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Best Shade-Tolerant Vegetables

Even in shady conditions, you can bask in great garden harvests if you choose the right crops and make a few easy adjustments. 

By Colleen Vanderlinden 

When considering which crops to grow in shady areas, think of them in terms of leaves and roots. Crops we grow for their leaves (kale, lettuce, spinach) and those we grow for their roots (beets, carrots, turnips) will do fairly well in partially shady conditions. (The crops we grow for their fruits — such as eggplants, peppers and tomatoes — really do need at least six hours of full sun per day.)

To learn more about how to grow crops in shady gardens, check out Best Vegetables to Grow in the Shade.



Shade Notes 

Growing Tips 

Arugula At least three to four hours of sun per day. Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun.
Asian greens At least two hours of sun per day. Asian greens such as bok choi (also spelled “pac choi” and “pak choi”), komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light.
Chard If you grow chard mainly for its crisp stalks, you will need at least five hours of sun per day; if you grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves, three to four hours of sun per day will be enough. Expect chard grown in partial sade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads.
Culinary herbs At least three hours of sun per day. While many culinary herbs need full sun, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley will usually perform well in shadier gardens.
Kale At least three to four hours of sun per day. You'll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun.
Lettuce At least three to four hours of sun per day. Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun.
Mesclun One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade well. The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before you have to replant.
Mustard greens At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens. Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens.
Peas and beans At least four to five hours of sun. If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest wil take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
Root vegetables At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production. Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you'll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they'll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourment treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store.
Scallions At least three hours of sun per day. This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season.
Spinach At least three to four hours of sun per day. Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easliy if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you'll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outmost leaves of each plant.



The estimates in this chart are based on the experiences of the author and the experts mentioned in Best Vegetables to Grow in the Shade. 

Post a comment below.


2/4/2016 12:57:47 PM
We just moved into our new home last year. This will be our first garden. We have a beautiful tall wooden fence the length of our yard with a rock flower bed up against it. I had kicked around the idea of planting a small vegetable garden in the flower bed for our 2 year old. However I'm concerned that the area would not get enough sun. The wooden fence is on the south side of our yard and blocks a lot of the sun. Any recommendations on what I should plant in this area? Thanks!

10/27/2015 8:55:27 PM
Some of this depends on your climate zone. For instance, I live in the tropics and the only way I have found to successfully grow large sized tomatoes here is to grow them in partial shade. In full sun the fruit overheat and "boil" inside. Most people here don't grow them for that reason, but they could if they carefully used a combination of shade and moisture control.

9/28/2014 8:52:33 AM
How do I get rid of moss in my yard. It is shady.Pat

9/28/2014 8:50:27 AM
Excellent website. Lots of useful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks in your sweat!

5/30/2014 2:11:13 PM
OK guess I'm in . I had shade for veggies except early 5 - 7 am & 3 hours after 4pm.

5/30/2014 2:09:19 PM
Guess I'm doing this all wrong about my 5th message I've done

5/30/2014 2:08:09 PM
Can I grow tomatoes, bush beans & burpless cukes in the shade?

felonious monk
3/17/2013 12:26:53 PM
foil is very inefficient as a reflective material, it eats light compared to mylar and other related materials, some of which are up to 50% more reflective than mylar (lightweight reflect-a-gro for one), you can buy reflective materials which will reflect whatever available light you do have... these products come from the indoor growing market, hydroponics shops and the like, you'll find lots on line and on ebay... ; )

pat tinkey
2/15/2013 6:18:11 PM
Thanks for the list. My trees are so big the ariel photo of my home only shows leaves, but the yard has lots of partial sun spots. Very helpful.

David Zawadzki
8/15/2012 9:23:47 PM
I have read an article in the "Square Foot Gardener" that suggest using aluminum foil to relect sunlight. I longer have my copy, but try and see if it is in your local library.

David Zawadzki
8/15/2012 9:22:06 PM
Thanks, Mom for this list. I am new to my location. Due to a city lot that has trees, a 6 foot fence, and a large shed on it I get more shade that I am used to.

Hawk Weier
8/8/2012 10:52:10 PM
I have an apartment patio that is 3ft by 6ft. It only gets sun on the outer edge for a couple hours a day. My peppers and basil catch enough sun to thrive but I want to grow more variety. HELP. LOL

Tony Blanford
7/9/2012 1:05:18 AM
Why in the world would you want to get rid of the moss. Get rid of the grass. Let the moss grow naturally where it pleases. Just be sure to blow off the leaves that fall onto the moss in the fall.

Patricia Hunter
6/9/2012 4:43:53 PM
How do I get rid of moss in my yard. It is shady.Pat

George Newell
5/16/2012 8:39:27 AM
Jezica, if you have a space in the apartment that gets lots of sunlight, check out the following photo: I have to admit I laughed myself silly for about 5 minutes the first time I saw this; but then I realized the sheer simplicity and ingenuity of the idea. For those who are curious about the picture (before you view it), it's a picture of an old closet shoe organizer used as a planter. I also realized how easy it was to get some of these; I just go to local yard sales all over town. There's always someone trying to get rid of one for a buck.

5/4/2012 7:44:15 PM
This is super helpful. I live in an apartment so most of my plants are under grow lights or in windows that don't get a ton of sun. It's good to know these veggies will do just fine until I move into a place with better sunshine.

Nora Gunderman
3/30/2012 6:23:22 PM
We've been having an issue with too much shade. This list is most helpful, thank you!

5/1/2011 10:23:34 PM
Self sustaining is the only hope we have left, with all GM products around.

3/22/2011 10:44:53 AM
Thanks so much for the information. While we have a fairly large yard, our garden is cut up into smaller pieces and one place that I had not used yet was along the one side of the house. It does receive afternoon soon, but is in the shade during morning hours. It looks like some of these vegetables might just be the answer for this space. Thanks again.

2/28/2011 10:17:32 AM
My daughter sent me this link and I'm so happy to join in. I've been a gardener all of my life and love the garden news of growing in partially sunny areas. Thank you.

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