The New Home Economics

Fruits and vegetables for part-shade

10 Comments

(alpine strawberry, a superstar of permaculture gardens)

Yes, there are SOME edibles that do just fine with part shade.  Please note: when I say “edibles” and “part-shade” in the same sentence, I mean that the area still gets a solid 4-6 hours of sunlight a day — for really deep shade, you’ll have to be a little more creative about your definition of “edible.”

Fruits (all of these are perennials):
Gooseberries
Cranberries (warning: requires acid soil)
Alpine strawberries
Currants
Serviceberries (also called Juneberries)

Notes about fruits:
I planted 40 alpine strawberry plants as well as a currant bush in May ’10.  The alpine strawberries were wonderful, and fruited in a few different light scenarios.  The plants get to be about 6″ tall, so they work great as a border.  I’ve heard that they are difficult to start from seed, so I purchased mine at the Friends School Plant Sale.  They were very inexpensive.  I’ve also read that they will not set fruit in deep shade, so be aware of the note above.

I also planted lingonberries, but I think I will have to move them to a full-sun area, if they even survived the winter.  They looked pathetic the whole year.  My dreams of lingonberry pancakes may not ever come true, alas.

The currant did all right, though it stayed quite small, which is another good thing to note: in part shade, bush-type plants will not reach the size listed on their plant tags, so don’t worry if they are slightly more crowded than indicated.

Vegetables that can thrive in part-shade (aim for 4-6 hours of sunlight):
Kale
Lettuce
Sorrel (a perennial green)
Spinach
Swiss Chard

Vegetables that can tolerate light shade (aim for 6-8 hours of sunlight):
Beets
Carrots
Cauliflower
Cucumbers
Onions
Peas
Potatoes
Radishes
Winter squash
Turnips

Notes about vegetables:
I got this list from a fellow Master Gardener.  I’m a little skeptical, especially about the root crops like carrots, beets, and turnips.  Greens work great in part-shade, though; it keeps them from bolting too fast.  I will consult this list when I add new raised beds in my partially-shaded back yard this spring and record how it goes.

UDPATE, April 19, 2013: I’ve separated the list above into two categories. Really, I’ve realized that only greens can tolerate a low level of sunlight. Root vegetables need a solid 6 hours.

Herbs:
Parsley (curly- and flat-leaf varieties)
Cilantro
Mint
Thyme
Dill
Fennel (bulbs will be very small)
Lemon balm

My cilantro, parsley, fennel and dill have all been re-seeding themselves and coming back, all over the yard, in several different lighting situations.  I have so much parsley that I actually use it in place of lettuce sometimes.

Mint can be rather invasive so planting it in heavy shade helps control it.  We planted mint in a VERY shady spot last year and it did very well.  I plan to expand that operation this year.

Deep shade edibles:
Mushrooms
Ramps

I’ve not tried mushrooms or ramps, so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

This is by no means a complete list.  Anyone have anything else to add?

Update, 2/21/2011: Edible Hostas?  Interesting idea, Renee!

Update 2, 2/21/2011: Nice timing. Emily Tepe, of the U of M Edible Landscaping blog, has just posted links to several University Extension Office publications about how to grow several different fruits, along with recommended cultivars.  Currants/gooseberries | Blueberries

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10 thoughts on “Fruits and vegetables for part-shade

  1. Blueberries are typically an understory plant, so they can handle some shade. I just posted about eating hostas on Modish today. I’m going to add some hostas to our deep shade wooded area. Also ostrich fern fiddleheads.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this!! We want to add a garden in our yard this year but it doesn’t get full sun, so we were just talking about what we could plant that would grow. Perfect timing!!

  3. Thank you for sharing Jennifer. I have also experienced success with strawberries in a shady area for the second year now. Summer or winter, the strawberries are doing their job almost non stop here.
    I do help them in the winter with a cover though. It gets pretty cold here in the Bay Area.
    What about Basil, do you have any experience with this herb?

  4. rad article! i have a bed in deep shade beneath a lovely hawthorn tree— i’m going to prune it a bit and try some of these suggestions.

    i’ve grown crazy basil in dappled shade; it doesn’t do quite as well as it does in the sun, but that’s fine as long as you plant a LOT of it.

  5. Great Article! I would only add that Ramps can be grown in “full shade” provided that it is seasonal. Ramps emerge early in the spring to take advantage of the first light and warmth before the canopy fills in. If your full shade is cast by a building, you may not have success.

    • Good to know! I will keep that in mind. I think that many spring ephemeral-type plants work that way. I have a spot in mind in the back yard that will be perfect for ramps and I am planting them this year!

  6. I’ve been plowing around the web to find stuff to grow on my somewhat shady balcony. Thanks for sharing your recommendations!

    • Awesome! You know, I need to go in and revise this list… I would no longer advise the root vegetables for part-shade. They need more like 6-8 hours of sunlight vs. 4-6. Still not as much as “hot weather” plants like tomatoes (8-10 hours) but a bit more than greens like lettuce.

      I heard a great quip the other day: If you grow it for the fruit or the root, it needs sun. If you grow it for the leaves, a bit of shade is fine.

  7. Good information, I have seen very good mushroom cultivation under Acacia shade.

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