yellowing foliage due to low light

Yellowing foliage on Japanese holly due to low light conditions

Updated: April 18, 2022

Too much shade and not enough sun

  • Many shrubs require full sun for optimum growth.
  • Sun-loving plants growing in partial sun or shade are unable to produce as much growth as a plant growing in the full sun due to reduced photosynthesis.
  • Plants growing in shade will exhibit elongated spindly growth, with fewer side branches, and thin pale-colored or yellow leaves.
  • Leaves are usually larger and thinner (providing more surface area for photosynthesis) than leaves of the same species growing in full sun.
  • Often plants are grown in the shade of nearby trees. Tree roots compete with shrubs for available water and usually win, causing further stress on shrubs growing in the shade.


  • Pruning to encourage branching and more compact growth may help to alleviate some problems. Consider pruning selected branches from nearby trees to allow more light to reach understory plants.
  • The selection of shade-tolerant plants is the best way to overcome light-related problems.
  • Shrubs that will tolerate deep shade to part shade are Japanese aucuba, drooping leucothoe, Japanese andromeda, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, and leatherleaf viburnum.
  • Shrubs that will grow well in partial shade are oakleaf hydrangea, Virginia sweetspire, glossy abelia, inkberry, cherry laurel, sweetshrub, boxwood,¬†fothergilla, and viburnum spp. However, even shade-tolerant plants will produce fewer flowers when grown in dense shade.

Rev. 2020