Growing Privacy Trees and Shrubs In Shade

Growing Privacy Trees and Shrubs In Shade

Jan 3, 2020

Though many plants require a large amount of sunlight to perform photosynthesis, there are others that are more adapted to living in shaded areas. Landscaping in shade can be a tricky yet rewarding endeavor, especially if you have gardening goals in mind such as privacy. You can plant privacy trees, hedges, and shrubs in shade, but it is important to understand the types of shade your garden experiences, and how to choose the best privacy trees, hedges, and shrubs for planting the perfect privacy screen.

Types of Shade

Not all shade is created equal; it is highly dependent on the time of day and season. Take notes on sun exposure in different parts of your for future reference when you are selecting plants. These notes may include when and how intensely different areas are exposed.

You can categorize areas in your garden by shade density, which is determined by measuring the area’s exposure to sunlight. Determine whether your garden is covered by:

  • Light shade, resulting in 5-10 hours of sun exposure.
  • Partial shade, resulting in 5 or fewer hours of sun exposure.
  • Full shade, resulting in less than one hour of direct sun exposure, though filtered light may make it through in patches throughout the day.
  • Deep shade, resulting in zero sun exposure.

Building Shade

Some structures, overhangs, or buildings create deep shade by fully blocking sunlight at all hours of the day. Plant choices for deep shade are often foliage plants that can survive in damp soil.

Other times, buildings might create partial shade. Partial shade gardens lend to more diverse plant choices than deep shade gardens, as many exciting plants thrive with a minimum of five hours of sunlight.

Tree Shade

While buildings provide shade to the immediate areas around them, some people prefer to grow their own shade by planting a few trees. However, shade trees absorb much of the sunlight that plants in your garden below them need for photosynthesis. Additionally, the roots of mature trees can spread, resulting in competition for water and soil nutrients. Fortunately, there are many plants and smaller trees that are adapted to life under larger deciduous trees, especially when sun exposure varies to cast full, partial, and light shade in different locations under the trees.

Woodland Areas

Woodland areas and gardens may take a bit of extra care to ensure that both the natural canopy and root systems in the surrounding area do not restrict its growth. Woodland areas may include all types of shade depending on location, from deeply-shaded areas under a dense canopy to fully- and partially-shaded areas more towards the edges of the wooded areas. A few tips on growing in woodland areas may include hiring an arborist to clear crowded sections of the canopy that may be dead or sickly; this can improve the health of the trees, as well as provide more access to sunlight underneath the canopy. It can also be helpful to remove some carefully selected roots of older trees and add topsoil to provide space for the growth of new plants.

Privacy Trees That Grow in Shade

Though shaded areas may require a little more calculation and planning, there are still easy ways to use privacy trees in your yard. There are a variety of privacy trees that can grow in shade. This may include:

Nellie Stevens Holly Tree

These fast-growing trees are conical in shape and fair well in partial shade. The dense foliage provides a great privacy screen, windbreak, and produces red berries that are attractive to birds.

Eastern White Pine Tree

These trees do best with ample space, are long-lived, and fast-growing. They grow in partial shade and make a great addition as a windbreak, privacy screen, or sound buffer.

Evergreen Trees that Grow in Shade

Though many evergreens grow well in full sunlight, there are some that have adapted to grow in partial-shade environments. These may include:

Black Hills Spruce Tree

These trees are naturally symmetrical with a compact and dense shape. They grow well in partially-shaded environments and make great landscape accent trees, or privacy and windbreak trees if planted in groups.

Weeping Blue Spruce Tree

These trees are dwarf evergreens with weeping irregular branches and fine blue needles. These hardy and partial-shade trees make a great accent or statement and can also be grown in a container.

Silver Smoke Cypress Tree

This tree is a beautiful silver-blue color that stands out against green scenery.

Small Trees That Grow in Shade

There is a range of small trees that grow in shade. A few options that offer blooms or interesting forms and focal points include:

Dogwood Tree

Dogwoods come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, are easy to grow, and can fit in small yards. Many dogwood species are adapted to shadier environments, growing comfortably under a large canopy, or in the partial shade of a home.

Magnolia Tree

Varieties of Magnolia trees can grow in partial sun or partial shade. They offer impressive and fragrant flowers with beautiful glossy foliage. These trees make a stunning statement when in full bloom with a range of colors.

Japanese Maple Tree

Japanese Maple trees are popular and desirable as they often produce a focal point with a unique shape, form, and color. Leaf shapes may range from wide palm-like leaves to soft, lacey, or feathery. Color pallets range from red, green, orange, purple, white, and pink.

Hedges That Grow in Shade

Many species that grow well as hedges often prefer sunny locations. A hedge that requires full sun may lose leaves or grow to become leggy if planted in the shade. Hedges that are adapted to shade or partial shade include:

Skip Cherry Laurel Shrub

This evergreen shrub grows well as a privacy screen and hedges with dense foliage that can also act as a windbreak. As one of the hardiest Laurel species, this shrub can also grow in partial shade and produces fragrant white flowers and red berries.

Chestnut Hill Laurel Shrub

This evergreen shrub is a compact plant with hardy round growth. It takes well to heavy pruning and shaping and grows in both full sunlight and partial shade. The dense foliage makes this Laurel an excellent choice for hedges and privacy screens.

NewGen Freedom Boxwood Shrub

This hardy shrub is tolerant of a wide range of soils and light conditions and requires annual pruning to ensure an attractive plant. This vigorously growing plant with dense foliage makes for a great privacy screen.

Shrubs That Grow in Shade

Shrubs range in size, density, and blooming pattern, and often are available in varieties that grow well in partial shade as well as filtered sunlight. 


There are many azalea varieties that thrive in partial shade and filtered sunlight, and that offer brilliant and showy blooms in ranges from white, pink, red, and orange. These plants grow in height from 2-6 feet, and can offer privacy with their deep green foliage and velvety blooms.


These classically beautiful specimens come in a profusion of colors, sizes, and bloom varieties. It is important to ensure that the light requirements are considered when choosing a variety as some prefer full sunlight and partial shade, while others prefer full shade with only filtered light.

Holly Shrubs

Holly shrubs are typically fast-growing, versatile plants that require low maintenance and can grow in all 50 states. Many are compact and dense making them a great screening or privacy hedge. Birds and wildlife are attracted to the winter berries, though the plant is generally resistant to deer, pests, and disease.

Shaded areas in your landscape should not deter you from growing with design and intention. After carefully identified areas of sun and shade exposure in your planting area, you can curate a beautiful selection of privacy trees and hedges, shrubs with showy foliage and blooms, and unique statement pieces to accent your garden.