What to Grow in Your Shade Vegetable Container Garden

Posted on Nov 19 2010 - 3:24am by Mike Lieberman

One of the questions that I frequently get asked is what vegetables can be grown in a shady garden. Most of us that grow in an urban environment are faced with this situation.

I’ve been growing for about 1.5 years between my fire escape garden and now my balcony garden. Both gardens received at max 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.

That didn’t stop me from attempting to grow veggies that required more sun. Those attempts were unsuccessful. I now know that tomatoes and cucumbers won’t do well given my current environment.

Besides what I can’t grow, luckily, I have learned some veggies that grow great in the shade. Here’s a short list of ones that I’ve had success with:

  • Lettuces
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Parsely
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro and dill (I’m likely stretching it with those two)

Here’s others that I’ve been told grow well in the shade as well:

  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Watercress
  • Collard greens
  • Pretty much any dark leafy green
  • This is by no means a comprehensive list, but just what I’ve learned from my experiences thus far.

    What else would you add to this list?


    • http://thrifty20something.com Tiffany

      We did cherry tomatoes this year that actually flourished on our shady balcony. The only thing we could chalk it up to was the intense sunlight it would get as the sun was descending in the evening. That and herbs did the best for us. We’re playing with idea of trying some other tomatoes next year…

    • Mike Lieberman

      That’s funny because my tomatoes did horrible in the shade. Wonder if it depends on the variety. Ok it wasn’t that funny.

    • http://lovingnaturesgarden.com Alison

      Mike, 4-6 hours of sun is considered part shade for plants. Other factors affect the amount of light too – reflection from light-colored surfaces can be important, as is the latitude. So 4-6 hrs of sun will grow more in SoCal than in WA. The less light you have, the more you need to space the plants out.

      Part-shade crops I’ve had success with that you’ve not mentioned:
      – mint and lemon balm herbs (confine to containers)
      – onion family (chives, onions, garlic)
      – radish
      – potatoes (my crop was small but I think there were other factors than light)

      I’ve heard that peas might do OK too. I’ve never managed to grow them successfully and I don’t know the reason (not to do with light).

    • Mike Lieberman

      Thanks Alison. I’m sure there are many factors that come into play. These are just the things that I’ve had success with so far. Think I’m gonna give the lemon balm a try.

    • Anonymous

      I’d add onions, chives and garlic to your list there :)

    • Anonymous

      oh and beets!

    • Jennifer

      I did pretty well with basil and radishes on my NW-facing covered back porch. And my Italian parsley flourished! I cut it all completely back, and it came back even more boisterously than before. Too bad I don’t really use parsley for much of anything… Did ok with leaf lettuce, though Romaine didn’t grow very big. I started strawberries from seed (which is a very slow process – didn’t know it at the time), and I think they’re going to do pretty well.

    • Mike Lieberman

      Nice. Thanks for all the suggestions.

    • Nora

      I found this site hope its helpfull (its not mine)


      I also want to start growing my own veggies this year.
      I have a balcony with only couple of hours of sun
      So I dont think I can grow veggies who needs lot of sun.
      I’m not a gardener but I think that we (one who dont have lot of sun more shade)
      can plant veggies what normally need to be planted in early fall
      what do you think?

    • Nora
    • Steve Asbell

      Of course my balcony gets absolutely NO sun, but at least I can still grow tropicals!

    • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

      Not even indirect sun?

    • http://twitter.com/chrisczerwinski Chris Czerwinski

      Radishes and onions apparently do okay too!

    • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

      Cool. Thanks for the info.

    • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

      Nice. Thanks!