Heirloom Gardener Blogs > Lettuce's Urban Homestead

When Things Get Shady

Common Maple, Leaf, Green, Robinia

Shade is one of the hardest problems to work with in a garden. All plants require some amount of light throughout the day, although the minimum hours vary with each plant.  Most plants that are edible or produce flowers require at least 6 hours of light.  That leaves us living in the housing developments surrounded by other tall houses/buildings with very few options besides evergreens.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Evergreens have some benefits. They block the wind, give privacy, and even give homes to wildlife.  However, without some variety, your garden can get boring.  Fortunately for you, I’ve done a bit of digging so you don’t have to. Well, at least not until you get the plants home.  These plants below are either shade tolerant or they absolutely love shade. Bonus, all have some secondary use.

Mint

Edibles

Most of your salad and Asian greens will do well in the shade.  They do still need 4-6 hours of sun, but that is manageable for most housing developments.  Try growing Lettuce, Arugula, Sorrel, Pak Choi, Mustard Greens, Kale, Chard, or Spinach.

Most of your salad and Asian greens will do well in the shade.  They do still need 4-6 hours of sun, but that is manageable for most housing developments.  Try growing Lettuce, Arugula, Sorrel, Pak Choi, Mustard Greens, Kale, Chard, or Spinach.

If you like a little spice in your life, try Chives, Oregano, Lemon Balm, Wild Ginger, Wild Bergamot, Chervil, Peppermint, Spearmint or Parsley.  If you like a lot of spice, Wasabi does very well in the shade.

There are also a lot of berry bushes that do well in partial shade.  Some varieties of Elderberry, Cranberry, Flowering Quince, Wild Strawberry and Emerald Carpet Raspberry.  I have read that Cherry Berries Wintergreen and Salal do better in full shade.  In fact, Salal has been known to grow taller in shade than in partial sun.

Bee Balm, Red, August, Flower

Pretties and Pollinators

It is also very important to include some flowers in your garden as well.  These will attract bees and other beneficial insects to help pollinate your garden.  Without pollinators, we would need to do the job by hand.  I don't know about you, but I certainly don't have time to be running around hand pollinating thousands of blooms year long so I will be planting lots and lots of flowers this year.

For plants that you would not necessarily eat straight out of the ground, try Sweet Woodruff which is typically used to help heal bruises or small cuts, as an addition to homemade wine or in potpourri.  Another good option is American Pennyroyal which is a good flea and mosquito repellant.  It is said that if you plant it by your doors, the fleas will jump off your pets as they near the plant - keeping them outside instead of in your home.  I have yet to try this, so if you try it, let me know your results.

And of course, there’s always the beautiful flowers that attract bees and other necessary pollinators.  Good shade loving flowers include Astilbe, Bee Balm, Bleeding-Heart, Foxglove, Hydrangea, Amethyst flower, Begonia, Flowering Maple, Geranium cranesbill, Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow and Meadow Rue, just to name a few.

What are some shade loving plants that you have had good luck with?