Did you know that any garden site that only gets two hours of direct sunlight can grow vegetables? Also, any garden that gets dappled shade throughout the day with no direct sunlight can produce vegetables. If you’re looking for vegetables that grow in shade, look for ones that you grow for your roots and leaves because these are your best choice. Some examples of vegetables that grow in shade include cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and more. There are also fruiting vegetables that grow in shade, and you can adapt some vegetables to grow very well in dappled shade with a little work. The challenge lies in finding the best vegetables to match your conditions, and this can take a little research on your part.
No matter if you have light shade, partial shade, or dappled shade, you don’t have to give up on your dream of having a full harvest throughout the summer and fall months. I’ve done the research for you, and I’ve put together a list of vegetables that grow in the shade. You can easily mix and match your vegetables that grow in shade to maximize your harvest and grow things the entire family likes. Take a look at the list and decide which ones will do best in your own garden this coming year.
People grow carrots for the sweet roots on the plant, and this is a very easy vegetable that grows in shade. There are dozens of different carrot varieties available that come in a whole host of shapes, colors, and maturity times that it’s easy to pick out the one that suits your timeline and needs. You can get light yellow and orange to dark red and purple varieties. To plant them, you directly sow the seeds in an area that gets full sun to partial shade. They will take longer to mature and grow smaller in the shade, but you’ll get a sweet crop. You can harvest your carrots in 30 days for baby carrots or 60 days for fully mature ones, and you can eat them at any size.
As far as vegetables that grow in shade go, Mizuna is a Japanese green that will give you a slight mustard flavor with a bitter taste. It grows best in cooler weather, and it slows down in hot conditions. Growing it in the shade will give you a generous crop in the summer. You get lobed leaves that do well in mixed salads, and the leaves are crisp enough to survive stir-frying. You can start it from seed indoors, sow it directly, or plant transplants in your garden to start it. Harvest the baby greens in 20 days and the mature heads at 50 days. Cut the head at soil level when it matures and cut the younger leaves when they’re around three inches out of the ground.
This is another cool season vegetable that grows in shade, and people grow kale for the slightly bitter-tasting leaves it produces. If the weather gets too warm, you’ll end up with kale that is very bitter and tough. If you put it in a place that gets partial shade, you’ll get a lot of leafy greens all summer long. It’s very tolerant to cold temperatures, and this makes it an excellent fall crop. You should directly sow the seeds in the spring months and during the later summer months for transplants and a fall crop. You can harvest it in 30 days for baby shoots and 60 days for full sized greens. It sweeteners after it frosts.
Asparagus is a very long-lived perennial vegetable that grows in shade, and people grow it for the tender spears that pop through the soil during the late spring and early summer months. You do get more spears in areas that get direct sunlight, but it does well in the shade too. You can plant more plants to make up for the yield difference. Start asparagus from seeds or from one or two-year root transplants. They should grow three years before you harvest them. During the first year, cut just above the soil level to harvest any spears that are thicker than a pencil and six inches high. Keep the harvest limit at two weeks for the first year, three for the second, and four four the third. After that, you can harvest every four to six weeks.
Since spinach is a cool season leafy green, it makes sense that it’s a vegetable that grows in shade. However, it quickly goes to seed if it gets too warm. Planting it in an area with partial shade will give you a longer growing season and a bigger harvest. You can add them to spring soups, put the leaves into a salad, or saute them in other dishes. Directly sow the seeds during the early spring and late fall months. You can harvest them at the 30-day mark for baby greens and 45-days for mature leaves. If you take the outer leaves and don’t take the middle, it’ll continue to produce leaves for a bigger harvest.
It may surprise some people that potatoes are vegetables that grow in shade, but they can actually thrive in full sun or partial shade without a problem. You should plant your seed tubers in the ground as soon as the last frost goes out and the soil temperature reaches a comfortable 45°F. Depending on the variety of potato you have, it can take between 70 and 120-days before you can harvest them. If you want a baby or new potatoes, start harvesting once the plants bloom as you need them. If you dig under the plant and pull out what you need, the plant will continue to grow and you can harvest again later. Let the foliage die back before you harvest if you want mature potatoes.
7. Chinese Cabbage
This vegetable that grows in the shade as a very sweet and mild flavor profile to it. It’s better known as Napa cabbage, and it has a much more mild flavor than you’ll get with traditional cabbage. It grows crinkled leaves with an elongated, tall head. This vegetable won’t tolerate hot temperatures at all, and keeping them in the shade will prevent the foliage from getting a bitter taste and going to seed. Directly sow the seeds in the spring, and give it between 45 and 60 days before you harvest it. The outer leaves should be around eight inches tall, or you can wait and harvest the entire head at once when it hits full maturity.
Beets are one vegetable that grows in shade that people choose for their roots and greens. They thrive when you plant them in a partially shaded area, and they’ll get far more tasty and tender than they would if you chose to plant them in the sun. You can eat beet greens in soups, salads, and sauteed. For the roots, you can can them, pickle them, or eat them roasted. Directly sow your beet seeds in fall or spring. For the greens, you’ll want to harvest them around the 30 day mark. The roots will take a little longer to be ready to harvest at 60 days. The roots should be around two-inches in diameter and the greens should be five inches high.
In warmer weather conditions, plant your radishes in partial shade. This vegetable that grows in shade won’t do well with a lot of direct, hot sunlight. You can enjoy the foliage and the roots with this vegetable, and they work well raw in salads or on a vegetable platter. You can saute, pan fry, or roast them too. Directly sow the seeds in the spring as early as you can work the ground, and you want to succession sow every two weeks. Radishes are ready for harvest at around 20 days, and they should be one-inch in diameter at this time. You can cut the greens off, wash them, and eat them too.
With warmer temperatures and direct sunlight, lettuce will go to seed. This is why it’s an easy vegetable that grows in shade because it helps to keep the roots much cooler. In turn, you can harvest longer into the middle of summer. You want to plant fall lettuce under trees in the later summer months, and it’ll do very well once the cooler temperatures set in. You can leave them to full mature at 65 to 70 days, or you can harvest lettuce greens in as little as 30 days. Pick the leaves from the outside of the plant and leave the interior to encourage new growth. When you’re ready to harvest the entire thing, cut the head off at ground level.
Horseradish is a popular and strong condiment that has very pungent roots. This vegetable that grows in shade is a perennial, but it’s a better route to grow it as an annual. Growing it as a perennial allows the roots to get touch and fibrous during the second growing season. You’ll need well-drained but rich soil and at least partial shade for it to do well. Plant the root cuttings or crowns in the early spring months. You can also grow it in a container to prevent it from spreading. Once the frost kills most of the foliage in the fall, dig up the roots to harvest them.
Garlic is a vegetable that grows in shade that people get for the large bulbs that contain cloves. You grow more garlic from these cloves instead of from seed, and you plant it in the fall. This will give the plant the entire winter to grow before you harvest it in the summer months. Plant your garlic seeds four to six weeks before the first hard frost date. For zones five to eight, this is in mid October or mid November. You can harvest it at any stage if you plan to eat it fresh. When the foliage starts to turn a brown shade at the bottom of the plant, your garlic is mature and ready to harvest.
Turnips are one vegetable that grows in shade people use for the roots and the greens. Warmer temperatures cause the roots to turn woody, so keeping them in the shade will help prolong your harvest time. You will get smaller roots, and you can eat them raw on veggie trays or in salads. You can also cook them by mashing, boiling, or roasting them. For the greens, you can saute or steam them. Directly sow your turnip seeds in the early spring months or during the late summer to get a fall harvest. You’ll need to wait 30 days for greens and 90 days for roots. Harvest your greens when they’re six inches tall. The frost will give them a sweeter flavor profile.
Better known as green onions, scallions are an excellent vegetable that grows in shade. They have a very small white bulb with long green stalks. Scallions aren’t as strong as traditional onions, and they add a very mild flavor to stir-fries, salads, and cooked foods. You can start transplants indoors before the ground thaws, or you can directly sow the seeds after the final frost of the season finishes. They will be ready to harvest when they’re pencil sized, or at about 30 days. If you want to wait until they’re at full maturity, wait for 120 days after you plant them. Pull six-inch tall scallions at any point and let others keep maturing. The longer they mature, the stronger the flavor gets.
15. Mustard Greens
If you’re someone who likes a very pungent, mustard-like flavor, try this vegetable that grows in the shade. Mustard greens are very fast growing, and they love the cooler temperatures that shaded areas bring them. The shade will slow down how quickly the plant goes to seed and turns bitter. You can harvest them young at 30 days to give your salads a peppery bite, or you can wait until they fully mature at 60 days and add them to soups, boil or saute them. You can direct sow outside, start them from seed indoors, or plant transplants to get them started in the spring. As the plant matures, the flavor profile will get much stronger.
This is a very slow-growing vegetable that grows in shade, and people love celery because it gives you crunchy, long leafstalks. If the plant gets too much heat, the stalks will turn hollow. It grows best out of the heat and direct sunlight, but this does make it grow a little slower. Plant transplants in the spring or sow your seeds directly after any frost danger is over. You can harvest at 45 days for the baby stage, or you can wait for 90 or 120 days for full maturity. Harvest the outer stalks as needed when the plants reach six-inches tall. You can cut the entire mature plant by cutting cleanly at the soil level.
This is a very hardy vegetable that grows in shade, and rhubarb is a cool season perennial that offers a tangy and tart flavor in the leaf stalks. Once you plant it, it doesn’t need a lot of care to do well. It’ll come back and give you a harvest every spring. You can eat the leaf stalks raw, dip them in sugar, or sweeten them up and use them in baked goods, syrup, jelly, and pies. Plant the root crowns early in the spring, and let it grow a full year before you harvest it to allow it to establish strong roots. When the stalks reach a foot tall, cut them off with a sharp knife and remove the leaves. Always leave one-third of the plant untouched.
Rhubarb by Kim Woodbridge / CC BY 2.0
Peas are a vegetable that grows in shade that can burn under too much sunlight, so they appreciate the cooler temperatures. Snap and snow peas come with crunchy pods you can enjoy with immature peas. If you get garden peas, you’ll get larger peas that you have to shell from the pod because it’s inedible. Directly sow your pea seeds right after the last heavy frost of the season, and you want to give them between 30 and 65 days to grow before you harvest them. The variety you pick will determine the harvest time. Harvest them frequently to encourage the plant to produce more.
Peas by Amanda B / CC BY 2.0
Leeks are a vegetable that grows in shade that is directly related to onions, but they have a very sweet and mild flavor profile. They don’t form a bulb like you’ll get with traditional onions either, and this makes them better candidates for the slower growing conditions shade brings. You can use them in vegetable dishes, meat, and soups. Buy transplants or sow the seeds directly indoors before moving them outside. They take between 70 and 120 days to reach harvest size, and you usually won’t be able to harvest them until after the first frost of the season. They’re ready to go when the stalks reach a ½-inch in diameter. Make sure you get them out of the ground before it freezes or you’ll lose them.
Leeks by liz west / CC BY 2.0
This is a cruciferous vegetable that grows in shade, and it’ll form a tight ball above the ground as it grows. It is a member of the Brassica family, and it gives you a very mildly spicy kick like you get with a radish while tasting a little like cabbage. You can eat it raw in salads or coleslaws, or you can roast it or add it to stews and soups. Plant transplants or directly sow the seeds in the fall and spring months. It takes around 55 days to harvest from the time you plant them. Once the bulb gets between two and three inches in diameter, cut the bottom of the plant off right at the soil level to harvest it.
Kohlrabi by Pictoscribe / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Cauliflower’s head is called the curd, and this is what people choose this vegetable that grows in shade. White is the most common color, but you can find green, orange, and purple varieties. It will grow slower, but it can’t tolerate heat or direct sunlight without damage. Shade stops the plant from flowering too soon or having discoloration. It’s good raw, pickled, baked, steamed, or in stir-fries. Depending on the variety you get, harvest times range from 50 to 120 days. Harvest the heads when they reach a size you can use before the buds open. Remove the leaves and cut the heads off at ground level.
Cauliflower by UnconventionalEmma / CC BY-NC 2.0
This is a long-seasoned vegetable that grows in shade, and the roots have a slightly nutty flavor to them. They do best when they grow in cooler temperatures, and you want to harvest them in the fall after the first frost because this will give them a sweeter flavor. Shade stops the soil from drying out and it keeps the roots cool. You can pan-fry them, roast them, or eat them in stews and soups. Directly sow the seeds in the early spring after the frost threat passes. For mature roots, it’ll take between 120 and 180 days before you can harvest them, but they’re edible at any size.
Parsnips! By Joe / CC BY 2.0
23. Swiss Chard
This vegetable that grows in shade is a leafy green that gives you harvests in early spring. It continues through the summer months and well into fall until the first frost. It’s a nice substitute if the weather around you is too warm to grow spinach. You can eat the leaves and stalks raw, sauteed, or steamed. They go well in soups and salads. If you want baby greens, you’ll harvest them around 45 days after you plant them. When the young leaves get three inches tall, harvest them as needed and allow more leaves to grow from the plant’s center so it keeps producing.
Swiss Chard by Rachel / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This is an Asian vegetable that grows in shade, and it has spoon-shaped, small leaves that grow on a plant that has a rosette shape. Growing it in at least partial shade will extend the harvest time because it slows the plant down from going to seed when it gets warm out. It has a mustard-like flavor profile that works well with soups, stir-fries, and salads. You can harvest baby greens in 25 days or wait for the plant to mature at 50 days. If you want baby greens, cut off the outer leaves when they reach four inches tall. For mature plants, cut them off at the stem right at soil level.
Tatsoi by wikioticslan / CC BY-SA 2.0
These 24 vegetables that grow in shade are excellent additions to your forest garden if you have many trees in your yard. You can group them together by harvest season lengths, or you can mix and match to get a bountiful harvest all season long. Think about what you want to cook with and plant them so you have fresh vegetables on-hand when you need them.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.