To add height and interest to a planting area in the shade, consider planting tall shrubs. Choose from natives and heirloom bloomers. Hummingbirds love mountain laurel, an heirloom flowering shrub native to forests east of the Mississippi River. Mountain laurel grows to eight to 10 feet tall and wide, and its white flowers attract hummingbirds. The plant is hardy in Zones 4 to nine.
Selecting tall shrubs for shade isn’t as difficult as it may seem. These plants thrive in the shady areas and provide beautiful leafy shade all year round. The most important step in selecting a shrub for shade is understanding your local soil type and USDA zone. From there, you can look for a shade-tolerant shrub that will thrive in your area. Plant nurseries and online resources are a great place to start.
One popular evergreen tree for shade is the kerria. Its flowers are a bright yellow and are borne in panicles about 12 inches long. It can grow up to 12 feet tall and offers color year-round. Its foliage is a yellow-green in the fall, but the flowers remain bright yellow throughout the year. Its foliage is drought-resistant, making it a perfect choice for a shade-loving yard.
The Mountain Laurel is another shrub for shade that does well in this environment. This evergreen shrub is native to the forests of the Mississippi River and is suitable for areas of moderate to high moisture. Mountain Laurel has white sprouts in late winter and red bloom buds in summer. It also keeps its shading through the winter. Its red berries are another attractive feature of this shrub. Its bark is attractive, but it requires frost protection if you live in a cooler zone.
American Witch Hazel
A tall, deciduous shrub, American Witch Hazel is a great choice for shady areas. It doesn’t require any special care. The plants prefer regular moisture. However, they can be troublesome in soggy soil. While they should receive plenty of natural rainfall, they will require supplemental watering during periods of drought. If the top of the soil feels dry, you should water the witch hazel shrub.
The tree grows to about 15 feet, but in some parts of the southern Appalachians, it can grow up to 30 feet. It has a vase-shaped habit and a rounded crown. The bark is smooth and thin, adding interest to a winter landscape. The zigzag branching pattern and roaming for light are other distinguishing characteristics of this plant. Although it’s a shade-tolerant shrub, it can still struggle with direct sunlight.
American Witch Hazel is a tall, native shrub found in the eastern part of North America. It is hardy in USDA zones three to eight. It produces flowers that are fragrant and appear in early spring. However, it doesn’t flower in winter. The plant’s bark and roots are used as a common astringent. The name “witch hazel” was given by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753.
The camellia is a popular evergreen shrub that produces beautiful flowers in the early spring. Camellias grow in either single or double flowers and require acidic soil. If you do not have acidic soil, you can grow camellias in containers with an acidic mix. Camellias do best in part shade and are sheltered from wind. To grow a camellia in a pot, follow these instructions: Dig a hole about twice the diameter of the pot and backfill the area with soil. After planting, make sure to water the plant thoroughly. Drainage is important, as camellias grow heavy and root ball can become damaged by overwatering.
A camellia has a small flower head, which can grow up to 3 inches in diameter. The flowerheads are borne on a single or double row of petals, lasting four to six weeks. Once the flowers are open, the shrub will grow into a small tree. Unlike its cousin, the camellia is more resistant to Phytophthora root rot. Camellias grow best in partial shade, and if you have a sunny spot, you can prune it into a small tree.
Fatsia japonica is cultivated by layering, which involves cutting the young plants at ground level and nurturing them as they grow. Cuttings should be taken in mid to late summer, cut halfway through at ground level, and inserted in soil and tied to a stick. Fatsia japonica needs bottom heat of 80 degF or above. Plants require a little fertilizer in spring and autumn, but are drought tolerant.
Fatsia japonica is able to grow in different types of soil. It does well in heavy clay soil, light soil, and soil containing chalk. Its leaves are deeply lobed, and they are slightly serrated. Fatsia japonica can reach a height of 10 feet, but generally grows to around 6 feet. It can be used for both mass plantings and specimen plantings and looks best with ferns and Rhododendrons. The foliage is attractive and a highlight in any landscape, and the flowers last for weeks after blooming.
Fatsia needs partial to full shade and acidic soil. Fatsia tolerates moderate drought, deer, and air pollution. The leaves can become yellow or pale if they are exposed to excessive sun or wind. Fatsia japonica is a tall shrub for shade
Among the many different kinds of tall shrubs for shade, the Japanese Andromeda stands out for its bell-shaped flowers that appear in early spring. This shrub belongs to the Ericaceae family, and its relatives are popular landscape plants. Unlike other shrubs, however, it does not grow as large as others, and only adds a foot or two a year. The plant also produces a pungent odor, so you may want to keep curious cats and children away from it.
While the plant’s foliage is glossy green and resembles the foliage of a fern, it is surprisingly slender. The leaves are dark green and glossy, and they change color throughout the year. In the fall, they turn a deep red or purple color. The flowers themselves are long, delicate, and showy, and the blooms appear in clusters. Andromeda is a popular choice for shade because it requires very little pruning, but it is best to remove diseased or damaged branches as soon as possible.
For those who prefer more modest heights, Japanese Andromeda is an excellent choice. It can grow to 12 feet. This evergreen shrub has clusters of white flowers. The foliage is evergreen. Inkberry, the shortest of the three, grows only eight feet. You can also try Japanese Holly, which has black berries. Another popular option for shade-tolerant plants is the Japanese Kerria.
This fine-textured evergreen native to eastern Asia grows in full sun and light shade. Its scientific name comes from the Latin word holly oak. This shrub has a unique foliage pattern that does not look like spiky twigs, but instead is scalloped. It grows slowly and can live up to 40 years if given the right conditions. For the best results, plant it on 3 to 4 foot centers.
The Japanese holly grows in soil that is well-drained, slightly acidic, and containing organic material. It does not grow well in soil with a high pH, and it needs frequent watering to stay healthy. You can plant Japanese holly in almost any part of your garden. It is also tolerant of partial shade and full sun, though the Japanese holly requires more water than most trees and shrubs.
A native of Japan, Japanese holly is one of the most popular landscape plants in the U.S. and is often used to make topiaries. The Latin name ilex means “with shallow, rounded teeth” and describes the shape of the leaves. This evergreen shrub grows up to 10 feet tall and can withstand sever pruning. Its compact, dense habit makes it great for containers and topiaries.
The Japanese kerria, also known as the Easter rose, is a deciduous shrub with thin, attractive stems. It grows to a height and spread of 5 to 6 feet, and has two types: slender and upright. Its foliage is bright yellow and double-serrated, and its leaves are distinctly puckered between leaf veins. This species is well-suited for shaded gardens.
Known for its fragrant flower clusters, kerrias prefer partial to full shade. They thrive in slightly acidic soil. Make sure to fertilize your bushes in the early spring and late winter with an acid-enhanced fertilizer. They don’t do well in full sun, so keep that in mind. It is best grown in soil that drains well. You can also plant it in full sunlight if you prefer.
Another native of Europe, the Alpine currant is a beautiful tall shrub with lush, glossy green foliage. Its clusters of flowers are perfect for the spring and summer months, and its red berries are edible in autumn. It can grow up to 10 feet in height and will spread through suckers. In the Northeast, it is a little more difficult to grow and is often used as a hedge.