Best Vegetables to Grow in Partial or No Direct Sun

Whether you are new to gardening or you have the ultimate green thumb, you may be wondering which vegetables you can grow in indirect sunlight. If you are plotting out your garden, the good news is that there are plenty of vegetables that can thrive in indirect sunlight. The key to success is planning ahead for your garden!

Can vegetables grow in indirect sunlight? Which ones? Yes! You can grow vegetables in partial sunlight! There are a number of different plants that can grow in partial shade; some even thrive better when given a maximum of four to six hours of sunlight! Some of the top vegetables to grow in partial sun include:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • And more!

If you have a garden all set up already, you are probably well aware that there are areas that may have partial sun during a particular time of the day. If this is the case, you will want to plan out your plants so that your whole garden thrives, rather than suffers through the time of partial shade. The best way to overcome this obstacle is to know the plants that will thrive under these circumstances.

Can Vegetables Grow in Indirect Sunlight?

In short, yes, you will be able to grow vegetables in indirect sunlight. In order to comprehend this, you must first have a thorough understanding of basic sunlight conditions. Below, you will find common sun exposure terms used in the gardening community.

Full Sun

First, we have full sun. As you can probably guess, full sun is referenced to the areas of your garden that receives six or more hours of direct sunshine in a day. Generally, this will be between the hours of 10 am and 6pm. If you happen to live in the North, the sun’s strength is going to be weaker, meaning plants will need closer to eight hours of sun per day in order to thrive.

Partial Shade

Next, we have partial shade. When you hear the term “partial shade,” this is referencing an area of a garden that only obtains between three to six hours of sun on any given day. This means that for the other hours of the day, this area of the garden will be shaded. 

Partial shade can also refer to the areas that received filtered or dappled sunlight during the entire day. If you have an area of your garden that is dappled sunlight due to the leaves of the trees, you will still be able to grow vegetables in these areas! The key here will be choosing the proper vegetables that will thrive under these given circumstances.

Full Shade

Last, we have full shade. The areas of your garden that receive no direct sunlight or receive a light that is reflected during the day is going to be considered “full shade.” Generally, this will not be a good place to grow vegetables, especially if they are located in an area that has deep shade. At the end of the day, all plants need some form of light in order to grow.

Top Vegetables to Grow in Partial Sunlight

If this is your first time planting a garden or you have been struggling with your current garden, you more than likely have not been taking advantage of understanding the concepts of sun and shade. The best gift you can give yourself is knowledge of the crops that will successfully grow in some shade.

Luckily, there are a number of vegetables that will thrive in partial sunlight. Below, you will find some popular options for you to test in your own garden!


First on our list, we have arugula! The best aspect of arugula is that it is one of the fastest-growing greens you can plant in your garden! If you have never tried arugula before, this is generally a vegetable that people really love or loathe with a passion. Arugula benefits from shade but can also grow well in full sun.


Next, we have beans! If you are unaware, there is a variety of beans to choose from! The best part is that beans take very little effort to grow. On top of that, you can place pole beans and bush beans into your garden that can take up a limited amount of space. Plus, if you are short on cash, you can save some beans and use them as seeds for the next season.

Brussel Sprouts

If you have patience on your side, Brussel sprouts will be an excellent vegetable for you to consider for your garden. Brussel sprouts are actually a member of the cabbage family and grow fairly well in the colder seasons. In fact, this is one vegetable that will always prefer cooler temps over warmer ones, making it the perfect option to grow in partial shade! It should be noted that because Brussel sprouts do take longer to grow, you should plant them between a short-season crop such as peas or bush beans.


Broccoli is another one of those vegetables that you either really enjoy, or it is the bane of your existence. If you are considering broccoli for your garden, it is a great vegetable to line on the shadier edge of your garden. Broccoli is pretty easy to grow, as long as you give the vegetable enough water. If you are looking for a splash of color in your garden, there are a number of different varieties available to you.


Cauliflower is pretty similar to broccoli! Cauliflower is a beneficial plant to grow in the partial shade of your garden because this is a vegetable that tolerates the cold fairly well. This vegetable is also beneficial to grow because it requires limited effort and can add some nice design to your garden!

Collard Greens

Another vegetable that you may want to consider for your garden is going to be collard greens! If you didn’t already know, collard greens are also closely related to cabbage! All in all, these leafy greens are labeled as “cooking greens.” Collard greens are super tasty in a nice, fresh salad but also can be cooked to be enjoyed as a side dish! The best part is that collard greens will only need about four to five hours of sunlight to grow and thrive in colder climates.


Next on the list, we have super popular kale! If you have been to any grocery store or read any magazines lately, you are probably already aware of the kale trend going around. Kale is yet another cabbage cousin and does well in cool soils and partial shade. If you live in a colder climate, kale even has the ability to tolerate a light frost!


If you haven’t had your fill of salad bases yet, you may want to give endive a try! Endive is an excellent choice for partially shaded gardens because this vegetable only requires three hours of sun daily! If you enjoy salads filled with cress, leaf lettuce, and arugula, you may really enjoy endive as well.


As you probably could have already guessed, lettuce is another vegetable that is going to thrive when under partial sunlight. Lettuce is well known to be a cool-season green that actually dislikes when it is placed in direct sunlight. If you have been gardening for a while, you may have noticed that some individuals will shelter their lettuce with a cloth to prevent the vegetable from burning!


If you are considering peas for your garden, the key to success is going to be your timing! You will have to make sure that you seed into the soil at the right time and harvest at just the right time before the crop gets too hot! For this reason, peas are actually a great vegetable to consider for partial sunlight. On top of these benefits, peas are also great if you have limited space. There are many varieties of peas that are going to climb up a trellis and will require some form of support.


When it comes to radishes, you will want to be careful about which type you choose. While it is a lot of fun to use several different types of radishes, you will want to ask your provider about the specific one you choose. While some varieties mature quicker than others, there are other radishes that prefer the fall season and will vary on size and color. Plus, radishes form a very tasty green leaf that a lot of people forget all about!


You are probably not surprised at all to see that spinach has made the list! The best aspect of spinach is that it thrives in the cooler temperatures of seasons, such as fall and spring. On top of that, this vegetable will only require around three hours of sun per day. Whether you enjoy spinach in your salad or in your smoothie, you will be able to enjoy both from your own garden. As a tip, you will want to consider planting spinach early in the season so that you can enjoy the vegetable through the entire summer!

Swiss Chard

Last but not least on our list, we have Swiss chard. If you have an area of your garden that is semi-shady, this vegetable is going to really thrive. One of the top benefits of Swiss chard is that it requires very little effort from you. All you will have to do is sow the seeds and thin as it is needed! A helpful hint to keep in mind is that if you cut the older leaves from the vegetable, new ones are going to grow back in its place! It is a win-win situation for all! Plus, Swiss chard is truly a beautiful plant for any garden.

As you can tell, there are a number of different vegetables for you to choose from when you are planning out your garden. Just as a recap, you will want to stick with one of the following when choosing vegetables for your garden

  • Leafy Salad Greens
    • Examples: Arugula, Spinach, Lettuce, etc.
  • Cooking Greens
    • Examples: Kale, Chard, Mustard Greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, etc.
  • Root Vegetables
    • Examples: Turnips, Potatoes, Beets, Carrots, Radishes
  • Herbs
    • Examples: Parsley, Mint, Chives, Oregano, Cilantro

How to Grow Vegetables with Partial Sunlight

If you live in an area where your yard receives limited sunlight, you may be concerned that you cannot grow a garden. Luckily, this is not going to be the case! While, of course, there are vegetables that are going to thrive under full sun, you can carefully plan out your garden to overcome the challenge of having shaded areas. As said earlier, the key to success is going in with a plan!

Step One: Measuring Sunlight

The very first step you are going to take for plotting out your garden is going to be measuring the exact sunlight of the given area. This is a vital step, as you will need to know how much sunlight you have throughout the day so that you can purchase the best plants for the given area. As you already know, there are vegetables that can grow in as little as three hours of sunlight, and some that are going to need more!

So, how do you measure the sunlight in your garden? It is fairly simple.

  1. First, grab a pencil and some paper and create a simple chart of your garden. You will want to list everything from the garden spaces, the walkways, and any trees in the surrounding area. Write in hourly daylight times across the top starting at 7 a.m. If it helps, you may want to have the spaces listed out on graph paper or a Google spreadsheet to help keep the lines straight and organized.
  2. When you are completing this task, try to measure your sunlight on a clear day so that the clouds will not change your data. The goal here is to figure out how your garden will thrive under “normal” circumstances.
  3. Starting at 7 a.m., you will want to step out to your garden with your little chart so that you can observe the sunlight in each space. As needed, fill in the corresponding field on the chart to write “sun” and “shade” where needed.
  4. From this point, you will want to walk through your garden at the beginning of each hour throughout the day, until all of the fields on your chart are filled out completely. This way, you will be able to measure the sunlight for your garden on an average day.
  5. Once your chart is complete, you can label the areas that have direct sunlight from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. as “full sun,” the areas that only receive three to five hours is going to be “partial sun,” and the areas that receive less than one hour of sunlight is going to be your “full shade.”

It should be noted that you may need to complete this exercise several times throughout the year. During the summer, when the weather is most likely going to be the hottest, this is also when the sunlight is most intense. Throughout the year, the position of the sun is going to change as well, so your sun exposure will change, whether it is winter, fall, summer, or spring. If you are lucky enough to live in a frost-free area, you will have the ability to grow vegetables and plants all year long!

Step Two: Choose Your Vegetables

Once you have charted out your garden properly, it is time to get to the fun part, picking out your vegetables! If you are unsure where to start, you have plenty of options from the list above! Many of the options are easy to manage and will thrive in any partially shaded area of your garden.

Step Three: Choose Your Soil

When you have purchased the vegetables that you plan on growing, you will also want to consider getting the proper soil. Generally, vegetables are going to thrive in rich soil that is well-drained. You may want to consider purchasing soil mixes from your local garden shop and then enrich the soil with some slow-release fertilizer. They sell fertilizer that is specifically made for low-light plants; you will definitely want to check this out!

Step Four: Plant Your Seeds

Last but not least, it is time to follow through with your planting! When it comes to planting, you will want to generally plant most of your vegetables in spring if you are looking to harvest in summer. If you are looking to complete a fall harvest, consider planting your vegetables in late summer. What you will want to avoid is planting vegetables that have large leaves next to smaller vegetables, this will prevent the smaller vegetables from thriving.

A final tip I will leave you with before you go plant your vegetables is avoid overwatering your plants! There are many beginners who feel they need to drown their vegetables in order for them to thrive, and that is not the case! When you purchase your seeds, there will be careful instructions placed on the packet for each given vegetable. While plants in the shade are going to need more water compared to those in direct sunlight, overwatering will lead to root rot and mold. As long as you are able to find a happy medium, you should have no issues!

Happy Planting!

Recent Posts