Drought Tolerant Shrubs For Shade (10 Drought & Shade Tolerant Shrubs)


Shrubs can prevent soil erosion and add privacy to your yard.  Some shrubs can even survive and thrive in drought and shade.

So, what are some drought tolerant shrubs for shade?  Drought tolerant shrubs for shade include: Balfour Aralia, Butcher’s Broom, Catbrier, Coral Ardisia, Cordyline, English Ivy, English Laurel, Plectranthus, Virginia Sweetspire, and Wafer Ash. Some of these shrubs produce attractive flowers, and some are vines that can grow to astounding heights!

Of course, some of these shrubs survive in full sun, while all of them can tolerate partial or full shade.

In this article, we’ll talk about 10 drought tolerant shrubs for shade.  We’ll also take a look at what each one needs in terms of light, water, and other important growth factors.

Let’s get going.

10 Drought Tolerant Shrubs For Shade

There are plenty of drought tolerant shrubs for shade, but here are 10 to start with:

  • Balfour Aralia
  • Butcher’s Broom
  • Catbrier
  • Coral Ardisia
  • Cordyline
  • English Ivy
  • English Laurel
  • Plectranthus
  • Virginia Sweetspire
  • Wafer Ash

Let’s begin with Balfour Aralia.

Balfour Aralia

Balfour Aralia (Polyscias pinnata) is a perennial shrub that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) white flowers throughout the year.

Balfour Aralia
Balfour Aralia is a perennial shrub that can tolerate both shade and drought.
Image Courtesy of user:
Mokkie via:
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Dinnerplate_Aralia_(Polyscias_
balfouriana)_2.jpg

Balfour Aralia needs moderate moisture levels and resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Balfour Aralia tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It can tolerate slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil (pH of 6.1 to 7.8).

Balfour Aralia cannot tolerate extreme cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 10a (as cold as 30 degrees Fahrenheit or –1 degree Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 6 to 10 feet, with a width of 2 to 4 feet.

You can propagate Balfour Aralia by stem cuttings.

You can learn more about Balfour Aralia from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Balfour Aralia from Garden Goods Direct.

Butcher’s Broom

Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is a perennial shrub that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) greenish-white flowers in late winter or spring.

Butcher's Broom
Butcher’s Broom is a perennial shrub that produces tiny greenish-white flowers.
Image Courtesy of user:
Josep Gesti via:
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Ruscus_aculeatus,_Santa_
Coloma_de_Farners.jpg

Butcher’s Broom needs moderate to dry moisture levels and resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Butcher’s Broom tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline soil (pH of 6.1 to 8.4).

Butcher’s Broom can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 7a (as cold as 0 degrees Fahrenheit or –18 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet, with a width of 2 to 4 feet.

You can propagate Butcher’s Broom by seed or by division (rhizomes, tubers, bulbs, or offsets).

You can learn more about Butcher’s Broom from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Butcher’s Broom from Plant Delights Nursery.

Catbrier

Catbrier (Smilax) is a perennial shrub that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) green or white flowers in late spring or early summer.

Catbrier Smilax
Catbrier (Smilax) is a perennial shrub that resists drought and tolerates shade or sun.

Catbrier needs moderate moisture levels and resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Catbrier tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It prefers somewhat acidic to slightly acidic soil (pH of 5.6 to 6.5).

Catbrier can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 5a (as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit or –29 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet.

You can propagate Catbrier by division (rootball, rhizomes, tubers, or bulbs).

You can learn more about Catbrier from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Catbrier from Mail Order Natives.

Coral Ardisia

Coral Ardisia (Ardisia crenata) is a perennial shrub that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) fragrant white flowers in late spring or early summer.

Coral Ardisia
Coral Ardisia is a perennial shrub that produces tiny fragrant white flowers.
Image Courtesy of user:
Dick Culbert via:
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Ardisia_crenata,_the_Coral_
Berry_(13883678418).jpg

Coral Ardisia needs moderate moisture levels and resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Coral Ardisia tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate a wide range of soil pH (pH of 3.5 to 9.0).

Coral Ardisia can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 8a (as cold as 10 degrees Fahrenheit or –12 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 6 feet, with a width of 4 to 5 feet.

You can propagate Coral Ardisia by division, stem cuttings, tip cuttings, or by seed.

You can learn more about Coral Ardisia from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Coral Ardisia from Pernell Gerver Plants (note it cannot be shipped to some U.S. states).

Cordyline

Cordyline is a perennial shrub that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) flowers in summer or fall.

Cordyline
Cordlyine is a perennial shrub that produces tiny flowers and can survive both drought and shade.

Cordyline needs moderate moisture levels and resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Cordyline tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It can tolerate moderately acidic to neutral soil (pH of 5.6 to 7.3).

Cordyline can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 8a (as cold as 10 degrees Fahrenheit or –12 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet, with a width of 1 to 2 feet.

You can propagate Cordyline by stem cuttings.

You can learn more about Cordyline from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Cordyline from Plantvine.

English Ivy

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is a perennial vining shrub that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) greenish white flowers in late summer, fall, or winter.

English Ivy
English Ivy is a perennial vining shrub that can climb walls and reach incredible heights.

English Ivy needs moderate or wet moisture levels, but resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

English Ivy tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It can tolerate moderately acidic to slightly alkaline soil (pH of 5.6 to 7.8).

English Ivy can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 4a (as cold as -30 degrees Fahrenheit or –34 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 36 feet.

You can propagate English Ivy by layering, stem cuttings, tip cuttings, or by seeds.

You can learn more about English Ivy from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find English Ivy from Calloway’s Nursery.

English Laurel

English Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a perennial vining shrub that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) white flowers in spring, summer, or fall.

English Laurel
English Laurel is a perennial vining shrub that produces tiny white flowers.

English Laurel needs moderate or wet moisture levels, but resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

English Laurel tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It can tolerate neutral to moderately alkaline soil (pH of 6.6 to 8.4).

English Laurel can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 6a (as cold as -10 degrees Fahrenheit or –23 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 12 to 25 feet or more, with a width of 10 to 25 feet.

You can propagate English Laurel by layering, or stem cuttings.

You can learn more about English Laurel from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find English Laurel from Wilson Bros Gardens.

Plectranthus

Plectranthus is a perennial vining shrub that produces flowers in summer that can be white, pink, lavender, purple, or blue (depending on the variety).

Plectranthus
Plectranthus is a perennial vining shrub that can produce flowers of many colors (depending on the variety).

Plectranthus needs dry moisture levels and it resists drought.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Plectranthus tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It prefers somewhat acidic soil (pH of 5.6 to 6.5).

Plectranthus cannot tolerate much cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 9b (as cold as 25 degrees Fahrenheit or –4 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 24 to 36 inches.

You can propagate Plectranthus by stem cuttings.

You can learn more about Plectranthus from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Plectranthus from Annie’s Annuals.

Virginia Sweetspire

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a perennial vining shrub that produces fragrant white flowers in late spring or summer.

Virginia Sweetspire
Virginia Sweetspire is a perennial vining shrub that produces fragrant white flowers in spring or summer.
Image Courtesy of user:
Famartin via:
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
2020-05-30_15_52_35_
Virginia_sweetspire_blooming_
at_the_Franklin_Farm_Village_
Shopping_Center_in_the_
Franklin_Farm_section_of_
Oak_Hill,_Fairfax_County,_
Virginia.jpg

Virginia Sweetspire needs moderate to wet moisture levels, but it resists drought.

Virginia Sweetspire tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It prefers somewhat acidic soil (pH of 5.1 to 6.5).

Virginia Sweetspire can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 5a (as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit or –29 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 24 to 36 inches, with a width of 24 to 36 inches.

You can propagate Virginia Sweetspire by rootball division or by softwood cuttings.

You can learn more about Virginia Sweetspire from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Virginia Sweetspire from Wilson Bros Gardens.

Wafer Ash

Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata) is a perennial vining shrub that produces fragrant greenish-white flowers in late spring or early summer.

Wafer Ash
Wafer Ash is a perennial vining shrub that tolerates shade and drought, and it produces fragrant flowers.
Image Courtesy of user:
Georg Slickers via:
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Ptelea_trifoliata_20050808_006.jpg

Wafer Ash needs dry moisture levels, and it resists drought.

Wafer Ash tolerates partial or full shade, but it can survive in full sun.  It prefers neutral soil (pH of 6.6 to 7.3).

Wafer Ash can tolerate severe cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 3a (as cold as -40 degrees Fahrenheit or –40 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 15 to 20 feet.

You can propagate Wafer Ash by stem cuttings.

You can learn more about Wafer Ash from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Wafer Ash from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Conclusion

Now you know about 10 drought tolerant shrubs for shade and how to take care of them.  They might also provide inspiration to help you to fill in the landscape for shady parts of your yard.

For ground cover landscaping ideas for dry soil, read my article on drought tolerant grasses or my article on drought tolerant flowers.

You might also want to check out my article on drought tolerant ground cover plants, my article on drought tolerant perennials, or my article on drought tolerant annuals.

You might also want to check out my article on evergreen shrubs for shade or my article on evergreen shrubs for Zone 7.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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