16 Fruit Trees That Grow In Shade

Quality soil, consistent moisture, and an amicable climate are all key to growing healthy fruit trees. But perhaps the biggest obstacle for many gardeners wanting to plant their orchards is the availability of sunlight.

The vast majority of fruit trees require full sun — a minimum of 6 to 8 hours per day — to truly thrive. For many varieties, sunlight is a crucial part of the fruit development process.

In this article, I share some of the best fruit trees that grow in shade for a range of climates and offer some expert tips on producing good harvests with limited sunlight.

Types Of Sun Exposure

All plants need sunlight to survive and I’m sure you know that some plants require more sunlight than others. But do you understand the difference between a tree that needs full sun versus one that prefers partial sun?

Full Sun

Full sun is exactly what it sounds like. Fruit trees and other plants that require full sun need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth.

Many species need more sunlight to reach their full potential. For example, many common garden vegetables prefer 8 to 10 hours of direct sun per day.

Partial Sun/Shade

Plants that grow in partial sun or shade typically need 3 to 6 hours of direct sun per day. These growing conditions are normally created by shade structures — e.g., nearby buildings, trees, etc. — that only block the sun for part of the day.

Full Shade

Contrary to what many people think, full-shade plants are those that need less than 4 hours of direct sun per day. Full shade rarely means a complete lack of sunlight. The majority of ‘full shade’ plants need about 2 hours of bright sun each day.

Filtered Sun

Common examples of filtered (or dappled) sun exposure include light passing through a tree canopy or a set of sheer window curtains. Many garden shade nets also provide filtered light.

Filtered light is often confused with partial sunlight. However, many plant species thrive under the filtered sun but not the partial sun and vice-versa.

The key difference is that filtered sun conditions deliver several hours of weakened sunlight. Meanwhile, partial sun conditions deliver just a few hours of bright, full-strength sunlight.

16 Fruit Trees For Shady Areas

Before I go any further, I want to clarify that there are no fruit trees capable of growing in full shade. There are, however, several varieties that grow in partial or filtered sunlight.

As you peruse the list I’ve put together, keep in mind the following:

  • Not all varieties or cultivars of a given fruit tree will perform in partial or filtered sun. I’ve recommended some good options under each tree type.
  • Your local climate plays a major role in the success of any fruit tree. As a general rule, trees grown in the hottest parts of their hardiness zones tolerate more shade.
  • Trees get big and many varieties don’t produce fruit until they reach their mature size. 

Another thing I want to mention is that nearly all of the fruit trees listed below will perform better with more light. Trees grown in partial shade often grow slower and produce less fruit. Insufficient sunlight can also impact the flavor of many fruit varieties.

Apple

1. Apple

(Malus domestica)

  • Recommended Varieties: McIntosh, Pink Lady, Dorsett Golden
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Mature Size: 25-35’

While apple trees typically need at least 8 hours of sun to grow and bear fruit, there are a handful of cultivars capable of growing in partial shade. 

The trick to growing an apple tree in partial shade is to ensure it receives good morning light. In other words, you want the tree to be shaded during the hot afternoon hours.

To grow apples with limited sunlight, you also need to stay on top of all other care needs — e.g, nutrition, irrigation, pruning, and so on. Even with perfect maintenance, however, shaded apple trees will likely produce smaller harvests.

Avocado

2. Avocado

(Persea americana)

  • Recommended Varieties: Hass, Del Rio
  • Hardiness Zone: 9-11
  • Mature Size: 15-30’

Because avocado trees are native to tropical and subtropical climates, many gardeners assume that they need as much light as possible. In many cases, though, too much direct sunlight can scorch the delicate bark and leaves.

Avocados do need at least 6 hours of sun per day for maximum growth. But they can perform with slightly less light exposure, especially if they get lots of early morning sun.

Varieties advertised as cold-hardy tend to be the most shade-tolerant. A few good examples are the ‘Hass’ and ‘Del Rio’ avocados.

Banana

3. Banana

(Musa acuminata)

  • Recommended Varieties: Ae Ae, Zebrina
  • Hardiness Zone: 8-11
  • Mature Size: 6-18’

Banana plants traditionally need a ton of bright light. Some varieties prefer 12 hours of sunlight each day! 

More shade-tolerant varieties like ‘Zebrina’ are more often grown as ornamental plants rather than for their fruit. Rest assured, however, that bananas harvested from these trees are still 100% edible.

I’ve encountered some claims that ‘Zebrina’ and other banana varieties can grow in full shade. In my experience, though, these fruit trees still need about 6 hours of sun to remain healthy.

Currant

4. Currant

(Ribes spp.)

  • Recommended Varieties: Cascade, Red Lake, Rovada
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Mature Size: 3-6’

Currants are small fruiting trees or shrubs native to the West Coast of North America. These plants are grown for their ornamental appeal just as often as they are for their berries.

Currants can grow in a range of light conditions. They tend to produce fewer berries when placed in partial sun and currants that receive full shade may not bear any fruit at all.

Sunlight is most important in the early summer when fruit set occurs, so consider positioning currants near plants that fill out later in the year to maximize sun exposure.

Fig

5. Fig

(Ficus carica)

Ficus carica

  • Recommended Varieties: Celeste, Hardy Chicago
  • Hardiness Zone: 7-10
  • Mature Size: 15-30’

At least 6 hours of direct sunlight is recommended for fig cultivation. If you have a suitable area that receives partial shade, however, you may still be able to produce a harvest.

For the best results in limited sunlight, choose a high-quality variety known for being hardy. Receiving less than 6 hours of sun per day can affect fig flavor, so you’ll want to start with the best tree possible.

Figs typically thrive in zones 8 and warmer but some varieties can tolerate colder climates. However, I don’t recommend trying to grow a fig tree in shade north of Zone 8.

Gooseberry

6. Gooseberry

(Ribes spp.)

  • Recommended Varieties: Black Velvet, Hinnomaki
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Mature Size: 3-5’

Reading through this list, you may have noticed that currants and gooseberries belong to the same genus. These two fruit-bearing plants are very closely related.

According to the University of Minnesota, the most obvious difference between gooseberries and currants is the presence of thorns. Gooseberries have thorns while currants do not. The fruit of gooseberry plants is also larger than currants.

Gooseberries are native to Europe and North America, depending on the species. They grow as small trees or shrubs that can tolerate both full and partial sun.

Guava

7. Guava

(Psidium guajava)

  • Recommended Varieties: Ruby Supreme, Tropical Pink
  • Hardiness Zone: 9-11
  • Mature Size:10-20’

Guava trees are native to tropical regions of Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean Islands. They can be grown relatively easily in the warmest parts of the United States and similar climates.

Because guava trees grow best in very hot, sunny environments, they benefit greatly from a few hours of shade per day. But keep in mind that too much shade during the day will interfere with fruit production.

In my experience, the best location for a guava tree is one that receives direct morning sun and plenty of afternoon shade. 

Juneberry

8. Juneberry

(Amelanchier spp.)

  • Recommended Varieties: Honeywood, Thiessen, Regent
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Mature Size: 15-25’

Juneberries — also called serviceberries — are North American trees that produce blueberry-sized fruit in early summer. The reason they’re called ‘juneberries’ is that the fruit typically ripens in June.

I think juneberry trees are far less popular than they should be. They’re relatively low-maintenance and only need at least 4 hours of sun per day.

The berries are, of course, edible. Some people opt to leave the berries on the tree because birds adore them. Otherwise, you can eat juneberries fresh or use them to make preserves or baked desserts.

Red Mulberry

9. Red Mulberry

(Morus rubra)

  • Recommended Varieties: Silk Hope, Travis, Illinois Everbearing
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-8
  • Mature Size: 35-50’

All mulberry trees produce delicious fruit but the hardiest — and the most likely to tolerate partial shade — is the red mulberry. 

According to the University of Florida, some mulberries are dioecious, which means that individual trees are either male (pollen-producing) or female (fruit-producing). In other words, you can’t just plant any mulberry tree and expect fruit.

If you aim to harvest berries from your red mulberry, be sure to purchase a tree that is labeled as monoecious (having both male and female flowers) or self-fertile. Planting more than one tree isn’t necessary for pollination but can increase the size of your annual harvest.

Pawpaw

10. Pawpaw

(Asimina triloba)

  • Recommended Varieties: Rebecca’s Gold, Potomac
  • Hardiness Zone: 5-8
  • Mature Size: 15-20’

The pawpaw is a deciduous, understory tree native to North America. Despite growing in temperate climates, the large fruit is most similar in flavor to tropical varieties like mango and banana.

Pawpaw trees that receive at least 6 hours of sun per day produce the best crops. However, this is antithetical to the tree’s natural growth habit. If you’re willing to accept a smaller harvest, most pawpaw trees will be much happier in partial shade.

The pawpaw fruit is typically ready to harvest in late summer. Note that the skin and seeds are toxic and only the inner flesh should be consumed.

Pear

11. Pear

(Pyrus spp.)

  • Recommended Varieties: Bradford, Beth, Shinseiki
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Mature Size: 15-20’

Pear trees do surprisingly well in partial shade. For hardier varieties, only a few hours of direct sun per day is needed to produce a small harvest.

European varieties, on average, tolerate shade better than Asian ones. If you’re interested in planting an Asian pear tree, the most recommended cultivar for partial shade is ‘Shinseiki’.

Unlike other fruit trees I’ve mentioned here, pear trees prefer afternoon sun and morning shade. Most gardeners will see the best results growing pear trees in a west-facing location.

Persimmon

12. Persimmon

(Diospyros virginiana)

  • Recommended Varieties: Early Golden, Killen, Meader
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Mature Size: 30-60’

Persimmons are a unique fruit that looks a lot like orange tomatoes when ripe. While persimmon trees generally prefer full sun, partial shade is also tolerable.

Early-ripening varieties are most commonly recommended for growing in limited sunlight. If possible, place your persimmon tree somewhere it will be shaded during the hottest part of the day. Morning sun exposure is ideal.

These trees are native to the Eastern United States and, when grown in similar climates, require minimal maintenance once established.

Plum

13. Plum

(Prunus domestica)

  • Recommended Varieties: Toka, Superior, Czar
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Mature Size: 15-20’

Plum trees love the sun but can also tolerate partial shade. Too much sunlight can damage the foliage and impede good fruit development.

Try to plant your plum tree in a location that receives direct morning sunlight. Providing shade in the afternoon will reduce the risk of sun scorch.

There are countless plum varieties to choose from, so I highly recommend selecting one known to grow well in limited sunlight. 

sour cherry tree

14. Sour Cherry

(Prunus cerasus)

  • Recommended Varieties: Montmorency, Morella
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-8
  • Mature Size: 12-18’

While sweet cherries require full sun, sour cherries are a bit more adaptable. A few varieties — e.g., ‘Montmorency’ and ‘Morella’ — grow almost as well in partial shade as they do in full sun.

Despite the name, sour cherries are just as delicious as snackable varieties as long as you know how to utilize them. Sour cherries are ideal for pies and other baked goods.

Cherry trees also need good air circulation to fight off disease. Even varieties that tolerate shade should be planted a good distance from buildings and other large trees.

Star Apple

15. Star Apple

(Chrysophyllum cainito)

  • Recommended Varieties: Blanco Star, Haitian Star
  • Hardiness Zone: 10-11
  • Mature Size: 25-100’

The star apple is a fast-growing tree native to Panama. It’s commonly cultivated in South America, Asia, and tropical parts of the United States like Florida and Hawai’i. 

You can grow star apples in full sun or partial shade as long as the tree has loose, well-draining soil.

While star apples aren’t related to standard apples, the flavor is often compared to applesauce. The fruit is typically ready to harvest in late winter or early spring — keep in mind that the trees grow in areas that don’t experience cold weather.

Star Fruit

16. Star Fruit

(Averrhoa carambola)

  • Recommended Varieties: Golden Star, Arkin, Newcomb
  • Hardiness Zone: 10-11
  • Mature Size: 20-35’

According to the University of Florida, star fruit is native to Southeast Asia but has grown in Florida for over 100 years. The distinctive tropical fruit gets its name from the star-shaped cross sections.

The star fruit tree is evergreen when protected from frost. Star fruit grows in full sun or partial shade. If your region experiences summer with average temperatures above 95°F, planting in partial shade is preferred.

Star fruit is not drought-tolerant and adequate water is necessary for good fruit production. Most trees will produce two or three harvests per year.

FAQs Fruit Trees That Grow In Shade

Can Citrus Trees Grow In Shade?

Citrus trees can grow in partial shade but need full sun to truly thrive. Young trees, in particular, need at least 6 hours of bright sun per day for good health. Keep in mind that no citrus tree can survive in full shade.

Which Fruit Needs The Least Sun?

Alpine (wild) strawberries, or Fragaria vesca, are one of the most shade-tolerant fruit varieties available. These plants can produce good harvests with as little as 4 hours of direct sun per day.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.