27 Different Vegetables You Can Grow in the Shade

Thinking of adding some vegetables to your garden where there's some shade? There are actually many different types of vegetables that can grow quite well in partial sun, or even full shade. In this article, gardening expert and suburban homesteader Merideth Corhs looks at her favorite vegetables that you can grow in the shade!

shade vegetables


Knowing where to plant your vegetable garden is as important as knowing what you want to grow in the first place.  Can you grow tomatoes in the shade?  What about iceberg lettuce?  Peas?  As you begin your gardening journey this season, take the time to know which vegetables need full sun to produce, and which can tolerate shadier conditions.  Otherwise, you may find yourself frustrated when you harvest a single tiny jalapeno pepper from the first plant you try to grow… 

Depending on the size of your yard and the exposure it receives, you might have space for both sun and shade-tolerant vegetables.  If you can, that’s amazing!  But if you have a space that sees more shade than sun, don’t worry.  There are still vegetables you can grow, allowing you to reap the rewards of your own home garden.  As more experienced veggie gardeners know, there is nothing better tasting than a vegetable you grow with your own hands!

Let’s dive in to the interesting topic of sun exposure and discover the types of vegetables that produce well in the shadier areas of our gardens.

Defining Sun Exposure

Understanding sun exposure is one of the most important things you can do as a gardener.  I sheepishly admit that, when I planted my first vegetables, it didn’t occur to me that different plants had different sunlight requirements.  I simply threw purchased plants from the garden center into pots and hoped for the best.  Unsurprisingly, I was very frustrated in that first season and harvested a grand total of one jalapeno and three strawberries.  Not my finest gardening moment…

The great news is that, by reading this article, you are leaps and bounds ahead of where I was early in my gardening journey.  Let’s take a look at the three basic conditions used to describe the amount of sun an area receives during the growing season.

Full Sun

Full sun areas receive direct sunlight for 6 or more hours a day.  Southern exposure is ideal for most sun-loving vegetables where they receive light during the majority of the day but are protected from the strongest afternoon sun.  But many can tolerate a western facing exposure as well.

Most fruiting vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash, – prefer this level of light exposure.

Partial Shade

Partial shade and partial sun both refer to areas that receive 3-6 hours of direct sun each day.  But there is some nuance between the terms.  Areas that receive partial sun see 3-6 hours of direct sun but are shaded for the remainder of the day.  Partial shade areas, on the other hand, are moderately shaded throughout the entire day, typically receiving filtered or dappled light from trees or other large plants.

This light exposure is ideal for growing root, leafy, and fruiting vegetables.

Full Shade

Full shade areas receive less than 3 hours of direct sun each day.  Most vegetables require more sun exposure than this, so reserve these areas of your garden for shade-loving ground cover or flowering plants like impatiens.

Know Your Garden’s Sun Exposure

Now that you understand the difference between full sun, partial sun/shade, and full shade, it’s time to measure how much direct sun your own garden receives.  Keep in mind that sun exposure changes throughout the seasons, so ensure you measure this during the growing season you are focused on.

First, identify where you want to plant your vegetable garden.  This can include areas where you plant directly in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers on your deck.  You’ll want to check these spots every hour or two from sunrise to sunset.  Take note of when the sun first hits the area, when the sun may be blocked for a short time, and when it is fully shaded.  This will allow you to be confident that you are planting your garden in the correct place!

Keep in mind that if you live in an urban area or a suburban neighborhood, this process can be a little more complex.  I live in a townhouse with a western-facing deck and backyard.  With other homes and trees to account for, different parts of my yard and deck get very different amounts of sunlight.  I’m sure my neighbors think it’s fairly entertaining to see how I arrange my own vegetable garden to optimize the light needs of my plants!

Pro Tip:

You don’t necessarily have to keep your shade-loving vegetables in their own segregated areas.  You can also plant them under taller plants.  For example, lettuces, basil, chives, and radishes can tuck easily under tall tomato plants.  This not only shields them from the heat and too much sun, it can offer unique companion planting benefits!

Shade-Friendly Vegetables

Root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and onions, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, can grow well in partial shade conditions where they see closer to 6 hours of direct sun.  Leafy vegetables like salad greens, on the other hand, thrive in areas with dappled light throughout the day.  Knowing what particular type of shady area your vegetables prefer will go a long way towards strong production!

Root Vegetables

Rooting vegetables are plants that grow under the soil. While many of these plants do need light, there are some that can require a bit less. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the top root vegetables that make perfect companions for shade gardens.


Shouldn’t water beets often, because of this, the root crops become watery, tasteless, and poorly stored.

Beets are grown for both their greens and roots and are used in a variety of cooking preparations.  Greens can be prepared just like spinach and enjoyed raw, sauteed, and in soups.  The roots are most commonly roasted or pickled and have a delightful earthy flavor.  While most are familiar with red beets, golden beets are also quite delicious and have a more mild flavor.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Direct sow seeds in spring and fall.  Thin to 3” apart when seedlings are 1-2” tall.  This will allow for enough room for the root to form.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest:  Pick greens when they are 4-6” long; you can take a few stalks from each root without slowing root growth.  Harvest roots at 1” for baby beets, and up to 3” for mature beets.


In order for carrots to grow sweet and beautiful, regular tillage should be carried out.

Carrots are one of my favorite things to grow because they’re largely hands off after you thin young seedlings.  This sweet root vegetable is a staple in our house and we enjoy many colored varieties throughout the year. 

You can find carrots that are short and stubby to long and slender.  And colors range from traditional orange to white, red, purple and light yellow.  Like most root vegetables, carrots will grow a bit smaller in areas with partial shade, but they are just as sweet!

  • When to Plant:  Warm season crop. Direct sow seeds every two weeks after your last frost for a continuous harvest or sow a second crop in midsummer for a fall harvest.  Ensure you thin seedlings to ensure enough room for root growth.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: To make harvesting easier, soak the area with water and pull gently from the base of the leaves.  Carrots can be eaten at any size so you can harvest them at any time after 45-60 days.


To increase the garlic yield and preserve it from the winter cold, you should mulch the beds with humus, peat or sawdust.

Garlic has long been a staple in our home and is popular in many different cuisines. It is best known for creating a base of flavor in soups, sauces, and meat preparations.  When roasted, it develops a sweet, caramelized flavor that adds exceptional depth to food. 

Interestingly, garlic is grown from cloves rather than seeds, is planted in the fall, overwinters, and is harvested in the summer.  This long season crop does take a bit of preparation, but fresh garlic is well worth the wait.  The scent and flavor of fresh garlic will make you scoff at those you find at the grocery store!

  • When to Plant:  Long season crop. Plant cloves roughly 4 weeks before the first hard frost in your area.  Ensure cloves are placed with the pointed end up and blunt end down.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: LIke onions and potatoes, you’ll know your garlic is ready for harvest when the leaves begin to turn brown and fall over.


Leeks gained their popularity due to their taste and unpretentiousness of care.

“There’s a leek in the boat! Ahhhhh!”  My son was a huge fan of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs when he was younger.  In the movie, there is ‘living food’ including a leek who jumps in a boat, and well… you get it!  In real life, leeks are a wonderfully easy vegetable to grow and eat.  They are similar in taste to onions, but tend to be a bit sweeter.  Prepare and enjoy leeks as you would an onion.

  • When to Plant:  Long season crop.  Sow seeds in early to late spring for a fall crop.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest leeks when the base of the stalks reach ¾ “- 2”, about 90-120 days after sowing.  Harvest as many leeks as you need and leave the rest to harvest later in winter.  Ensure they have all been harvested before the ground freezes.


Parsnip is a biennial plant from the celery family, with a thick root, ribbed stem and feathery leaves.

Parsnips look quite a lot like large white carrots, but they have a softer, nutty flavor.  I love using them in soups and fritters, roasted with other root vegetables, and shaved in salads.  Unlike carrots, parsnips are a long season crop.  Aim to harvest after your first frost for a slightly sweeter bite.

  • When to Plant:  Long season crop. Direct sow seeds after danger of frost has passed. Thin seedlings to allow for adequate root growth.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Although parsnips are edible at any size, aim to harvest after your first frost.  This will give you a slightly sweeter root.  Plants should be fully matured 120-180 days after seedlings emerge.


Before Potatoes planting, you need to remove the remnants of weeds that may have survived from the previous season.

Potatoes are a wonderful crop to grow at home.  They’re incredibly easy to grow and the flavor is amazing.  While you can always plant potatoes directly in the ground or in raised beds, they do really well in grow-bags too. 

This gives you a lot of flexibility when deciding where to plant.  Harvesting your garden grown potatoes is quite fun and the kids love helping.  After you dump the dirt out of your grow-bag, it’s almost like an easter egg hunt to find all the potatoes!  There are quite a few varieties of potatoes, of course, but will typically fall within white, red, or sweet categories.

  • When to Plant:  Cool weather crop. Plant tubers as soon as the ground can be worked in early spring.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: About 70-120 days depending on the variety.  You’ll know they’re ready once the leaves turn brown and start to fall over.  If planted in the ground or a raised bed, dig carefully beneath the soil and pull out what you need.  If using a grow-bag, carefully spill out the dirt and pull out potatoes.


To obtain a high-quality crop, it is necessary to regularly fertilize and systematically water the Radish.

Radishes are a perfect choice for new gardeners. Radishes are easy to grow, and they are great for beginners. They also grow quickly, which means after planting, you’ll soon feel like you have hundreds of radishes sprouting up in your garden! 

Just like with beets, you can enjoy both the greens and the roots of the radish plant.  The root is most commonly eaten raw in salads, but they can also be enjoyed roasted or sauteed.  Greens can be used similarly to spinach and can be an excellent addition to a spicy pesto.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop.  Direct sow seeds in early spring and again in late summer for a fall harvest.  Succession plant every 2 weeks for maximum harvest.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest entire plant once radish is about 1”, about 20 days after sowing!


Garden Planted Turnips
This garden staple is relate to swedes, radishes, radishes, daikon, mustard, horseradish, and all types of cabbage.

Turnips are fairly easy to grow, and are also quite resilient crops. Though they are most commonly cooked, turnips can be enjoyed raw as well.  Just make sure you peel them first!  Last year, I discovered that turnip chips are quite delicious as well.  Simply slice them thinly with a mandolin, roast and season.  So much better than a greasy potato chip!  Like radishes, you can also enjoy turnip greens in soups or salads.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Direct sow seeds in early spring and again in late summer for a fall harvest.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: For greens, pick 4 weeks after sowing or wait until the root develops and harvest the entire plant when it reaches 2-3”.  If grown in spring, be sure to harvest roots before the hot weather arrives.  In the fall, harvest after your first frost for a slightly sweeter flavor.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are a big group that’s composed of veggies mainly from the Brassicaceae family. This includes cabbage, lettuce, kale, bok choy, and broccoli. Many of these veggies are shade friendly. Let’s take a deeper look!


Arugula is a moisture-loving plant, so it is important to strictly observe the watering regime.

While I always considered arugula to be a leafy green, it’s actually part of the cruciferous family and more closely related to broccoli.  Grown and used since ancient Roman times, arugula was first used as a medicinal herb.  Today, we typically enjoy the bright, peppery flavor raw in salads, or sauteed light in pastas and soups.

  • When to Plant: Warm season crop. Direct sow seeds in spring and late summer once temperatures have fallen below 75 degrees.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Tolerates full sun if protected in the afternoon, but prefers partial shade conditions.
  • Harvest: Begin harvesting after 20 days for baby leaves and 40 for full size.  As with most greens, arugula will produce more as you harvest.  Begin by taking the outer leaves once they are about 2” long and leave the center intact for future growth.  Stop picking leaves once the plant flowers since they will become bitter at that stage.

Bok Choi

Bok Choi
In order for Bok Choi leaves and petioles to turn out juicy and tender, it must be provided with regular watering.

Also known as pak choi or pok choi, this is a type of chinese cabbage.  Unlike heading varieties of cabbage, bok choi forms a small cluster of leaves with a bulbous bottom.  It has a flavor similar to spinach with a mildly peppery undertone. 

Bok choi is incredibly popular in asian cuisine and is slowly finding its way onto western dinner tables.  I receive both baby and full size bok choi from our local CSA and enjoy it roasted, lightly grilled, stir-fried, and braised.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Direct sow seeds in spring and fall
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest baby bok choi after 30 days or 60 days for mature plants. Cut the stalks at soil level.


It is recommended to water broccoli every other day, and if the summer is hot, then every day.

Broccoli is a slow-growing, cool season plant that appreciates some shade once days get warm. Plants typically create large leaves surrounding a central flowering head, which is harvested upon maturity.  Broccoli is delicious raw, steamed, sauteed, or roasted and is a vegetable staple in my house! 

If the long maturation process puts you off from growing broccoli, try a variety of broccolini instead.  You can harvest its small shoots much earlier and enjoy them throughout the growing season.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Sow transplants in early spring and again in midsummer for a fall crop.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest:  Pick broccoli 50-60 days after transplant when the heads have tight, firm buds.  Cut off the central head along with 6” of stem to encourage the plant to produce additional smaller heads that can also be harvested.

Brussels Sprouts

Garden Planted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts love comfortable conditions and enjoy partial shade.

Another interesting veggie for shade areas: Brussel sprouts.  Even though the sprouts look like small cabbages, they certainly do not grow like them.  Instead, the plant forms multiple bulbs on a single, large stalk. 

While this is a long-season plant that takes 26-31 weeks to reach maturity, the sprouts can be harvested for many months – from September through February depending on where you live.

Make sure to keep Brussel sprouts away from tomatoes or other plants in the nightshade family. Veggies from the brassica family don’t do well with nightshade family vegetables if planted nearby.

  • When to Plant:  A long season crop planted in spring for a fall harvest.  Start seeds indoors 4 weeks before your last frost.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Wait until after your first frost to begin harvest (‘frosting’ improves flavor and sweetness).  Twist sprouts off the stem starting at the bottom of the stalk.  Take as many as you like and leave the rest on the plant.  Remaining sprouts will keep throughout winter.  Typical harvest times are from September through February.


Garden Planted Cauliflower
Another veggie that needs plenty of water, cauliflower does not tolerate either drought or waterlogging.

Cauliflower has gained a resurgence in popularity in recent years due to its inclusion in health foods such as cauliflower rice and pizza doughs.  More traditionally, you can enjoy it raw, steamed, and roasted.  Like broccoli, cauliflower is slow to mature and is grown for its flowering head.  Most often seen in white, you can also find cauliflower varieties sporting orange, purple, and green heads. 

Cauliflower grown in partial shade conditions will grow more slowly and produce smaller heads than those grown in full sun.  But, the shade will also prevent the heads from flowering prematurely and discoloring in the sun.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Sow seeds indoors about 8 weeks prior to transplanting.  Sow transplants from spring to early summer in northern climates; from fall to spring in frost free areas.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest:  Cut heads off the main stem 50-120 days after transplanting depending on the variety.  Ensure you harvest prior to the plant flowering.


Growing cabbage in open ground is impossible without regular watering, as it is a very moisture-loving plant.

Cabbage develops a round head of leaves that wrap around each other tightly.  There are over 400 different varieties of cabbage, giving you plenty to choose from! These plants produce large leaves and require a lot of room to grow, so ensure adequate spacing when you plant. 

Cabbage grows well in partial shade conditions, but may take a little longer to reach maturity.  I enjoy cabbage shredded in salads and tacos, blanched and rolled as stuffed cabbage leaves, fermented into sauerkraut, roasted with root vegetables, and sauteed in soups. Cabbage also makes a great companion plant for shady garden areas.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Start seeds indoors about 8 weeks prior to planting. Plant transplants in the fall.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest once heads feel firm and solid; cut off at the soil level.

Chinese (Napa) Cabbage

Chinese (Napa) Cabbage
Chinese (Napa) Cabbage prefers fertile soil with enough humus.

Napa Cabbage has a milder flavor than regular cabbage and is often used in asian cuisines for its versatility.  It can be eaten raw, quickly sauteed in a stir fry, or cooked for a long time in a soup.  Interestingly, Napa cabbage is similar to tofu in that it absorbs the flavors of the foods around it. 

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Direct sow seeds in spring as soon as the ground unfreezes and again in midsummer for a fall crop.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest:  Harvest heads when the become firm after 45-60 days.

Collard Greens

Collard Greens
Collard Greens prefer regular weeding, loosening the soil, watering, hilling the bushes, if necessary, feeding, and protection from pests.

Best known in southern cuisine, collard greens are a delicious addition to your garden. They can be eaten raw, sauteed, or in soups.  The most popular preparation is in southern collard greens and there are as many variations on that staple as there are people who cook it!

  • When to Plant: Cool weather crop. Sow seeds directly in early spring and again in late summer for a fall crop.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to Partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest entire plants when they are 6-8” tall. If you don’t want the entire plant at once, you can take outer leaves as you need them and allow the inner buds to keep producing.  If grown in the fall, wait until after a light frost to harvest as this sweetens the flavor.


Shade Garden With Kale
Interestingly, kale is a leaf vegetable that does not form, unlike other plants in the same family.

Kale became known several years ago as a superfood and gained a lot of popularity with home gardeners.  I plant kale every year. Kale is incredibly easy to grow, there are only a few pests you have to watch out for, and the flavor is incredible.  Tuscan kale is my favorite, but you can also enjoy common curly kale, Siberian kale, or Chinese Kale.  Kale is commonly used raw in salads, or sauteed in pastas or soups.

  • When to Plant: Cool season crop. Direct sow seeds or young transplants in the spring and fall. Kale can tolerate a light frost, which often adds to its flavor.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Grows well in full sun, but also tolerates partial shade conditions.
  • Harvest: Seedlings emerge in 10-21 days.  Pick the outer leaves as desired once they reach 6” long after about 55-60 days after transplanting.  Leave the center buds intact for continual growth.  You can continue harvesting kale leaves throughout the season.  Leaves will be slightly sweet if they remain after light frost.


Garden Planted Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi coexists well with many crops, so it can be grown along beds with legumes, tomatoes and cucumbers.

A uniqe vegetable, kohlrabi is a vegetable I was first exposed to through my CSA and is commonly seen at farmer’s markets.  The bulb looks a bit like a small, hard cabbage and tastes like a delicious combination of cabbage and spicy radish.  I really enjoy it shaved in a salad and coleslaw, but we have also appreciated it roasted with garlic and parmesan and added to soups.  You can also eat the stems raw in salads or as a spinach substitute.

  • When to Plant:  Cool season crop. Direct sow seeds in spring and again in fall (for frost free areas only)
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest when bulbs are 2-3” and leaves are still young and tender.

Mustard Greens

Garden Planted Mustard Greens
While they can be grown in areas with sunlight, mustard greens can also grow in the shade.

Mustard greens are known for their peppery, pungent, mustard-like flavor.  The flavor is quite similar to mustard, which makes sense since mustard seeds come from this plant!  Cook mustard greens like you would spinach, but be prepared for the much stronger flavor.

  • When to Plant: Sow seeds directly in early spring and again in late summer for a fall crop.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to Partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest leaves after 30 days for tender baby greens and after 60 days for mature leaves.  Note that the flavor will intensify as the leaves mature.


Legumes are plants that come from the family Fabaceae. They are basically the fruit, or the seed of that type of plant. Peas are the primary shade-friendly legume, and there are many different types of peas that you can consider for shadier areas of your garden.


Garden Planted Peas
While they need plenty of moisture, peas are a great option for shady areas.

Peas are always one of the first things I plant in my garden in each spring.  There are many different pea types, giving you plenty of garden flexibility. Seeing the young shoots pop up after a long winter is incredibly satisfying and incredibly tasty!  Snow and snap peas can be picked and eaten right off the vine or sauteed in stir fries. 

English or sweet peas are a shelled variety that are removed from the pod prior to eating.  Shelling peas is a pretty quick process and the fresh peas that result are so delicious!

  • When to Plant: Cool season crop. Direct sow seeds in spring after the danger of frost has passed.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: For snow or snap peas, harvest pods when they are 2-3” long.  Shelled pea pods should be harvested when they support full sized peas.  Harvest peas frequently to encourage the plants to continue producing.


There are some great shade-friendly veggies that are greens. Lettuce and swiss chard are two of the most popular, but there are several other options to consider. Let’s take a look at the most popular greens to plant in shady areas of your veggie garden this season.


Lettuce is used in cooking as a vitamin green for salads, sandwiches, appetizers and other dishes.

Along with peas, leaf and heading lettuces are among the first things I plant every year!  After you taste the very rich flavor of lettuce from your garden, you will have a hard time enjoying what comes out of the plastic containers at your local grocery store. 

Lettuces come in so many different varieties that the sky is truly the limit.  The great news is that lettuce is incredibly easy to grow from seed, so you can try multiple varieties this season!

  • When to Plant: Cool season crop. Sow seeds directly after danger from frost has passed and again in the late summer for a fall crop.  Succession plant every 2 weeks for optimal production.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest baby greens after 30 days. Pick leaves as desired from the outside of the plant and allow it to continue producing new leaves. Looseleaf and butter lettuce matures in roughly 45 days; romaine takes closer to 65. Once lettuce has bolted or gone to seed, pull the plant and sow new seeds when temperatures have cooled.  Lettuce is bitter after the plant flowers.


The edible part of the rhubarb is only the stems – the leaves and roots should not be eaten, as they are poisonous.

Rhubarb is a plant known for its vibrant pink edible stalk and very sour taste. It’s most commonly used in pies or paired with sweet fruits like strawberry. You can also dip the raw stalk in sugar or honey to help mellow the tart taste. This is a true perennial and, once planted, you can enjoy a beautiful harvest year after year.

  • When to Plant: Perennial. Plant root crowns in early spring. Allow the plant to grow for a year prior to harvesting.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest at least a full year after planting. You can cut stalks off once they reach 12” tall.  Harvest lightly in the first several years, and always leave at least ⅓ of the plant intact.


Shade Garden With Spinach
A great source of iron, spinach is another shade-friendly veggie.

Spinach is probably one of the most known and best loved greens to cook with in western culture. This is why so many preparation tips of other vegetables reference spinach! While spinach is a little finicky to grow, but it will definitely thrive in shady, cooler conditions. Enjoy spinach raw, sauteed, or cooked in soups and stews.

  • When to Plant: Cool season crop. Germinating seeds is very challenging, so we recommend transplanting young plants instead. Sow seeds or plant transplants in spring and early fall.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest outer leaves first when they are at least 3”; about 45 days. The plant will continue to grow and produce new leaves as you harvest.

Swiss Chard

Garden planted swiss chard
A popuplar annual plant, swiss chard is grown seasonally.

Swiss chard is a wonderful leafy green that can be enjoyed in so many ways. I have used the leaves raw – in salads, smoothies, and juiced – and cooked in every way you would use spinach. Chard is beautiful to look at while planted as well. The rainbow variety is stunning with shades of orange, pink, purple, and red stalks and vibrant green leaves.

  • When to Plant: Warm season crop. Sow seeds in spring as soon as soil can be worked.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest leaves when they are 5-6”. Start by taking the outer leaves and allow the plant to continue to produce throughout the season.


Herbs can make great shade-friendly plants. They are a subset of vegetables, but many of them have specific qualities that make them great companion plants to others in your garden. Chives, for example will ward of many different types of pests, and can make great companion plants for many different types of vegetables. Let’s look at some of the top shade-friendly herbs.


Rosemary tolerates drought well, but it needs regular, abundant watering to grow new shoots.

One of my favorite smelling herbs, rosemary is a wonderful plant that is incredibly easy to grow.  It tolerates shady areas well, is drought tolerant, and overwinters beautifully. Continually harvesting stems will encourage continued growth of production of this aromatic plant.

  • ds or transplants in spring after danger of frost has passed.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest as desired; if you are using it fresh, pick in the morning for highest oil content.


Garden Parsley
A popular herb, parsley does not tolerate even short-term waterlogging.

Parsley is another herb staple in many gardens, and does quite well in partial shade. A true biennial, parsley produces only foliage in its first season. It overwinters beautifully in all but the coldest climates, and will then flower in its second year. Once the plant has set seed, the leaves will become bitter, so be sure to harvest before this happens!

  • When to Plant: Direct sow seeds or transplants in spring after danger of frost has passed. In frost free areas, sow from fall to early spring.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest outer leaves by cutting them at the base of the stalk. Harvest as needed.


With poor watering, chives leaves coarsen and lose their taste.

Chives may be the easiest of all herbs to grow in the shade. I have always planted chives under tomato plants, peppers, and fruit trees as they really thrive in dappled light. This is a perennial herb that will come back year after year and is incredibly low maintenance. Chives have a delicate onion flavor that can be harvested and used in the kitchen simply by snipping off a handful of stems whenever you desire.

  • When to Plant: Direct sow seeds or plant transplants in spring after danger of frost has passed.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Partial shade
  • Harvest: Harvest as needed throughout the growing season. The plant will continue to grow even if you cut back all of the stems.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have discovered just how many vegetables can grow and produce well in shady conditions, take the step to experiment in your own garden. See what vegetables succeed! It can be helpful in the first year to try growing in containers or grow-bags that can easily be moved around to different locations. This will give you maximum flexibility when making the most of your garden space. Enjoy!

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