Shade Tolerant Vegetables vs Sun Friendly Veggies

Vegetables, just like flowers and other plants, need plenty of sun, but not all are equal. Veggies, by nature, like a lot of sunlight to grow.  They typically have a short growing season, so the more you can give them, the better they like it. But there are some shade tolerant vegetables, too.  I would not say that any vegetables LOVE shade, but many are somewhat tolerant of it. If your back yard is not suited to normal vegetable gardening, some of these might be just the ones to grow.

Not all vegetables are equal when it comes to sunlight.  There are some shade tolerant vegetables, too. Get the breakdown at thegardeningcook.com/sun-or-shade/

Are there shade tolerant vegetables or do they all need lots of sunlight?

So much of gardening, for me, is a case of trial and error.  I have had my vegetable garden in many different locations in my yard from shady spots, to full sun to my back patio. I live in NC, zone 7b and theoretically the garden should take all kinds of sun.  And it can, but that also means that my water bill will go through the roof during the hottest summer months. And, seriously, forget trying to grow broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts in the summer.  Any lettuce bolts quickly if I have it planted in full sun.

This year, I have installed drip irrigation and am planting my garden on the side of the house that gets morning and mid day sunlight and none later in the day.  The very first year that I gardened, I grew tomato and cucumber plants in that spot and they were the best ones I have had.  So I have my fingers crossed that I’ll be successful again in that spot, this year.  ( A very large Pin Oak might let me know otherwise.  Time will tell on that one. It’s a lot larger than it was when I first had my veggie garden in this spot.)

But for most people who don’t have to deal with the heat of a southern summer, there are some basic rules of thumb for vegetable gardening in both sun and shade.

The most shade tolerant vegetables. 

The vegetables that fall into this category are those that are eaten for their greens will thrive on 3-4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Some of these are:semi shade tolerant

  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Asian Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Parsley
  • Scallions
  • Cabbage



Semi Shade Tolerant vegetables. 

For this category, think of those that grow into the ground. They are the root veggies. These will grow in partial shade of about 4-6 hours of sunlight a day:medium shade tolerant

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Potatoes

Least Shade Tolerant Vegetables. 

This is the majority of vegetables grown in your garden. These are the fruit producers and they love full sunlight.these need sunlight

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants
  • Melons
  • Cucumbers
  • Beans
  • Squash
Chart to show how much sunliight your veggies need.

Many of these images are courtesy of our Affiliate partner, American Meadows.

Remember this saying:  “If you grow if for the fruit, it needs full sun.  If you grow if for the leaves partial sun is all you need.”

What has your experience been with some of the sun loving vegetables?  Have you had luck growing them in semi shady locations?  Please let me know in the comments below.

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  8 comments for “Shade Tolerant Vegetables vs Sun Friendly Veggies

  1. 10/03/2014 at 11:37 am

    Thank you so much!!! We always have a problem with this, we live in Florida, and we container plant, so we can move our plants around! This will help us out tremendously!!!

    • admin
      10/03/2014 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Juanita. Glad I could help. We have the same problem here in NC. Carol

  2. 03/23/2016 at 5:53 pm

    Very nice easy to understand chart! I featured it on my blog today 🙂
    http://www.colorfulcanary.com/2016/03/5-printable-gardening-graphics-for.html

    • Carol
      03/23/2016 at 7:41 pm

      Thanks for featuring me on your blog and linking back to me. Carol

  3. Ron
    01/31/2017 at 2:22 pm

    Thank you so much for this information. i have been gardening for 40 years now and still did not know these specifics. My vegetable garden is in an open space, but surrounded by very tall trees o the north and the west, and hedges on the east and south. I have had no luck with tomatoes and strawberries, but grew great broccoli, so it all makes sense to me now.
    One question: what about raspberries and blackberries? They are fruit, which says sun, but I was thinking they could tolerate some shade.

    Best regards,
    Ron Squires

    • Carol
      01/31/2017 at 9:33 pm

      Hi Ron. Both blackberries and raspberries do best in full sun – at least 6-8 hours a day. Carol

  4. Pam Knight
    03/20/2017 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Carol! I live in the Pacific NW, zone 8. I love the chart, though it didn’t answer the reason that drove me on this search, but reason tells me celery would fall in 4-6 hrs. sunlight,as well as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. How am I doing with logic? Thank you for sharing your garden wisdom!

    • Carol
      03/20/2017 at 4:47 pm

      HI Pam. Thanks for the email. Both celery and Brussels sprouts need a minimum of 6 hours a day to do well. Most veggies do better with a more sunlight than less. My post was more to point out that there are a few which can take less. Northern zones are often cooler so they can take lots of sun. I have a problem here in NC because it is so hot and dry in the summer months. Many veggies struggle here. Carol

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