Vegetables you can grow in the shade

Gardeners make tactical use of the sunny areas in their garden because of a simple fact – plants need sunlight to grow. Why would you grow vegetables in shade? Well, some vegetables actually thrive in shady parts of the garden – giving you more space to ‘grow your own’ at home. 

Veg growing

A spot with some shade can even be beneficial to a plant. For veggies that prefer cooler weather, partial shade offers relief from harsh summer sun. Plants that tolerate shade can be used to give you extra harvests before or after late summer. And while many veg grow more slowly in shade, this buys extra time to harvest them before they turn bitter. 

How to grow vegetables in shade

Some vegetables love the cooler areas of your garden that receive less sunlight. Limited exposure to the sun also helps the ground to hold moisture, so watering is less frequent. 

To grow a good crop for harvest, you’ll need to make sure you can provide the level of shade a plant prefers, or at least can tolerate, in your garden. Light conditions can be categorised as: 

  • Full sun – Many plants love full sun, being positioned in front of white painted walls to boost the weaker winter sun. Veggies that prefer shade need extra watering to survive this much sunlight. 
  • Light shade – Plants that don’t need full sun usually grow well in light shade – but may not produce as many flowers. 
  • Partial or semi-shade – Sun-loving plants can often survive in partial shade, but they may not flower at all – so won’t grow fruit either. Plants that love shade start to come into their own here. 
  • Dappled shade – Shade-loving vegetables grow well here, but may need more watering. 
  • Moderate shade – Plants that tolerate the shade can survive even in moderate shade, but they’re usually grown for foliage rather than flowers. 
  • Deep or heavy shade – Under dense evergreen trees, it stays dry and sheltered in all seasons. Only incredibly shade tolerant vegetables and other plants survive here. 

How much sunlight do plants generally need? 

Most plants need at least six hours of sunlight every day, and will thrive with eight hours. The same goes for vegetables. 

To figure out how much sunlight a plant needs, we can also observe whether they grow as a ‘shade avoider’ or ‘shade tolerator’ when in a shadier spot. 

Shade avoiders rarely may good plants for shady areas. They’ll elongate their stems to try and reach past buildings or other plants and access better light. 

Shade tolerators usually grow broader, thinner leaves with a higher chlorophyll content. This allows them to adapt to shady conditions better while still producing a harvest. 

What type of veg tends to grow best in shade? 

Remember how we mentioned shade can make it harder for plants to flower? If a plant has flowers that then turn into fruit, like tomato or cucumber, it usually needs a lot of sunlight. You may struggle to harvest food from any veg that are technically fruit grown in the shade.

What vegetables can grow in shade, then? Root veggies tolerate fewer hours of sunlight and still grow well (so no, potatoes and carrots don’t need full sun). And most leafy greens are shade vegetables – they wilt in the heat of direct sunlight, but produce more growth under full cover. 

What are the best vegetables to grow in shade?

To help your vegetables start growth quickly, sow seeds in small pots placed in bright sunlight. Once they’ve established a root system, transplant them into the garden. 

There are plenty of plants that can thrive in your shaded garden patch. Here are just a few veggies that grow in shade. 

Spinach

Spinach is a low-maintenance leaf you can grow either in a pot or directly in the soil. Different types can be sown all year round for regular harvests. Spinach is also prone to bolting quickly in the summer sun. But growing it in partial shade will give you more time to harvest the leaves before their flavour turns bitter. 

Lettuce

Lettuce prefers to grow in cooler temperatures, although plants will need protection from the coldest weather. They enjoy the shade of trees or taller crops, making them one of the vegetables that grow in full shade. You can sow lettuce anytime between March and September and, if growing in pots, water regularly. 

Broccoli

Broccoli is fast and easy to grow, so you won’t wait long just because you planted them in a shady spot. As they’re ready to harvest in summer and autumn, you’ll appreciate growing broccoli in the shade. When they bloom, the tiny buds turn bitter but cooler, shady temperatures slow this down. 

Peas

Although pea pods are technically fruit, they’re an exception to the rule for fruiting plants. They prefer both cooler temperatures and partial shade. Peas grow just as well in pots as soil as their root structure isn’t extensive. They’ll just need supports to scramble up, like a trellis or bamboo canes. 

Kale

Full sun can turn kale leaves tough and bitter, so they appreciate the cooler temperature of at least partial shade. Kale is easy to grow, hardy against the cold and fares very well in a container. Sow between March and June, to harvest from September to March.

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