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Departments » UW Extension » Urban Horticulture & Natural Resources
General Information

Welcome to Brown County UW-Extension's

Urban Horticulture
Natural Resources Pro


Article of the Week
(Originally published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on August 13, 2017)

Best Trees and Shrubs for Shade
Even for serious gardeners, shade can be a challenging factor in creating an awe-inspiring backyard.In shade, lack of light inhibits the flower bud formation and the density of growth on many landscape plants. This affects the species diversity in shaded areas and creates a dull, monoculture landscape.In the last few decades, the plant breeding program across the world has successfully introduced several plant varieties that can adapt to varying degrees of shaded environment.With careful assessment of the shaded site, you can select diverse shade tolerant plants with varying textures and colors to brighten your shaded backyard.

In general, when selecting shade tolerant plants, the intensity of shade in the landscape site should be taken into consideration. The intensity of shade is classified into two categories: a) Partial shade refers to the sites that receive three to four hours of morning sun or afternoon shade, and b)Heavy shade refers to the site that receives substantial shade during the growing season (<3 hrs. of sunlight per day).

Here are some of the best landscape trees and shrubs that are suitable for a shaded environment:

Trees and shrubs for partial shade:

  • J.N. Strain Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana ‘J.N. Strain’) – Small size tree (Height 25’ X Wide 25’), smooth bark with excellent orange red fall color. Zone 3
  • Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’) – Upright, small size tree ( 25’ x 25’) that produces tiny white spring blossoms, edible fruits and orange red fall color. Zone 3
  • Cool Splash dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia ‘LPDC Podaras’) – Variegated shrub with low growing (3’ x 3’), compact and mounded growth habit, excellent for mass plantings. Zone 4
  • Compact Koreanspice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’) – Excellent compact growing shrub (5’ x 5’) with fragrant flowers in spring, dark green leaves that turn deep red in fall. Zone 4
  • Blue Shadow Fothergilla (Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’) – A small shrub (4’ x 4’) that retains powdery blue foliage throughout summer and changes to red, orange and yellow fall color. In spring, it produces spikes of fragrant white blossoms. Zone 5

Cool Splash dwarf bush honeysuckle

Trees and shrubs for heavy shade:

  • Golden shadows Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia ‘W.Stackman’) – Large size shrub (Ht- 7 to 10’ x W – 7 to 10’) with beautiful golden yellow foliage with dark green center, fragrant white blossoms and horizontal branching structure. Zone 3
  • Fine line buckthorn (Frangula alnus ‘ Ron Williams’) – Large size shrub (10 to 12’ x 6 to 10’).with upright, columnar growth habit, dark green fine texture leaves with arching nature, low seed producer and are non-viable, excellent for hedge /border row planting . 'Asplenifolia' and 'Fineline'/'Ron Williams' are the only buckthorn cultivars excluded from the invasive species category list. Zone 3
  • Gentsch White Hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis ‘ Gentsch White’) – Dwarf (4’ x 4’), globe shaped, compact Canadian hemlock with silver white tip foliage on the branch ends. Zone 3
  • Golden glory cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’) – Tall shrub/ small tree (20’ x 20’), with upright growth habit, dense branches, oval to round shape, abundant white flowers in spring. Zone 4
  • Black lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’) – Purple black, finely dissected leaves, with arching habit, (8’ x 8’) tolerates both dry and moist condition, produces pink buds that open to tiny white flowers in May and June, excellent for specimen plantings and in large containers. Zone 4
For horticulture-related questions and advice, contact Brown County UW-Extension’s Horticulture Help Desk at 920-391-4615 or

Horticulture Help Desk Services
We offer free consultations on lawn care advice, insect and disease diagnosis, and plant and insect identification. We also address tree and shrub problems as well as help you select the plants that are best suited to your needs and site. Soil tests and advanced diagnosis services are available for a fee.

Bring your live or digital specimen to the Horticulture Help Desk:

210 Museum Place, Green Bay, WI 54303
Hort Help Desk Phone: 920-391-4615

The UW-Extension Office is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM.
If a horticulture staff member is not available when you call or visit, messages and samples can be left with UW-Extension reception, and a staff member will contact you.

We are here to serve you by connecting the University system, Master Gardener volunteers, and you - Northeast Wisconsin residents - to help things grow.

Contact:  Vijai Pandian - Horticulture Educator
Phone: 920-391-4611
Fax: 920-391-4617
Click here to email
Mailing Address:  Brown County UW-Extension
210 Museum Pl
Green Bay, WI 54303
Hours:  Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 4:30 PM
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