Edible & Medicinal Plants to Grow in Shady Areas

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Shade Plants

It’s January. If you are a gardener, it’s time to get out the seed catalogs and begin planning your summer. While you are not able to get your hands in the dirt, there is still much to do.

Know Your Yard

Everyone has tricky spots in their yard. It takes a while to get to know them. When we first moved in to our property we planted our orchard in what seemed like a logical spot. After living with the land for a year we realized that it was totally wrong and had to dig up and move the trees. I would advise you to get to know the land before planting things that need to grow for many years.

Your yard will inevitably have wet spots and dry spots. If you are growing a vegetable garden you may think that nothing is as bad as a shady area. However, that is only because you have yet to read this article on usable/edible shade plants.

The Trouble With Shade

Most of the traditional vegetables we find in the garden need full sun, that’s true. In an effort to beautify the yard, most people opt for hostas and leave it at that. I wanted to share more great plants for putting in those shady areas, so you end up with more than a just pretty ground cover.

Nut Trees that are Shade Plants

  • Black Walnut
  • Hazelnuts
  • Butternut

Fruit Plants that are Shade Plants

Most of these like to be on the edge of the forest, so a bit of sun is good for these options.

  • Blackberry
  • Raspberry
  • Pawpaw

Medicinal Plants that are Shade Plants

Many of these plants like deep shade. It is important for all of them that you provide good drainage.

  • Goldenseal
  • Ginseng
  • Black Cohosh
  • Spicebush

Mushrooms that are Shade Plants

Learn to grow your own mushrooms on logs  and you can quickly fill up a shady spot with a food that is also medicinal.

  • Shiitake
  • Lions Mane
  • Oyster
  • Reishi

Greens that are Shade Plants

With greens it is important to note that they all tend to need about 3-4 hours of sun a day. Dappled shade or areas that get early morning sun and nothing else after that are perfect for these options.

  • Ramps
  • Spinach
  • Mesclun
  • Arugula

Culinary Herbs that are Shade Plants

Just as with greens, these herbs need at least 3-4 hours of sun each day. If they get less than that, or you don’t have enough drainage, you might tend to get fungal infections in your beautiful produce.

  • Mint: peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, and other mints
  • Lemon Balm
  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Parsley
  • Oregano

So have fun filling up your shady spaces this year, with USABLE shade plants!

Whenever possible, choose perennials for your shady areas. The forest floor gains a lot by not being tilled. By planting as many long term residents into your shady areas and disturbing the soil as little as possible you can mimic the forest more closely.

What do you plant in your shady areas?


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. Dee Terry says

    I have day lilies growing under my tree and next to the north side of my house. These lilies were transplanted from the woods where they seemed to thrive. This year I have to split the plants. More plants mean more flowers for eating. 🙂

  2. Carol L says

    Thank you for this article! I have wanted to know what plants do well in shade for a long time, and putting it all in one article is great!