge bright green
  • Plant in moist organic soil, water when dry
  • Plant in partial to full shade
  • Height: 24-36 inches
  • Width: 18-24 inches, spreading

Hardy in USDA zones 4-8:

  • Zone 4 -- Plant in spring to avoid winter heaving; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; avoid contact with salt; water during dry periods; may be deciduous in this zone; remove dead foliage and divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; water during dry periods; may be deciduous to semi-evergreen in this zone; remove dead foliage and divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again before first frost; water during dry periods; semi-evergreen in this zone; remove dead foliage and divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again in fall; water during dry periods; semi-evergreen in this zone; remove dead foliage and divide in spring every few years.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; mulch after planting and again in fall; water during dry periods; semi-evergreen in this zone; remove dead foliage and divide in spring every few years.

Samaritan Kousa Dogwood

samaritan kousa dogwood has variegated leaves

This dogwood is known for its white flowers that bloom in late spring.

Cornus kousa 'Samaritan'

  • Small, deciduous tree noted for its white flowers in late spring and large bright red fruit in fall.
  • Variegated leaves with deep green and cream tinged with pink
  • More disease resistant and drought tolerant than native Florida Dogwood
  • Plant in organic, rich, moist but well-drained soil
  • Plant in full sun to partial shade; flowering and foliage are best in full sun
  • Prune after flowering in spring; fertilize in late spring
  • Height: 20-25 feet.
  • Width: 15-20 feet.

Hardy in USDA zones (4) 5-8:

  • Zone 4 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; may not be hardy in zone 4a but survive in protected areas of Zone 4b.
  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun to partial shade.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in fall; plant in full sun to partial shade; provide supplemental water during dry spells.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in fall; plant in full sun to partial shade with protection from hot afternoon sun; provide supplemental water during dry spells.

Japanese Forest Grass

japanese forest grass is a clump forming grass

This perennial grass has variegated foliage with bright yellow/cream and green stripes.

Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'

  • Deciduous, shade-tolerant, clump-forming perennial grass
  • Variegated foliage with bright yellow/cream and green stripes tinged with bronze
  • Plant in rich, organic soil
  • Plant in partial to full shade
  • Height: to 10 inches
  • Width: to 18 inches

Hardy in USDA zones 5-8 (South); 5-10 (West):

  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; protect with mulch in fall.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; protect with mulch in fall.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; protect with mulch in fall.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; protect with mulch in fall.
  • Zone 9 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; protect with mulch in fall; plant may languish in this zone in the Southern United States.
  • Zone 10 -- Plant in spring; plant in partial to full shade; protect with mulch in fall; plant may languish in this zone in the Southern United States.

Forest Pansy Eastern Redbud

forest pansy eastern redbud is early bloomer

Purple/pink flowers appear on this small tree -- before the leaves -- in early spring.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'

  • Small, deciduous tree noted for its purple/pink flowers in early spring before the leaves
  • Has deep red/purple leaves that can fade to green in hot weather
  • Has decorative bean-like seed pods fall through winter
  • Drought tolerant once established
  • Tolerant of poor and alkaline soil
  • Plant in full sun to light shade
  • Prune after flowering in spring; fertilize in late spring
  • Height: 15-20 feet
  • Width: 15 feet

Hardy in USDA zones 4-9:

  • Zone 4 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt.
  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun to light shade; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun to light shade.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in fall; plant in full sun to light shade; provide supplemental water during dry spells.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in fall; plant in full sun to light shade; provide supplemental water during dry spells.
  • Zone 9 -- Plant in fall; plant in full sun to light shade; provide supplemental water during dry spells.

Mollis Azalea

mollis azalea is a cold hardy plant

This cold-hardy azalea that bears yellow flowers in late May.

Rhododendron x kosteranum(aka Rhododendron mollis)


Hardy in USDA zones 4-8:

  • Deciduous, cold-hardy azalea that blooms with yellow flowers in late May
  • Plant in rich, organic soil
  • Plant in light to partial shade; prune after flowering
  • Height: 6-8 feet
  • Width: 6-8 feet
  • Zone 4 -- Plant in spring; plant in light to partial shade; protect with mulch in fall; flower buds may suffer damage in temperatures below -25 degrees.
  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring; plant in light to partial shade; protect with mulch in fall; flower buds may suffer damage in temperatures below -25 degrees.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or fall; plant in light to partial shade; protect with mulch in fall.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in spring or fall; plant in light to partial shade; protect with mulch in fall.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in spring or fall; plant in light to partial shade; protect with mulch in fall.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia)

oregon grape has spiny holly like leaves

This evergreen shrub should be planted in partial to full shade, with protection from drying winds.

Mahonia aquifolium

  • Evergreen shrub with spiny holly-like leaves with yellow flowers followed by blue-black fruit
  • Plant in fertile, rich soil that is well-drained
  • Plant in partial to full shade with protection from drying winds
  • Height: 3-10 feet
  • Width: 3-8 feet

Hardy in USDA zones 5-9:

  • Zone 5 -- Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in partial to full shade; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt.
  • Zone 6 -- Plant in spring or early fall; plant in partial to full shade; avoid contact with salt.
  • Zone 7 -- Plant in fall; plant in partial to full shade; provide supplemental water during dry spells, especially in winter.
  • Zone 8 -- Plant in fall; plant in partial to full shade with protection from hot afternoon sun; provide supplemental water during dry spells, especially in winter.
  • Zone 9 -- Plant in fall; plant in partial to full shade with protection from hot afternoon sun; provide supplemental water during dry spells, especially in winter.

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