15 Best Fruit Trees And Berries to Grow in the Shade

Most gardeners aren’t lucky enough to have a fully south facing garden that receives maximum sunlight throughout the day.

You might have one sunny patch and then a whole lot of shady spots, and be wondering what fruiting plants you can grow in those areas that only get a few hours of sunlight per day.

Though most fruit trees need at least six to eight hours of sunlight to flourish. However, there are a number of shade-loving fruits and berries that actually do surprisingly well in shaded areas, so don’t think of them as a limitation but rather an opportunity to grow and experiment with something new!

Read on to learn about 16 of the best fruit-bearing trees, bushes, and vines to grow in the shaded parts of your garden, so you can use your space to its fullest potential.

Understanding Sun Exposure 

You might have seen on the back of your seed packets there is a little symbol of a sun accompanied by a description stating whether this particular plant needs full or partial sun, also described as shade tolerant.

There aren’t any fruits or vegetables that grow in full shade, meaning no sunlight, as almost every crop needs at least a few hours of sunlight per day to grow. Mushrooms, however, can grow in full shade.

Full Sun 

Full sun indicates that the plant requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to grow, thrive, and produce optimally. This is a very common sun requirement for most fruits and vegetables.

These crops will perform significantly worse or may even die if they receive less than 6 hours of sun per day during the growing season.

Full to Partial Sun 

Full to partial sun indicates that the plant in question prefers full sun, but can tolerate partial sunlight and some shade.

The plant won’t be quite as happy and yields may be slightly smaller, but the plant will survive and produce in a spot that receives shade for part of the day.

Partial Shade or Shade Tolerant

Partial Sun or Shade tolerant implies that the plant can do well in a spot that receives only a few hours of sunlight per day, and it may actually prefer it. There are a number of fruit trees that fall into this category, as well as leafy greens.

15 Best Fruiting Plants That Grow In The Shade Garden

The following list will introduce you to some fruits that you can grow in partial shade.

Keep in mind that while some of these fruits will do just fine in shady spots, others will just tolerate the lack of light and would actually prefer more sunlight.

This may affect their fruit production and result in a slightly decreased harvest with less sweet fruits.

Here are 15 most tolerant shade loving fruiting plants that will thrive if they receives as few as two to four hours of direct sunlight a day, or constant dappled light for the full day.

1: Rhubarb

Rhubarb in shade garden

Rhubarb is a cold season crop which is actually not technically a fruit, as the edible portion is the long succulent stalk of each leaf.

The leaves themselves are quite toxic so make sure to keep children and pets away from it. It is a low maintenance perennial that will return every season, and will grow well in partial shade.

  • Growing guide: Plant at the beginning of spring. Rhubarb needs at least one year to establish itself before it can be harvested. Harvest up to 60% of the plant at a time but always leave part of the plant to regrow. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Colorado Red’ and ‘Victoria’
  • When to harvest: May to July when stalks are around 10 inches.

2: Hardy Kiwi

Hardy Kiwi

Hardy kiwi is a perennial plant that grows as a vine and produces smaller versions of the popular kiwifruit. It is cold tolerant and produces fruit in the fall. It can be grown in full sun but tolerates partial shade, although the foliage may be less vibrant.

  • Growing guide: Plant in the spring after the danger of frost is gone and ensure you have a robust trellising system set up for these vines. Prune in the winter to promote fruit growth, and harvest in the fall.
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Arctic Beauty’ and ‘Ken’s Red’ 
  • When to harvest: August – September, depending on your region.

3: Muscadine Grapes

Muscadine Grapes (2)

If you live in a southern region of North America, you can grow Muscadine grapes in partial shade, although they will produce significantly more fruit with increased sunlight. They grow on vines with lots of green foliage, and produce large, round fruits.

  • Growing guide: Plant in the spring in a spot with excellent drainage and provide a good trellis for the grape vines to climb. Prune annually and harvest as grapes ripen.
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Nobel’, ‘Nesbitt’, and ‘Carlos’ 
  • When to harvest: August – September.

4: Plums

Plums

Plums will grow fine in areas with partial shade, preferably in spots that receive morning sun and shade in the afternoon. Trees can be dwarf or full-size and will produce small, oval shaped fruits that are usually purple or red.

  • Growing guide: Plant as a bare-root tree in well-draining soil that is moist, but not soggy. Prune away dead branches regularly to maintain shape.
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Czar’
  • When to harvest: Late summer/early fall.

5: Pears

Pears

Pear trees are fairly hardy and low maintenance fruit trees that grow well in colder climates. They prefer more sunlight but will still produce a decent harvest in partial shade. If you can, grow them in a west facing spot that receives morning shade and afternoon sun.

  • Growing guide: Plant in sandy soil that is slightly acidic with plenty of space for sprawling roots to grow. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Morello’ and ‘Taiwan Cherry’
  • When to harvest: Late summer/ early fall.

6: Cherries

Cherries

Most cherry trees are not shade tolerant but certain tart or sour cherries like ‘Morello’ will tolerate shady areas. The trees themselves can be grown alongside a wall that is east or west facing and they produce beautiful white blossoms.

  • Growing guide: Plant in sandy soil that is slightly acidic with plenty of space for sprawling roots to grow. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Morello’ and ‘Taiwan Cherry’
  • When to harvest: Late summer/ early fall.

7: Lowbush blueberries

Lowbush blueberries

Also called wild blueberries, this smaller variety of the more common highbush blueberry can be cultivated in a garden but is still often foraged in the wild.

They are shade tolerant due to the fact that they would typically grow in the shady understory of forests and other vegetation.

  • Growing guide: Bushes are short (6- 24 inches) and grow best in acidic, loamy soils that are rich in organic matter. Fertilize with used coffee grounds every couple weeks.
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Ruby Carpet’ and ‘North Blue’, 
  • When to harvest: Mid to late summer.

8: Blackcurrants & Redcurrants

Blackcurrants & Redcurrants

Most types of currants will tolerate partial sunlight as, similar to blueberries, they would usually grow wild in the shaded areas of a forest.

If you live in a warm climate, they will actually perform better with afternoon shade and the protection it provides from high temperatures. They are low maintenance bushes with tasty, small berries.

  • Growing guide: Can be grown in containers or in the ground, and they prefer acidic soils that are rich in organic matter. Space bushes 5 to 6 feet apart from one another. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Ben Hope’ and ‘Ben Connan’, 
  • When to harvest: Late summer.

9: Blackberries

Blackberries

Blackberries are one of the most common fruits that are grown in the shade, and they have been used as natural (and thorny!) fences and wall covers throughout history.

More exposure to sunlight will increase fruit production, but you will still get a significant harvest in partial shade.

  • Growing guide: Soak stools before planting in sandy, acidic soil with excellent drainage. Trellis canes against a fence or wall as they grow to avoid a tangled bushy which can be difficult to harvest from.
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Loch Ness’ and ‘Helen’ are thorn-free varieties.
  • When to harvest: Mid to late summer.

10: Lingonberries

Lingonberries

Lingonberries grow on a short evergreen bush and are shade tolerant. In fact, they do not do well in high temperatures as their native wild range is in Northern, temperate climates. Lingonberries require the same care as other berry bushes like wild blueberry.

  • Growing guide: Grow in very acidic soils with pH of 5.0. Plant in the spring once you are certain the risk of frost is over, and provide plenty of space for their roots to grow and sprawl. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Erntesegen’ and ‘Balsgard’
  • When to harvest: Provide one year to establish, harvest in September of the second year after planting.

11: Elderberries

Elderberries

Elderberries will tolerate partial shade, but fruits will become sweeter when exposed to sunlight. They have a number of medicinal uses and are hardy in cold climates. They are grown for their attractive flowers as well as their berries, which attract many beneficial pollinators.

  • Growing guide: Elderberry bushes have shallow root systems so make sure to plant anything you want growing next to it at the same time to prevent disturbing the roots. Plant in the spring in acidic soil with good drainage, and mulch heavily. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Laciniata’ and ‘Adams’
  • When to harvest: August – September.

12: Gooseberries

Gooseberries

Bramble-y gooseberry bushes will grow well in partial shade, but like many other berries in this list will become sweeter the more that they are exposed to the sun. Once established bushes are low maintenance and will produce fruits for over a decade.

  • Growing guide: Plant in the spring or fall and mulch over winter. Gooseberries like well-draining soil that has been amended with compost or other nutrient rich natural fertilizers. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Invicta’ and ‘Greenfinch’.
  • When to harvest: July- August.

13: Juneberries

Juneberries

Also called saskatoon berries or serviceberries, these small trees are very cold hardy, as their native region is the Northern USA and Canada. They are relatively low maintenance and can grow in less than ideal soil conditions and with only partial sun.

  • Growing guide: Adaptable to most soils except heavy clays. Prune after planting in the spring to direct growth pattern, but once established little pruning is needed.
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Pembina’ and ‘Success’. 
  • When to harvest: June- July.

14: Mulberries

Mulberries

These small trees are cold hardy and fast growing, and will produce a sizable harvest in a spot that receives partial sunlight.

Once established the trees are fairly low maintenance and produce delicious, flavorful berries that come in a few different colors.

  • Growing guide: You can grow mulberries in soils with a fairly alkaline pH of up to 8.5, and all species should be grown in soils with good drainage and adequate moisture levels. Plant in the late spring once all danger of frost has passed. 
  • Best varieties for shade: Red Mulberry varieties like ‘Varaha’
  • When to harvest: May – August depending on type.

15: Raspberries

Raspberries

There are many varieties of raspberry that have been cultivated for the different times of year they produce fruit, and a number of them will produce well in partial shade. Like blackberries, their sprawling canes can get out of control easily if not pruned back at the end of the season.

  • Growing guide: Grow in a spot that is sheltered from the wind and has good drainage. Buy one year old canes from a nursery and plant in the spring after the ground has thawed in rich soil. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Malling Jewel’ is an early producer and ‘Autumn Bliss’ is a late producer.  
  • When to harvest: Dependent on the variety, from May – October.

16: Alpine Strawberries

woodland strawberry For Shade Gardens

Alpine or mountain strawberries are smaller versions of the popular fruit that do well in partial shade due to their disposition for cooler, higher elevations that have fewer daylight hours. Note that regular strawberries need full sun.

  • Growing guide: Start seeds indoors in the winter or purchase transplants in the spring. Plant 10 inches apart in well-draining soil, and mulch after planting to protect roots. 
  • Best varieties for shade: ‘Alexandria’ and ‘Mignonette’
  • When to harvest: Continuous harvesting from June to October.

Tips for Growing Fruiting Plants In The Shade Gardens

To fulfill the potential of your shaded garden, here are some important tips to keep in mind while growing the fruits listed above.

Tips Growing Fruiting Plants For Shade Gardens
  • Grow shade tolerant fruit varieties. Although many fruit trees and berries will do just fine in partial shade, there are some varieties that are much better adapted than others. Make sure to select a variety that is specifically shade tolerant, like the ones specified in this article, as different varieties of the same plant may need full sun and will suffer in the shade.
  • Make sure shaded spots have lots of nutrients. Before planting, amend shaded areas of your garden with compost or organic matter to make sure your fruits will have lots of nutrients to help them along. Don’t over fertilize throughout the season, but since your plants will already be lacking sunlight you want to make sure they won’t be lacking nutrition while they are establishing themselves.
  • Adjust your watering schedule for shaded fruits. Direct sunlight often controls how often you need to water your plants, and on sunny days water will evaporate more quickly. Keep this in mind when watering, as you likely will not need to water plants in the shade as often as those in the sun, and you do not want to flood them or create boggy soil that will take a long time to dry out. 
  • Prune regularly to create more entrances for light. Fruits grown in partial shade should be pruned more vigilantly to allow what light they do receive to have maximum infiltration to the centre of the plant. Make sure to leave enough foliage in the sun-reaching spots to photosynthesize and create energy for the plant, but prune away any excessively bushy growth. 
  • Shade shouldn’t mean poor airflow. Less sunlight can mean plants are more vulnerable to fungal diseases, so make sure to space plants well apart from one another and prune them for maximum air circulation. Shady shouldn’t mean dark and dank, and the planting spot still needs to fulfill other qualities that fruits need for optimum growth. 
  • Be prepared for smaller and fewer fruits. Many of the fruit trees and bushes on this list will do fine in the shade, but won’t necessarily thrive, so adjust your expectations for harvest season. You may find that fruits are slightly smaller than you are used to, a little less sweet, and there may just be less of them overall. Just think, it’s better than no fruits at all!

Updated on by Amber Noyes

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.