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Shrubs for shade

We’d like to plant shrubs at the back of our lot in an area that, unfortunately, doesn’t get full sun. Can you suggest evergreen shrubs that will do well in the shade?

To grow to their target height and remain full, most evergreen shrubs need some sun, but there are several that can get by with less. Here are a few suggestions:

Aucuba (Aucuba japonica): Aucuba looks more delicate than it is. The broadleaf evergreen is also known as spotted laurel because of its shiny foliage, which resembles laurel leaves. Aucuba’s white- or gold-flecked foliage stands out, and because it grows well in partial to full shade, can help brighten shady corners of a landscape. It can also grow in containers on a patio or deck, and as a houseplant indoors. Outdoors, some sources say it’s hardy in USDA zones 7 – 9; others say zones 6 – 11. (Middle Tennessee, home of The Garden Bench, is in zone 7a.)

Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

Cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana): This broadleaf evergreen can be used as a clipped hedge, or used as a tall screen that may grow to 20 feet tall. It can also be trained as a tree. It produces small white blooms in late winter and early spring, and black berries in the fall (which can be messy when they fall on pavement). Descriptions of the shrub note that this shrub produces lots of seedlings, which can mean that over time you may have more cherry laurel than you wished for. But it’s a shrub that grows in sun, tolerates shade, and can even weather drought without damage.

Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria): This is not one of the hollies with stiff, spiky leaves but a softer, friendlier broadleaf evergreen that enjoys part shade to full sun. It’s native to the southern U.S. and grows in almost any soil. Small white flowers bloom in spring, and red berries appear in the fall. It can be grown as a hedge or screen, or shaped into a topiary. Some of the popular selections include ‘Bordeaux,’ which grows 3-4 feet high and wide; ‘Nana,’ which is a dwarf yaupon, and ‘Scarlet’s Peak,’ which can grow to 20 feet tall but only 3 feet wide.


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