Zone 5 Shade Shrubs – Best Bushes For Zone 5 Shade Gardens

By: Teo Spengler

The key to planting a beautiful shade garden is finding attractive shrubs that thrive in shade in your hardiness zone. However, you’ll find lots of options for bushes for zone 5 shade. Read on for information about zone 5 shade shrubs.

Growing Bushes in Zone 5 Shade

The Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zone system runs from icy zone 1 to sweltering zone 12, with the zones defined by a region’s coldest winter temperature. Zone 5 is somewhere in the cool middle, with lows between -20 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 and -23 C.).

Before you head to the garden store to buy a bush, look carefully at the type of shade your garden offers. Shade is generally classified as light, moderate or heavy. The zone 5 shade shrubs that will thrive in your backyard vary depending on the type of shade involved.

Zone 5 Bushes for Shade

Most plants need some sunlight to survive. You’ll find more options for bushes for zone 5 shade if you have “light shade” areas – those getting filtered sunshine – than for those shade areas receiving only reflected sunlight. Even fewer zone 5 bushes for shade grow in “deep shade” areas. Deep shade is found under dense evergreen trees or anywhere that sunlight is blocked.

Light Shade

You are in luck if your backyard garden gets sunlight filtered through the branches of open-canopied trees like birch. If this is the case, you’ll find many more options for zone 5 shade shrubs than you might think. Select among:

  • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
  • Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
  • Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas)
  • Hazelnut (Corylus species)
  • Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia)
  • Mock orange (Philadelphus coronaries)

Moderate Shade

When you are growing bushes in zone 5 shade in an area that gets some reflected sunshine, you’ll find options as well. Quite a few varieties thrive in this type of shade in zone 5. These include:

  • Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus)
  • Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina)
  • Daphne (Daphne species)
  • Witch hazel (Hamamelis species)
  • Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
  • Holly (Ilex species)
  • Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
  • Leucothoe (Leucothoe species)
  • Oregon holly grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
  • Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Deep Shade

When your garden gets no sunlight at all, your choices for zone 5 bushes for shade are more limited. Most plants prefer at least dappled light. However, a few shrubs grow in zone 5 deep shade areas. These include:

  • Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica)
  • Laurel (Kalmia species)

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Stewartstonian Azalea (Rhododendron x Gable 'Stewartstonian')

If you'd prefer a shrub that flowers more regularly, consider the red azalea bush known as the 'Stewartstonian'. Because this bush is an evergreen, it has something to offer (namely, foliage) even outside of its prime-time periods. It is at its best both in spring, when it flowers and in fall, when its leaves turn reddish.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • Soil Needs: Fertile, evenly moist, well-drained soil

Torenia (Torenia fournieri)

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Torenia, also known as wishbone flower, is an elegant and cheerful annual plant that will flower all summer even in full shade. It is heat tolerant and very easy to care for. This gem will thrive with regular watering and fertilizing until frost and you do not even have to deadhead it.

Wishbone flower is great in combinations, or, in the right container, it can be beautiful on its own. You can use it in hanging baskets, window boxes, or in any container with good drainage. It is relatively short, 2 to 6 inches, and will trail over the side of your container. In warm climates, Torenia will need protection from the heat.

  • USDA Growing Zones: NA this is an annual plant in all climates
  • Color Varieties: Light to dark purple
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil

Carol Mackie Daphne (Daphne)

As with climbing hydrangeas, the blooming of Carol Mackie daphne shrubs may be enhanced if the plants receive sufficient sunlight. But this fact is hardly problematic, as these plants are worth growing for their variegated leaves alone. Their flowers are also noteworthy especially because they are wonderfully aromatic. Daphnes do not like acidic soil adding lime can help neutralize soil that is too acidic.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Color Varieties: White to light pink
  • Sun Exposure:Partial sun to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining and moist soil


Both the berries and leaves are toxic and should not be eaten.   They may also irritate the skin. Do not plant Daphne shrubs if you have children or pets that live or frequent your garden.

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

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Not all container plants need to be flowering plants. Creeping Jenny is a mat-forming perennial with round lime-green leaves that works well in tall containers or hanging baskets. It grows only 4 to 8 inches tall but sends out in shoots up to 2 feet long. It is a perfect spiller plant for the outside edges of containers or hanging baskets, where the light-green foliage can brighten shady areas.

This perennial plant is actually better suited for containers since it can be invasive if planted in the garden.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Yellow flowers but normally grown for its green or yellow leaves
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil

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