yellowing foliage due to low light

Yellowing foliage on Japanese holly due to low light conditions

Updated: March 19, 2021

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.

Management

  • 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