Last Updated on April 21, 2022
One of the most challenging parts of gardening is finding the perfect space for a particular plant, as they usually have a list of requirements needed to help them thrive.
Vegetable plants are no different and can require specifics in temperature, wind conditions, and light and shade exposure to get it right.
If you’re planning a vegetable garden and have some shady space to fill, you’ll need to know which plants work best in these conditions and how to take advantage of them.
Thankfully, there’s a wide range of vegetables that grow in shade, including deeply through to partially shaded, so it’s up to the gardener to plan the best approach.
So, which vegetables grow in the shade?
Plants like turnips, kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, and arugula should all be considered for a garden that has shade. Most prefer partial shade and some can tolerate full sun, so you’ll be covered for whatever the sun is doing that day.
Sunlight and shade matter to a healthy plant and a good gardener should know the layout of their garden and what each area offers in these aspects.
For your planned veggie patch that sits in the shade, we’ve got the ultimate guide that will help you figure out what to plant where for the tastiest and largest harvest.
Table of Contents
The Types of Shade in Gardening
When you first start gardening, there’s a lot to learn.
One of the biggest lessons you’ll learn is that plants require different things from the sun, and some of them do better with shade while others prefer full sunlight at all times.
As you study the plants and learn more about them, you’ll notice a common approach to categorizing them is by how much shade and light they need.
For shade-tolerant plants, these are the most common terms you’ll come across, and what each of them means.
- Deeply shaded/full shade: This can be confusing as it does not mean no sun, but rather plants that thrive with less than four to six hours of sunlight and often with no direct sunlight.
- Lightly shaded: Lightly shaded means around four hours of shade a day, or with dappled sunlight that peeks through branches and foliage throughout the whole day.
- Partially shaded: A partial shade plant will need to be shaded during the late afternoon primarily, as this is when the sun is harshest.
The Best Plants for Shade
Every garden is unique, and within each garden, there are specific areas that have their own climates and environments as well.
How much sunlight each space gets will determine what you can plant there and how successful they will be.
As a rough guide, you can expect any plant that flowers and fruits to need full access to the sun. however, a plant like a vegetable that’s grown for its roots or green leaves will be able to tolerate shady locations better and can thrive in the partial sun if the other conditions are right.
Plants grown only for their leaves will do even better in the shade, and these are perfect if you’re struggling to get a lot of sunlight in your veggie patch.
Partial sun plants
Partial sun that gets between three to six hours a day will be good for some vegetables, but you’ll need to be patient with growth.
Members of the legume family and brassicas like these conditions and if you choose faster growers then you’ll be able to counteract what the shade does to their growing speed.
Plants that like cool conditions can tolerate shade better, so look for cool-season vegetables as well.
Full sun plants
A vegetable garden with full sun can be ideal but only works with certain vegetables. For the best results, you should choose plants that flower as they won’t like any shade.
These include verities like tomatoes, peppers, and capsicum, so keep them out of the dark areas.
Heavily shaded plants
Heavily shaded areas present some issues for many vegetables because they need a lot of sun exposure to thrive.
However, if you only have a couple of hours of sun a day on your proposed veggie patch site, you can still work with those that allow you to harvest single leaves from the plant.
In some cases, these plants will last longer with heavy shade compared to full sunlight as it stretches out the growing process.
Full shade plants
Although it would be nice, most vegetables and herbs won’t be able to tolerate a fully shaded growing space.
If you have limited access to the sun but are desperate to grow something, you might try establishing some of the hardier herbs first, like rosemary and thyme, and then moving them to a shady area.
Veggie patches in full shade will be almost impossible, so you may need to think about other options for a garden.
7 Vegetables That Grow in Shade
A vegetable garden in the shade will need more time to mature, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be successful. If you’re after specific ideas for what to plant in your shady garden, we can help you out.
These are some of the best vegetables that grow in the shade, with requirements from partial to light shade needed.
Arugula or rocket does well in the cooler seasons and has a nice peppery flavor when grown, making the perfect addition to most salads.
Its foliage appreciates partial shade up to full sun so it can thrive in most settings.
Asparagus is a treasured vegetable for any garden because it has a long life and can survive in different conditions. While it might take longer to harvest, it will last for years, and especially when you find the perfect spot for it.
When it comes to shade, they prefer less of it with partial shade being ideal, and full sun for the best results.
Another cool-season vegetable, beets also prefer partial shade and can even thrive in full sunlight if you happen to move it around for whatever reason.
Beets will grow in shade but the roots may be smaller, however, it won’t impact the delicious taste.
If you’re able to be patient, you can grow broccoli in partial shade in your vegetable garden and get a smaller but tasty result nonetheless.
This plant does well with a lot of sunlight but they will still grow in the shade, provided you can give them more time to flourish. For the tastiest produce, harvest the buds when they still feel tight and let them expand on their own.
One of the easiest vegetables to grow and the tastiest too, kale will do better in the shady parts of your garden but not without a bit of sun.
They will tolerate partial shade and prefer to be kept protected from the harsher afternoon sunlight or they wilt, so a shady spot is key.
The Swiss Chard prefers warmer conditions and they’re a great substitute when you can’t grow spinach because it’s too hot.
Better still, you can keep swiss chard in the shadier areas of the garden and it’ll still do well, taking about 45 days to see leaves.
Turnip is a great choice for beginner gardeners as they’re hardy and easy to care for.
If you have partial shade in the garden and don’t mind growing something with a smaller root, plant a few turnips and see what the results are.
Tips for Shade Loving Vegetables
Keeping your vegetables happy is the key to tastier and more plentiful produce, and the same goes for the shade-loving varieties as well.
Here are some tips for making sure they’re getting exactly what they need in your veggie patch and how to set out the garden for the best results.
- If you’re unsure about how much shade your garden is getting and don’t have time to assess it for yourself, you can invest in a gadget to do it for you. Sunlight exposure can be measured roughly using these gadgets although it’s not an exact science.
- Some months work better than others when assessing how much sunlight and shade your garden gets. In the USA, it’s better to wait until May through to July as the angle of the sun is higher and will get more accurate results.
- Keep an eye on your plants to see how they’re going, as it’s common to have to move things around so that they can get better shade or sun exposure. A plant that needs more sun might have yellowing leaves where a plant with too much sun will be limp and dry.
- What works well in winter might not be the same in summer, so don’t assume you’ll have the ideal spot all year round when it comes to shade and sun exposure. This is why it’s important to track changes as they happen so you can be ready for the next time, including all of the different seasons.
- Remember that vegetables growing in the shade will be slower to grow than others. You’ll need more patience when working with shade-tolerant plants and be prepared to harvest smaller yields some seasons.
- Try to space the plants in your garden more widely when dealing with shade-tolerant vegetables. This will ensure the plants don’t create further unnecessary shade which can impact how well they grow.
- As a shaded part of the garden will have less exposure to the sun, the soil may not have enough surface evaporation occurring. This means the soil can become waterlogged and lead to bigger problems for your plants. Keep watering schedules to a minimum compared to other vegetables in full sunlight.
- Do what you can to brighten up the shady parts of your garden by keeping plants trimmed and trees pruned. A little bit of extra sunlight will do most vegetables well and will likely lead to bigger yields when it comes time to harvest.
A Happy, Shaded Garden
Many people get into gardening with the assumption that plants just need sunlight and water to thrive, then find out there’s a lot more to it than that.
If you’re growing vegetables, the science needs to be even more exact, and figuring out the right amount of shade is one of the biggest hurdles.
The good news is, once you’ve established where to keep these veggies happy, you won’t have to move them again.
Your reward will be better quality and higher quantities of produce, all thanks to the natural powers of the sun and shade.
Gardening is all a matter of working with the space you have, and this includes how much light and shade it gets as well.
For those new to gardening and still trying to figure out which plants prefer the shade, we’ve answered a few questions to give you a push in the right direction.
To add some fruit trees and vines to your shady garden, some species do better in low light than others.
Gooseberries, cherries, and currants are a few options for shade-tolerant plants, while you may have some success with grapes but the vines usually won’t yield as much as when they’re in full sunlight.
Like a greenhouse, a shade house is a structure used for gardening that aims to control the conditions inside separately from the outside climate.
A shade house provides a combination of shade and light and can be used in gardens where this type of coverage can’t be provided from elsewhere.