Garden Vegetables to Grow in the Shade

I personally think that spring planning is the only way to survive winter months. I sketch and make lists, research and sketch some more. I even go as far as making outlines that point to companion plantings. You don’t have to go that far, but I actually enjoy it.

Not everyone has a full open area to grow their produce, but there are actually a lot of garden vegetables to grow in your shaded areas. Here are just a few.

I had mentioned before that I want to utilize our side yard for more plantings. It is just a lawn that no one uses, but it was sort of like pulling off a band-aid to actually make the commitment to pull up the grass. I also mentioned making a sun map to chart roughly how much sun each area of your property gets. Being impatient, this spring I am guesstimating where shade areas will be. To play it safe I am putting partial shade tolerant plants in the questionable areas. You won’t the number garden vegetables to grow that you can put in the shade!

Shade-Tolerant Vegetables

There are a surprising number of vegetables and edibles that will grow in shade. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it provides some options to get you started.

Asian Greens
Brussels Sprouts
Green Onions
Herbs – most
Mustard Greens
Sweet Potatoes

Not everyone has a full open area to grow their produce, but there are actually a lot of garden vegetables to grow in your shaded areas. Here are just a few.

Deciding if a Plant is Shade Tolerant

When deciding which crops to grow in partial shade areas, think of which part of the plant we consume. Crops where we eat the leaves or roots, tend to do fairly well in partial shade conditions. Crops where we eat the fruits, really do need at least six hours of full sun per day.

Knowing that you don’t need full-sun for all your crops opens up a lot of doors when it comes to planning for your garden. Maybe (like me) you will realize that you can sacrifice a bit of lawn and instead of spending your time mowing, you can be spending your time collecting food for your table.

Seed Sources

Average Person Gardening offers a wide variety of shade tolerant vegetables. Their seeds are open-pollinated heirloom seeds. That translates to buy once, save your seeds, and continue to enjoy the bounty year after year. They also offer a Seeds of the Month Club (talked about on ABC and NBC) that delivers high-quality seeds to your door every month. I have been a member for over six months and I have been so pleased with the quality and variety of seeds I’ve received. My kale from them last summer was phenomenal!

Additional Resources

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith
All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
Vegetable Gardening for Dummies by Charlie Nardozzi
How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons
The Ultimate Guide to Raised Bed, Vegetable, Companion, Greenhouse, and Container Gardening for Beginners by Lindsey Pylarinos

Not everyone has a full open area to grow their produce, but there are actually a lot of garden vegetables to grow in your shaded areas. Here are just a few.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    We have had great success with carrots, beets, lettuce broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, scallions, spinach, but potatoes we felt needed sun for the foliage to do well until the harvest. We live in CA on 2/3 of an acre and have raised beds filled with a mixture of 50/50 mushroom soil and potting/compost soil. There is a mushroom farm close to us that gives its soil away for free unless you need more than you can haul yourself. They sterile the soil before planting so there are no weeds or pests in it. It’s high in nitrogen so needs to be diluted with the other soils or it will burn seedlings. It amazing stuff and our plants grow to enormous sizes and health. It’s 99% organic. Ck it out if you have a mushroom farm near you.

  2. Sadly I have a yard that is shaded by maples front and back. By June with the leaves and the sun’s arc, no area gets more than 1 hour of light a day. But we had moved here to grow things! LOL
    So I was so enthused when I found a list of ‘shade-growing veggies’ (similar to yours), and planted 10′ rows (or more of some)… It was a lot of hoe and rake work, but this soil is nutrient rich and full of eathworms!
    I planted: broccoli, snap peas, parsley, radish, carrots (the tiny French kind), 4 kinds of lettuce (including Tom Thumb), beets, turnip, cilantro, and about 6 other things I can’t right now recall, as well as garlic…
    NONE of them got over 6″ high the entire summer. They just ‘stayed alive’.
    The radishes didn’t come up at all. The peas looked good but scraggly -maybe like normal at that stage, but they were eaten at 6″ anyway (wildlife abounds). The lettuces got 4 leaves about 4″ – all of them, and then quit. The garlic was dug up this spring and planted with what I’d saved over winter in the fridge- we paid for 2 plots in the sunny community garden.
    I’m sure there are some shade-loving plants out there, that do well – (my wild orange daylily is doing great!) but as for gardening for food- well, I guess I just set myself up for disappointment – partial shade is not the same as shaded, and 1 hr of sunlight equaled 0 shade in this equation.
    Better luck to you all!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I’m sorry you didn’t have luck. Yeah, edibles are tough with just an hour of sun.

  3. Mike the Gardener says:

    Great list. My favorite being (well, besides all of them) the kale. So easy to grow with little sun and it is a super food.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Kale is super versatile too. I hide it in all sorts of my kids’ meals.

  4. Oh it should also be mentioned that we planted the seeds outdoor directly in the bed.

  5. Hi there, I hope you still read this post’s comments! We just planted our first garden in a raised bed. We planted veggies for their leaves and / or roots only. The bed gets a good 4 hours direct sunlight a day and the rest is still bright but filtered light, never really in true shade. I’ve always read these plants can do well in the shade, yet my seedlings are so leggy. Do you know why this would be if they are truly a shade tolerant plant? (i.e. leggy lettuce, kale, radish (only a few of the bed), spinach, and cilantro). Would love your advice on anything I could do to help them make it!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You might have better success transplanting versus direct sowing. In the early stages, those plants are going to reach for the light, resulting in leggy plants.

  6. Anna@GreenTalk says:

    Blackberries and sweet potatoes need full sun. They can take afternoon shade. In fact sweet potatoes need heat. Herbs may not be as full in partial sun.

    Beans actually can grow in some shade too.

  7. good post however the sweet potato part , i read that it likes full sun. i have sweet potato and it loves the sun at least 6 hours.. thanks for the info

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      The harvest may not be as good, but they will grow in less. Of course, the more sun you can offer, the better, but even those who don’t have full sun, you can still have sweet potatoes.

  8. I’m thankful for the shade vegetables list you created. One thing about shade that you don’t mention in your article: It generally, at least in my yard, comes from trees and those trees’ root systems can be a barrier for most plants. Some, like maples and nut trees, exude poison from the roots and from the dead leaves that can kill many plants, even shade plants like Hostas. Then, too, trees are great suckers of moisture, so any shade garden will need double or triple the water than other gardens simply because tree roots will suck up most rain and hose water and then those roots will grow even larger and more thirsty as they elongate their reach. The only way I have found to raise plants in tree-shaded areas is to plant in raised beds that have floors to keep tree roots at bay. If folks have shade from innocuous things like buildings, then they shouldn’t be concerned with my complaint, but if their shade comes from trees, better consider the type and size of the trees before going through the work of establishing a garden under the trees’ canopy.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      That is very true Delores and thank you for mentioning it. I haven’t had much trouble with maples, but I know walnut and pine trees can cause headaches. If you are planting under troublesome trees, it’s best to use containers.

  9. Dina Andricci says:

    What a great post on shade gardening.I have a real nice area on the side of our house I’ve been considering doing.Kale, herbs, turnips, leeks. ….I’m so excited to get started!!!

    Keep up the GREAT WORK !

    1. Glad to help ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Keep in mind the difference of the angle of the sun during the winter versus the angle of the sun during the summer. I was planning on planting grapes along a fence line, but was discouraged when I saw it was in shade consistently during the winter. During the summer growing season, the grape garden is in full sun. Makes a difference in choose those garden plants!

    1. Great point Lorrie. The best time to do sun maps are at the beginning, middle and end of the growing season.

  11. Stoney Acres says:

    Great post!! We are going to have to learn how to grow more in the shade. Our back yard neighbors just put up a new fence that will shade the first two beds of our garden for most of the year so this is a gardening skill I’m going to have to acquire fast!!

  12. Mike @ Gentleman Homestead says:

    Very timely! I just walked in all dirty from planting spicebush amongst the PawPaw patch I put in yesterday. Also a couple more gooseberries sprinkled about. We have quite a bit of space just north of our woods and to the east of the house that is pretty shady. Thanks for the list. A few in there I didn’t realize do well.

  13. Great post! We just did a shade survey to find out how much of it we have in our garden. Now I am looking for what to plant in those shady spots. This will be helpful. However, since our weather is more on the cool side, we need to be careful. have you had good experiences with growing potatoes in the shade? How much shade?

    1. I can’t be sure of the exact amount of sunlight in the area I planted, but it was fairly shaded by a tall fence and a shed. I got lots of potatoes, but they were smaller than I usually get. Perfect for stews, but not great for baking.

      I’m in Maine, so I feel for you with the cold climate. I’m using cold frames and mini greenhouses to add to my short growing season.

      1. Thank you! It sounds like it is worth to try. Yes the short growing season is a bit of a pain. But we are thankful for what we get.