Gardening With Vegetables That Grow in Shade

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Lettuce grows well in partial shade

One characteristic most vegetables have in common is their preference for full sun, which is generally defined as six hours of more of direct sunlight. At the same time, many gardeners grow good yields in sites that receive only four to five hours of sun by choosing vegetables that grow in shade and using techniques that maximise available light.

Many of the best vegetables to grow in shade have broad leaves, which they can unfurl like large solar collectors. Rocket, lettuce, chard, kale and most other leafy greens are top candidates for partial shade at any time of day, and a longer list often thrives in sites that get full morning sun followed by afternoon shade. Celery, carrots, dwarf beans, and small-fruited tomatoes often are successful in spots where they can load up on sun early in the day.

Where the opposite light pattern prevails – morning shade followed by afternoon sun – trellised vines including beans, peas, or cucumbers may excel. As flower gardeners know, growing vines so they have their "feet in the shade, head in the sun" tends to work out well for clematis and other ornamental vines, and the same is true for food-bearing vines.

Kale grows well in partial shade

Growing Shade Tolerant Vegetables

In addition to choosing vegetables known to grow in shade, there are several techniques that will improve the quality of your crops.

  • Whenever possible, work with seedlings grown in bright light. The worst time for a veggie to be deprived of light is during its juvenile period. If you have only a little full sun, use it for a cold frame or nursery bed where you can grow leafy greens to transplant size.
  • Shade tolerant vegetables cannot be crowded. Wide spacing promotes good air circulation and light penetration, which in turn reduces problems with diseases.
  • Anticipate that slugs and snails will be a problem, because they are naturally attracted to moist shade. Plan to trap them often (even when plants are not present) using beer-baited traps. To reduce mollusc habitat, limit mulching until the weather becomes warm and dry in summer.
Seedlings and juvenile plants need plenty of light

You can also use human ingenuity to maximise available light. Paint the sides of nearby buildings white, or erect white panels in summer to reflect light back onto plants. Metallic surfaces also can be used, for example small boards wrapped in aluminum foil, placed between plants or on nearby walls. Inexpensive mirror tiles mounted on boards can have similar light-boosting effects.

Even shade tolerant vegetables grow more slowly in shade than they would in sun due to their reduced supply of solar energy. But because leafy greens are short-lived plants, beds comprised of vegetables that grow in shade need frequent updating. For example, spring salad greens may give way to summer chard, and then be followed by mustard in the fall. Gardens planted with shade tolerant vegetables progress slowly, but still undergo constant change.

Finally, you can lighten the mood in dim spaces by using movable containers planted with variegated herbs like pineapple mint or tricolour sage, or light pastel impatiens or other shade-tolerant annuals. An intermitted edge comprised of mounds of white sweet alyssum will create natural footlights that also attract hoverflies and other beneficial insects. When vegetables that grow in shade share company with flowers, you get a garden that is productive, beautiful and balanced.

If you use our Garden Planner, then clicking the Filter button at the top left of the Plant Selection bar gives you the option to show just shade-tolerant plants. Using this shade-tolerant option makes it easy to fill a shady space with herbs, or vegetables that mature at a particular time and the Garden Planner will help you to prevent overcrowding by showing the space they require.

By Barbara Pleasant

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Show Comments


"Wow! This was really helpful. Our neighbors planted some trees along our fence line that now block the sun much of the day. We thought our vegetable planting was coming to an end until I read this article. We will try the plants suggested and see how they do since we have spent a lot of time getting developing good soil in square foot plots. "
Dixie on Thursday 25 October 2012
"Dixie, you also can ask your neighbors about possibly "limbing up" their trees -- removing the low branches within 15-20 feet of the ground. Many trees like this treatment, it allows people to walk beneath the trees, and it allows better air circulation for nearby plants. "
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 26 October 2012
"What a great article! I moved over the summer and where I wanted to put at least one of my 4x4 beds only gets sun in the second half of the day. I just figured I couldn't plant anything there. Now I have an even better reason to get that new white fence we've been planning on. What a fantastic place to put my bean and pea plants! Now I can't wait until spring!!"
Kim on Monday 29 October 2012
"At the end of October, I planted 3 types of lettuce, chard, kale, and collard greens and all are thriving, even though my neighbors still haven't trimmed their trees. Thanks again for the article on shade plants. We'll be adding greens to our morning smoothie for quite a while. And the best thing about growing winter veggies? No bugs. I don't know whether it's the cool weather or the fog here on the coast, but it's great to not have to deal with the little critters. "
Dixie on Tuesday 5 February 2013
"I just baught ipad App and can't create an account. "
Nadia on Friday 24 March 2017
"Hi Nadia, please can you contact our support team at and we'll be happy to help. Just a hint though - could you have used the Garden Planner on your computer previously? If so, you won't be able to create a new account in Garden Plan Pro using the same login details, but you will be able to login using your email address and password."
Ann Marie Hendry on Saturday 25 March 2017
"Wow! This was really helpful. Our neighbors planted some trees along our fence line that now block the sun much of the day..Thank you so much sharing this post.."
exotic vegetables online lucknow on Tuesday 25 July 2017
"Your post is very nice thanks for sharing this post.."
vegetables kanpur on Thursday 24 August 2017
"I live in a Victorian Terrance facing North. It is a very small garden I planted petunias; they have struggled. In the past when I have planted petunias they have thrived( more sun I am assuming) I have now planted a couple or tomatoes, some zucchini plants, some cucumber plants; the tomatoes and veggies appear to be doing OK. I also planted some seed parsley and basil. The parsley seeds have not appeared. The basil seems to be super slow although its planted where it get more sun than the other. Maybe you could advise me on what I have done wrong."
Marlene Burchill on Friday 17 December 2021

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