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Which Vegetables Grow in the Shade?

Shade Loving Vegetables

If you’re wondering which vegetables grow in the shade, you’re not alone. Many people live in homes in established neighborhoods with huge mature trees casting long shadows across the yard and only fleeting blips of dappled sunlight, causing many a tomato plant to struggle for enough light for bearing fruit.

We live in the woods so definitely struggle for enough sunlight for summer gardens. Each year our tomatoes struggle because they don’t have enough all-day light, until last year when we finally cut down a couple trees and turned them into firewood.

We love our home in the woods, but all the wonderful trees that keep us cool and cut our cooling bill in summer, also keep us from growing some things. The trees also create the perfect jungle gym café for the squirrel to partake of our garden fare.

So it’s great to discover which vegetables can be grown in the shadier spots. It’s also helpful to discover that some plants do relatively well in both. In that case we’ll place them in more than one list. But first, let’s define the types of shade.

Types of Shade

There are a handful of types of shade, from deeply shaded to full sun and gradations in between. However, for simplicity, most plants can be roughly categorized as “full shade”, “partial shade” and “full sun”.

Keep in mind that plants that can handle partial shade, may also be able to handle full shade. Similarly plants that can handle full sun, may also do just fine in partial shade. For those plants we will place them in more than one list.

Shade Loving Vegetables – 1-3 hours sunlight

No vegetables thrive in a dark shaded yard. Shaded gardens that work are typically wooded or mature yards with a canopy of trees. These yards may receive dappled sunlight and the brightness of indirect light with 1-3 hours of sunlight, and shaded or indirect light most of the time.

Partial Shade Vegetables 3-6 hours sunlight

Partial shade is those partly sunny yards with multiple mature trees. These trees cast shadows approximately 50% of the day, and can get between three to six hours of sunlight.

For growing in partial shade, container gardening can be helpful. You can grow plants in pots on castors and dollies to make it easier to move plants to chase the sun, or to rotate them, such as may be needed for tower gardens.

Full Sun Vegetables

As the title describes, full sun is for plants that can take direct sun exposure all day long. This is especially applicable for hearty vegetables and fruits. These include crops such as legumes, gourds pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, peppers and all fruit and nut trees, except maybe paw paw fruit, which can get by with partial sun.

Remember, some plants can grow relatively well in more than one category. In particular, partial shade plants can grow in shaded areas if there is a lot of ambient, indirect or reflective light.

Which Vegetables Grow in the Shade and Partial Shade?

What follows is a comprehensive list of shade tolerant vegetables and herbs in alphabetical order. After that we’ve broken it into shorter lists of shade and partial shade plants, as well as type. However, these shade friendly plants still need reflective or indirect light and will not thrive in dark shade.

Comprehensive List of Shade Tolerant Vegetables, Herbs, and Edible Weeds

  1. Angelica
  2. Arugula
  3. Asparagus
  4. Basil
  5. Beets
  6. Bok choy / Chinese cabbage
  7. Broccoli
  8. Brussel Sprouts
  9. Bush beans
  10. Bush tomatoes
  11. Cabbage
  12. Carrots
  13. Catnip
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Celery
  16. Chervil
  17. Chickweed
  18. Chives
  19. Corsican Mint
  20. Corn Salad
  21. Costmary
  22. Dandelion
  23. Endive
  24. Garden cress
  25. Garlic
  26. Henbit
  27. Horseradish
  28. Hostas (yes, they’re edible)!
  29. Japanese parsley
  30. Kale
  31. Kohlrabi
  32. Leaf Lettuce
  33. Leeks
  34. Lemon balm
  35. Lettuce
  36. Longevity Spinach
  37. Lovage
  38. Marsh Mallow
  39. Mint
  40. Mizuna
  41. Mustard Greens
  42. Parsley
  43. Parsnip
  44. Peas
  45. Plantain
  46. Potatoes
  47. Radish
  48. Rhubarb
  49. Rosemary
  50. Rutabaga
  51. Scallions
  52. Sorrel
  53. Spinach
  54. Summer Squash
  55. Sweet Cicely
  56. Sweet woodruff
  57. Swiss Chard
  58. Tatsoi
  59. Turnip
  60. Valerian
  61. Watercress
  62. Wild bergamot
  63. Wild ginger, (Asarum canadense)
  64. Yellow Squash
  65. Zucchini

Vegetables That Grow in the Partial Shade – 3-6 Hours of Sunlight

Leafy Vegetables that Grow in Partial Shade

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Chard
  • Chickweed
  • Corn Salad
  • Dandelion
  • Endive
  • Hostas
  • Kale
  • Leaf Lettuce
  • Longevity Spinach
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Watercress

Root Vegetables that Grow in the Partial Shade

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Radish
  • Turnip

Brassica Vegetables That Grow in Partial Shade

  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower

These Brassicas can also grow in full sun, if temps aren’t too hot. Remember to eat the leaves as well. They’re great shredded or chopped into salads as well as steamed. Harvest the larger leaves from the lower section of the plant and leave ample newer leaves to nurture the plant, and you can harvest the Brassica greens throughout the life of these cruciferous plants.

Shade Loving Herbs

  1. Angelica
  2. Basil
  3. Catnip
  4. Celery
  5. Chervil
  6. Chickweed
  7. Chives
  8. Corsican Mint
  9. Costmary
  10. Dandelion
  11. Garden cress
  12. Garlic
  13. Henbit
  14. Horseradish
  15. Japanese parsley
  16. Lemon balm
  17. Lovage
  18. Marsh Mallow
  19. Mint
  20. Parsley
  21. Plantain
  22. Rosemary
  23. Scallions
  24. Sorrel
  25. Sweet Cicely
  26. Sweet woodruff
  27. Valerian
  28. Watercress
  29. Wild bergamot
  30. Wild ginger, (Asarum canadense)

Shade Loving Vegetables – Images and Information

Arugula

Being leafy, arugula would be expected to a sun-lover, but sunlight often droops and shrivels the leaves, so this is a good “under” plant to put underneath other, larger ones.

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Endive

Endive is likely the most shade-loving of all the leafy lettuce-type plants.

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Kale

Isn’t it beautiful?! Like its cabbage cousins, kale loves cold weather and less light.

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Leaf lettuce

Most lettuce plants prefer less sun. Our favorite is an herb spring mix, so we really enjoy the mixed lettuce seed packs.

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Mustard greens

A popular plant in the U.S., mustard greens are often grown in flower gardens and near porches where sunlight is limited.

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Spinach

Like lettuce, spinach needs cooler temperatures and less sun.

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Swiss chard

Another sturdier leafy plant, Swiss chard, is happy without a lot of sunlight. Swiss chard is stouter than most lettuces, but it will wimp out in the heat.

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A plant we’ve added to our ornamental edible landscaping is hostas. Yep… hostas are edible, as well as beautiful!

What vegetables are you growing in the shade? Please visit the Gardens All Facebook page and let us know.

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