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

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
  • Microgreens
  • 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

Chart to show how much sunliight your veggies need.

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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  16 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

    • April Marie Davis
      06/07/2019 at 9:34 pm

      impatient a I had a plant for 5yrs

      • Donna Lewis
        04/29/2020 at 6:21 am

        Here in New Orleans we plant year round. My Celebrity tomatoes overwintered and are loaded with tomatoes. It’s so hot here during the summer that plants just endure until the temperature is more reasonable, even tomatoes. I garden in the side yard and the back raised bed. They get some afternoon shade. My west facing porch is in full afternoon sun. I grow cucumbers and indeterminate tomatoes on a trellis to shade the porch and the other container garden plants there.

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

    Very nice easy to understand chart! I featured it on my blog today 🙂

    • 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

  5. Samantha Taylor
    08/29/2018 at 10:08 am

    Im in Iowa, zone 5. Ive been getting good yields in my yard with partial sun for cucumbers and zucchini and okra. About 6 hours max and maybe 20-60 minutes in the evening as the sun sets. But a big no go on my tomato’s, peppers, corn, and melon. I am getting some grape tomatoes but its taken the better part of 3 months just to get anything. You’ll get something but it will take quite some time.This is only my second year with a yard garden at this location but I have been raised on a corn/bean farm most my life, just an fyi of my knowledge and skill. Happy gardening yall! And thanks for the great artical. Excited to try something else next year.

    • Carol
      08/29/2018 at 12:19 pm

      I also have good luck with cucumbers in a more shady spot here in NC. I get best results from tomatoes early in the season in full sun, but they have a challenge later. Carol

  6. Kathleen
    02/21/2020 at 10:47 am

    I love this chart. Ive done pretty good with this the past 4 years, but to know what can handle a little less sun is great. I can move things around and still have it thrive.

  7. 06/02/2020 at 9:36 pm

    Great list… I think I need to plan a little different next year. It’s hard because I don’t have the best garden spot in this house.

  8. Tricia
    06/03/2020 at 5:56 pm

    Are There any vegetables that grow in the summer that can tolerate shade?

    • Carol Speake
      06/04/2020 at 10:04 am

      the article above your comment tells you which vegetables can tolerate shade.

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