Top Ten Shady Shrubs

Despite the beautiful weather we’ve been enjoying this past week or two, we must also consider the dreary months of weather that preceded it and whether our plants are of the ilk to take best possible advantage of the shady days, as well as the sunny ones. As such, we present a selection of shade loving shrubs that, during the off-season of the year, will flourish while their counterparts await sol’s return.

picture of Aucuba crotonifolia

Aucuba crotonifolia

The Japanese Laurel is a compact evergreen shrub with broad bright green leaves splashed with yellow  year round, and small yellow and green flowers in the spring and early summer, followed by red berries that the birds love. They are easy to grow and fairly non-preferential to soil type, provided it is not totally waterlogged.

picture of Euonymus radicans

Euonymus radicans

These are low-growing evergreens which can be grown either as ground cover, or clinging to walls like ivy and, depending on which variety you choose, foliage can be green, or variegated with yellow, white, or even pink! Because of their spreading habit, they are useful grown on sloping sites – for example to cover a bank, or as decoration to a descending pathway. Any soil type is fine.

picture of Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica

This glossy-leaved evergreen is a large shrub with striking, dark green foliage in all seasons, along with large, candelabra-like, creamy-white flowers in the autumn. It is not fussy about soil type and makes a bold statement in any garden.

picture of Hypericum calycinum

Hypericum calycinum

Also referred to as the ‘Rose of Sharon’, Hypericum is a fast spreading evergreen shrub with dark green lance shaped leaves that are accompanied by vibrant yellow flowers in the summertime. These will be succeeded by a dark red fruit in the autumn provided the plant is kept well watered and sheltered.

picture of Mahonia aquifolium

Mahonia aquifolium

This is a fast-growing evergreen that displays shiny, holly-like leaves highlighted in the spring by clusters of bright yellow flowers, before the foliage itself deepens to purple in winter. Due to their habit, we would suggest this as a dense and beautiful ground cover – and their resistance to pollution also makes them suited to an urban garden.

picture of Osmanthus heterophyllus

Osmanthus heterophyllus

The other name for Osmanthus is ‘False Holly’ and it’s not difficult to see why as this medium-sized evergreen has small, holly-like leaves highlighted by white, jasmine-scented September flowers. The maintenance rule that applies is a well drained, sheltered positioning.

picture of Pachysandra terminalis

Pachysandra terminalis

The ‘Japanese Spurge’ is a slow growing, evergreen sub-shrub that will form rosettes of glossy, emerald leaves. Its neat shape and clusters of upright blooms make it ideal for growth beneath larger canopy trees and shrubs and, as it is mat forming, the spurge can be extremely effective as a filler, or ground cover plant.

picture of Skimmia japonica

Skimmia japonica

Skimmia is a small, white flowered, evergreen shrub that will also provide red berries in the autumn if male and female varieties are planted, although it is important to note that these fruits are inedible. The flowers are scented and appear in spring. Grow this one if you have acid soil.

picture of Symphoricarpos


The ‘Common Snowberry’ is a rampant, thicket-forming, deciduous shrub composed of slender, arching shoots that will bear bunches of ovate, dark green leaves. These will be accompanied by a summer’s worth of clustered, bell shaped, pink or white flowers and these are succeeded by large, marble-like pink or white fruits that last well into winter. It will grow in any reasonable soil in sun or shade.

picture of Viburnum davidii

Viburnum davidii

This is an evergreen shrub with a compact habit and it sports leathery, deeply-veined, dark green leaves upon which sit flat, white flower heads, and these are followed by turquoise berries. They prefer soils of moderate fertility that are well-drained and rich in humus.

With the aid of this list you are now equipped to create a garden of all weathers, one where shade and sun bring healthy flowers in equal measure. Just because you have a shady garden, or a shady side to your garden, doesn’t mean you can’t have an interesting, colourful and fragrant one.

By Josh Ellison

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