What Plants Grow Well in Shade in California

More and more people are moving to California from other parts of the country. This can be a good thing for some but there is always an adjustment period when considering how to grow your plants in this new environment. The shade created by our homes is not friendly for many types of plants, including flowers, trees and herbs

California is a state that has been hit with a drought. The lack of water can affect the plants that are grown in California. In order to grow plants in California, you need to know what plants will grow well in shade.

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As unbelievable as it may sound, not all of California is bathed in brilliant sunlight all year. Significant swaths of land in California are covered in deep canopies of tree branches and leaves, receiving little everyday sunlight. Similarly, throughout most of the year, many plants and yards get little to no direct sunshine. In California, there are many of plants that thrive in the shadow.

Many native California plants have evolved to thrive in shady environments. There are around 500 different types of local plants, including:

  • Blue Waterfall and Biokovo Geranium are perennials.
  • Evergreen Currant and Sweetbox are examples of shrubs.
  • Grasses like California Fescue are a good example of this.

California’s warm temperature and sufficient sunlight provide great circumstances for a wide range of gardening techniques. However, not all outdoor places in California get natural sunshine, necessitating some preparation and design. Shade planting, on the other hand, may completely change any outdoor area, even those in the darkest corners. Here’s how to do it.



In California, what plants do well in the shade?

There are a variety of factors that might cause a garden or yard to be deprived of sunlight. For example, the presence of towering trees with enormous canopies of branches and leaves (such as native California oak trees) may operate as an efficient barrier to sunlight, enabling just a few rays to reach the ground below.

However, when it comes to landscaping on private property, the absence of sunlight is usually the consequence of man-made circumstances, such as:

  • Structures inhibiting sunlight include homes, buildings, and walls.
  • gazebos, pergolas, and awnings that are particularly meant to produce shady places are strategically placed.
  • Semi-permanent recreational equipment such as play structures, trampolines, and sport-related stuff
  • Large characteristics that are ornamental or attractive

Affected places do not have to be barren or devoid of plant life, regardless of the source or reason for a lack of sunlight. On the contrary, there are a variety of feasible plant alternatives, the majority of which are native to California and hence ideal for shady locations. The California Native Plant Society claims that there are over 500 native species that thrive in the shade. Here’s an example:

Perennials that grow well in the shade in California

Perennials are popular among gardeners since they survive for more than two years. Perennial plants are a fantastic option for shaded settings since they need little care once established, have resilient root systems, and many are drought tolerant. 

Here are some popular perennials to consider for your California garden’s shaded areas:


Blue Waterfall (Campanula poscharskyana) — with its beautiful blue bell-shaped blooms, this perennial will offer a dash of color to any shaded environment.


Velvet Elvis (Plectranthus) Is a vividly blossomed plant with purple flowers and robust purple-green foliage, Velvet Elvis (Plectranthus) is another beautifully blooming plant.


With its delicate pink and white blossoms and foliage that changes colors with the seasons, Biokovo Geranium (Geranium x cantabrigiense) is not only well-suited for the gloomy corners of your yard, but it is also supposedly deer and gopher-resistant.


Variegated Rock Campion (Silene uniflora) — despite its small white blooms and multi-colored foliage, this hardy perennial is a tough, low-maintenance plant that thrives in shaded locations.


These are but a few highlighted Perennials that grow well in the shade in California. With dozens of other options, perennials are a very safe bet for sunlight-deprived areas of any garden.

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Shrubs that do well in the shade in California

Shrubs are great for outdoor spaces where tree planting isn’t possible. These plants may provide a rustic, natural character to any landscape because to their woody appearance and modest size. Many shrubs, including these outstanding selections, are well-suited for shaded places, making them ideal for gardens with dark recesses:

  • This native California shrub, Ribes vibernafolium, is modest in height but may cover an area up to eight feet wide, making it a suitable alternative for filling in empty places in the shadow.
  • Japanese Pieris (Perris japonica) — this plant may reach a height of 12 feet and a width of 10 feet, providing thick foliage with brilliant blossoms and dark green leaves.
  • Sweetbox (Sarcococca) — This evergreen shrub with long pointed leaves tends to thrive in darker environments, yet its very scented blossoms make it worthwhile to grow it nearer to heavily visited places.

Native California shrubs are a terrific alternative for clever gardeners who want the most bang for their gardening dollars when it comes to low-maintenance planting choices in dark, shaded places.

Other Shade-Tolerant Plants in California

Apart from perennials and shrubs, there are a variety of different plants that are excellent for shadow gardening, demonstrating that just because an area of your garden or yard lacks sunshine does not imply that your planting choices are restricted. Here are a few instances of the huge range of possibilities:

  • Grasses – Grasses like Basket Rush (Juncus textilis), Berkeley Sedge (Carex tumulicola), and California Fescue (Festuca californica) are excellent choices for shaded places due to their low water needs and inherent hardiness.
  • Low-lying plants like vines and groundcovers, such as California Grapes (Vitis californica), Carmel Sur Manzanita (Arctostaphylos edmundsii), and the very fragrant Star Jasmine, are excellent choices for shaded regions (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

It’s simple to understand how there are hundreds of native California species to pick from for shadow gardening projects with such wide categories of shade-friendly plants. Another option is to plant ferns, such as the Southern Sword Fern (Nephrolepsis cordifolia), which grow well in the shadow and lend a lush, tropical feel to your outdoor area.

What You Should Know About California Shade Plants

Knowledge is the key to success in many efforts in life. Master gardeners, according to popular belief, are not endowed with the elusive gardening gene or born with a green thumb; rather, their knowledge is the product of extensive study and a good deal of elbow grease. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to shade planting. First, we’ll discuss shadow in general.

Plants may be shaded in a variety of ways.

There are subtleties of shadow that are crucial to consider while picking shade plants no matter where in California your garden is located.

Assessing how much direct sunshine a given region gets during the day is one method to look at shadow. This would be near to zero in the case of ground under a heavy canopy of tree branches and leaves, or beneath a huge awning or umbrella, and would have an influence on the sorts of shade plants that would be ideal for planting there.

However, as the sun travels from east to west across the sky, a place near to a building (e.g., a home or a fence) may get restricted sunlight at certain times of the day. There’s also a distinction to be made between an area that is entirely shaded from above and an area that, although getting little to no direct sunlight, is nevertheless exposed to the open sky and so receives enough of natural light.

Only one factor to consider is shade-friendliness.

It takes a lot more than digging up the soil, plopping the plants in, watering them, and hoping for the best when it comes to growing shade plants in gloomy regions. Multiple elements are involved in each form of vegetation, and each must be studied in concert with, rather than in isolation from, the others. These crucial elements include:

  • Shadow level – full shade or partial shade
  • Temperature – frequency of >100°F or <32°F temperatures at the site
  • Elevation – is it higher or lower than 5,000 feet?
  • Clay, sand, silt, and other forms of soil composition
  • Good (absorption into the soil after 10-15 minutes) or poor drainage (drainage is too slow or too fast)

Planting shade plants in your California garden should be a successful undertaking if you use a well-researched technique that considers the kind and severity of shadow, as well as other criteria.


Because of the tremendous range of native California plants that thrive in the shadow, parts of a backyard that were formerly considered to be too gloomy to support vegetation may now become vibrant outdoor displays of healthy plant life.


The “tall shade plants southern california” is a plant that grows well in shade. It is typically an evergreen shrub or tree and can be found in the Mediterranean region of Europe, North Africa, and California.

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