Flowering Shrubs for Shade

 Flowering Shrubs for Shade

Who doesn't love flowering shrubs? They often do double duty by adding to the beauty of the garden while providing privacy screens. Many shrubs prefer full sun, but while researching this article, I noticed that there are flowering shrubs that need shade more than ever.
Although most of them bloom in spring and summer, there are some that bloom in late fall and winter. Winter color is especially good on those cold, gray days.


There are so many hydrangeas out there, it's hard to keep a count. Unlike most flowering shrubs, hydrangeas are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the winter. They all have large clusters of small flowers, and they all form large dry inflorescences.
Some bloom on old wood. Others flower only on new wood.


The mopheads are also known as French hydrangeas. Many of them tolerate salt spray and cold temperatures, so they are especially popular in northern states and coastal areas. Many of these species will thrive on new growth as well as on the previous year's wood.

Lacecap Hydrangea

Lacecap hydrangea (Hydrangea Macrophylla) has a central cluster of small, lush flowers surrounded by larger, colorful blooms. They are often fragrant but shorter-lived than other hydrangeas.
The name "lace hat" comes from the lace hat worn by maids in Victorian high society homes.

Smooth Hydrangea

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is also known as wild hydrangea, snow hills and seven-bark hydrangea. This is another species known for its cold hardiness, as it only blooms on new wood. Its native habitat is valleys, stream banks and forested rocky slopes with moist soil. This is the most common hydrangea found in North Carolina. It is hardy in Zones 3-8.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Another wild hydrangea is the oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia). It is native to forests and is particularly popular for its clusters of large white flowers that turn green with age. Its leaves actually resemble the leaves of some oak trees.
Oakleaf Hydrangea is home to eight of our southeastern states, including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain laurel (Calmia latifolia) is a broad-leaved evergreen shrub that can grow into a small tree. It belongs to the Ericaceae (berry) family and is native to eastern North America, where it is found in a variety of habitats such as mountain slopes, acidic forests, and rocky or sandy forests. It grows slowly into a dense, rounded shrub, reaching 6-10 feet in height and its branches develop as it ages. It is hardy in Zones 5-9.

Mountain laurel grows best in partial shade (morning sun with early to mid-afternoon shade) but can tolerate a wide range of light from full shade to full sun. It prefers cool, moist, acidic, humus-rich and well-drained soil. Mulch the soil well to retain moisture and keep its roots cool.
This plant does not grow well in heavy or wet loamy soil. In heavy soils, overgrown plants should be used to promote better drainage. To promote dense growth, remove flower clusters and prune branches lightly after the flowering cycle is complete.


Although there are now varieties of azaleas that can take full sun and bloom in spring and fall, true azaleas only bloom in spring.
Shade-loving azaleas are older varieties that I call “traditional” azaleas. They are native to Asia and only bloom in spring or early summer. It requires rich, acidic, moist but well-drained soil. Although it can tolerate morning sun and low light, it mostly needs shade. It is available in many colors from white, pink and coral to orange, deep red, purple and lavender.
Some of their names are Snow, Coral Bells, Pink Pearl, Golden Flare, and Hino Crimson. There are many other variations of these colors. Hardy in all zones 5-9.


Although camellias are not native to the United States, they are loved by most of us. Native to many parts of Asia, it was first brought to Europe from China in the late 18th century, and then to America.

Camelia Japonica

Depending on where it grows, Camellia japonica blooms from December to February. Unfortunately, a late winter freeze often kills the beautiful flowers once they begin to bloom. When we lived in Zone 7B, I often saw these shrubs with bright green leaves and black or brown flowers and flower buds. And every time this happened, it was extremely frustrating. Fortunately, this rarely happens here in Zone 8B.

Camelia Sasanqua

The fall-blooming Camellia sasanqua blooms again from late October to December, depending on the region. As I write this, my sasanqua, shown below, has thick buds that will open any day now.

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