Our backyard receives limited sunlight due to three massive trees in a small area. There is only about 2 hours of direct sunlight per day to my vegetable patch.

Could I get some suggestions for vegetables that can be grown with limited sunlight?

I have had success with carrots, potatoes, lettuce and Asian greens but would like some variety.

3 Answers 3

  • I'd recommend experimenting with other crops that supposedly require "full sunlight". Your yields will be lower than if you had full sun, but you may still be able to get a crop.

  • In addition to the crops in Mike Perry's answer:

    • Cole crops do ok with limited sunlight: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower (limiting sun can even help protect the heads), kale, etc.
    • Also related are mustards, which can give your salads extra flavor.
    • The chicory family is another leafy crop that would give you variety: radicchio, endive, etc.
  • Plant garlic in the fall, harvest in the spring.

  • Are the trees deciduous? If so, that means you get more sun in late fall / early spring.

    • Plant peas in early spring.
    • Plant spinach in fall, overwinter, and harvest in spring.
    • Plant spring onions.
  • Consider berries, especially if you're open to perennials in this space.

    • Strawberries.
    • Blackberries thrive in shade.
    • Shrubs: huckleberries (native to North America), if you can get them in Australia. And currants, gooseberries, elderberries.
    • Groundcovers like cranberry and low shrubs like lingonberry.
  • Beyond just different crops, you can mix it up by planting different varieties of crops.

    • Different types of carrot have different shades of flavor (and sizes and colors).
    • Beets come in different colors and sizes. Plant some for greens and some for roots. (Similar for turnip.)
    • Chard makes a rainbow.
    • If peas are successful, you can select different varieties for shelling or eating whole, and the tips/shoots are supposed to be good in stir fry (though I have yet to try this).
  • Lastly, not a crop recommendation, but you can get a lot of variety by mixing up your preparation.

    • The lowly cabbage, for example, starts with a choice of green or red. From there, you can shred it with carrot for coleslaw (with any number of mix-ins and dressings), stuff it, make sauerkraut, stew, soup, etc.
    • Don't even get me started on the endless possibilities provided by potatoes, especially when mixed with some of the other vegetables that do well in limited light.
  • Have just read an article about "Chicory", see here.
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 18:12
  • When searching for huckleberries, know that they're also known as bilberries. They might be easier to find outside of the northwestern USA by that name. For instance, that's what WebMD calls them. Commented May 22, 2015 at 21:54

Generally speaking, leafy vegetables are the most shade tolerant eg:

  • Cabbage

  • Chard

  • Kale

  • Lettuce (which you already mentioned in your question)

  • Spinach

But if you've also had success with root vegetables (carrots & potatoes), you could try some other root vegetables eg:

Below, I've gathered together some relevant reading that I believe you will find helpful/useful:

  • 2
    @OhmWang none of the leafy vegetables here I would consider as requiring heat and dryness. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what they need if you don't want them to bold. Powdery mildew is a classic indicator of (lack of) water stress, and regular but not excessive watering will often cure it. Dry shade would probably cause powdery mildew, but again that lack of water is the key feature. Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 13:37

Fruiting plants to consider:

  • Ring of Fire chile pepper (I grew this in 2016 in a raised bed in the shade, in crowded conditions, and it produced a nice amount of tasty, very hot peppers). I highly recommend trying this pepper. I'm guessing some other small, productive peppers might do similarly. The kinds that ripen a whole bunch of fruits pretty much all at once, such as Ring of Fire, may be best (rather than the one at a time ones, such as most, if not all, bell peppers). Ring of Fire isn't a tiny pepper, but the fruits are small (2–3 inches long).
  • Grandpa's Home chile pepper (this is said to do so well with fruiting on limited light that it can make a houseplant; I also tried it in the same raised bed in the shade in crowded conditions, in 2016, and it got a decent amount of small, spicy fruits that tasted a lot like ripe Yatzy peppers). These fruits are very, very small, and they all ripen pretty much at once.
  • De Barao Tsarsky tomato (See the link, which says that according to Russian websites, it's supposed to be productive, disease-resistant and shade-tolerant.)
  • You might try some parthenocarpic cucumbers (e.g. Monika), but I don't know how well they'll do.
  • You might try parthenocarpic tomatoes (e.g. Legend, Siletz, Santiam, Oroma, Saucy, Gold Nugget), but I don't know how well they'll do. Oroma may produce fine, depending on your growing conditions (it produced better for me in the shade at the end of the growing season; so, it may like it cooler and wetter; the rest of my season is very hot and dry; I got more fruit in the shade than in full sun, but the plant in full sun was more crowded, and in problematic soil)
  • You might try parthenocarpic peppers (e.g. Planet F1), but I don't know how well they'll do in your climate. I tried Planet F1 in 2016. It got a few peppers per plant for me (nothing too special), but it faired similarly with more sun (I'm guessing it's used to a more temperate area, like the Oregon coast).


  • Arugula: seems to do just fine on limited light in my experience.
  • Mizuna: ditto (Arugula did better, though.)
  • Shark Fin Melon: its greens grow very well and fast on limited light, although I don't know how well the plant fruits on that light. You can eat Shark Fin Melon leaves and shoots. They taste like a mix between spinach and green beans.
  • Chives: They do well in partial shade. In my opinion, they're one of the best vegetables for eating (raw or cooked), and people use them way too sparingly (and not just because they're much milder than onions). These are perennials.
  • Spinach (I believe I read something that said spinach can do well in low light conditions. Plus, my Grandma's perennial spinach was shaded for at least a good part of the day, and it was quite productive)

I would recommend avoiding the following (they didn't do well on limited light for me): Black Beauty zucchini, Italian Striped zucchini, Cimmaron lettuce, and Merlot lettuce (the lettuces probably would have done better in the shade with less drought, though, but I'm not sure how much better).

I would also recommend saving seeds from plants you grow in the shade. They may do better over the generations from saved seed, since they'll have a chance to acclimatize.

You might look for plant breeds that fruit well indoors (if they can do that, they can likely handle the shade).

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