7 Fruit Trees That Don’t Require Full Sun

Discover the perfect fruit trees for shaded yards. While sunlight is crucial for tree growth, certain fruit tree varieties thrive in partial shade.

Plum, pear, cherry, and juneberry trees are your shade-friendly choices, requiring just 6 hours of daily sunlight. Optimal fruit production comes with more sun exposure.

Explore my guide to shade-tolerant fruit trees and expand your orchard possibilities.

1. Plum Tree

Plum trees are hardy but thrive best in full sun; however, they can also grow successfully in partial shade, particularly in dry and sunny climates.

Popular varieties of plum trees for home gardens include Victoria and Avalon, but I advise you to check that the chosen type suits your gardening zone.

Plum trees are believed to have originated in China around 470 BC, but now they can be found all over the world. The majority of plum varieties that we have today come from two lines of plum trees: Japanese and European. There is also an American line of plum trees, but it is much less common.

Below is a graph of popular plums descending from Japanese, European, and American plum varieties: 

Japanese Plum Varieties European Plum Varieties American Plum Varieties 
Black AmberDamsonAmerican Native 
Black BeautyFrench PruneAlderman 
Early GoldenGreen GageUnderwood 
Elephant HeartItalianLemon 
Ruby QueenSugar Plum Toka
Santa RosaCherry Plum Tecumseh

There are many different types of plums to choose from depending on your location. Each variety also has a distinct shape and flavor, so it’s important to select a tree that suits your preferences and yard. Keep in mind that plums can tolerate shady environments but need some sunlight to produce healthy fruit.

2. Pear Tree 

If you have a yard with less sunlight, you can still grow a pear tree. Pears come in many varieties, but most of them require about 6 hours of sunlight per day. You can choose from different sizes of pear trees, making it easy to fit one into a smaller yard.

Additionally, pear trees are resilient and rarely suffer from illness or pest infestations. However, pears require loamy, well-draining soil to thrive, so it’s essential to use high-quality soil before planting. 

Pears trace their origins to southeastern Europe and gained popularity with the Greeks and Romans. Today, there are over 3,000 pear varieties, with some more commonly cultivated in gardens.

Popular varieties of pear trees include:

  • Anjou
  • Baldwin
  • Bartlett
  • Hood
  • Bosc
  • Comice
  • Pineapple
  • Summercrisp

Each pear tree type is easy to grow in home gardens. Additionally, pear fruit is versatile and can be turned into many tasty treats like jam, fruit leather, or canned pears. 

3. Cherry Tree 

Cherry trees are a delightful addition to any garden, and the good news is that most varieties can survive even if they are not planted in full sun. However, it is important to note that cherry trees produce the best fruit when grown in full sun. In addition to their delicious fruit, these trees are also visually appealing with their beautiful cherry blossoms.

Cherry trees are highly susceptible to root rot and require well-draining soil. Overwatering should be avoided to prevent root saturation.

Among the 400+ cherry tree varieties, many are suitable for home gardens.

The best cherry tree varieties to grow in a yard without full sun are:

  • Attika
  • Regina
  • Coral
  • Utah Gold
  • English Morello
  • Coral

It’s worth noting that many cherry trees are self-pollinators and can produce fruit without the need for the pollen of other trees. However, planting more than one cherry tree can improve the quality of fruit through cross-pollination.

4. Juneberry Tree (Amelanchier)

Amelanchier, also known as juneberry or shadbush, can grow up to 25 feet (7 meters) in height and comes in bush and tree varieties, making it ideal for small spaces.

The juneberry fruit resembles blueberries but is a closer relative of apple and pear trees.

Juneberry fruit is not widely commercialized and is thus more frequently found in home gardens. Historically, the fruit was used by Native Americans as the tree is native to the northwestern region of North America. Today, juneberries are often made into wine, jam, or jelly.

These trees are resilient to disease, harsh weather and stress. They are also easy to grow and have distinctive white, star-shaped flowers.

The most commonly grown variety of juneberry or serviceberries are:

  • Allegheny
  • Apple
  • Canadian
  • Common
  • Amelanchier

These berries are not only delicious, but they also thrive in partial shade or full sun. This makes them suitable for planting anywhere in your yard. However, they grow best in gardening zones 4-8.

5. Mulberry Tree

Mulberry trees are excellent for low-sunlight conditions but can also flourish in ample sunlight. They are commonly found in neighborhoods and older parks, although their dropping berries can create springtime messes.

Although these trees used to grow in the wild, they are now commonly cultivated. You typically won’t see these berries in your local grocery store. It is unlikely that you will find their berries in your local grocery store. The berries closely resemble elongated blackberries, but their colors can range from black to bright red.

When growing berry trees, it’s important to keep in mind that the berries can easily fall off and stain nearby walkways and yard decor. Although the berries are delicious, clearing up the mess can be quite time-consuming. Therefore, it’s essential to be strategic when selecting the location for your berry tree to avoid unnecessary hassle.

Mulberry trees, native to Asia and North America, provide nutrition for silkworms. They were first cultivated in China to enhance silk production but are now cherished for their fruit.

Some of the best varieties of mulberry trees for low-light conditions include:

  • White Mulberries
  • Red Mulberries
  • Black Mulberries
  • Himalayan Mulberries.

The black mulberry is particularly prized for its sweet and tart flavor, making it a great addition to pies, ice cream, and jams.

However, it’s important to remember that these plants still need some sun, or they may grow unevenly and possibly become crooked.

6. Pawpaw Tree

The pawpaw tree is a lesser-known fruit-bearing tree that can thrive even when it is not planted in direct sunlight. The fruit of the pawpaw is unique and has a sweet taste, making it a favorite for gardeners living in zones 5-8, where the tree can grow well.

The pawpaw tree is native to the eastern United States and Canada, featuring dense foliage with large, oval-shaped leaves. Its fruit has a similar shape and internal color to an unripe mango.

Pawpaw fruit is a unique blend of the following fruits:

  • Banana
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Berries

The texture of this fruit is often likened to custard due to its soft and creamy flesh. It contains a few large seeds at its center, which can be easily removed rather than eaten. This fruit is rarely found in stores but is often grown in gardens or found in forests. 

7. Crab Apple Tree 

The crab apple tree is another great option to consider. There are many different types of crabapple trees, all of which are resilient and able to thrive in most planting locations. These trees can be found growing in the wild or in many suburban yards. Although they are typically small in size, they still provide excellent shade.

Crab apples have a tart flavor and are best suited for cooking rather than eating raw. They shine in recipes like jams, jellies, and pies and can even be used to make vinegar for culinary or cleaning purposes.

While these trees are believed to have originated in Kazakhstan, they have now spread globally. Their fruit is a valuable food source for local wildlife and can be a useful addition to your food storage when cooked.

Common types of crab apple trees to grow include:

  • John Downie
  • Adirondack
  • Coralburst
  • White Cascade
  • Lollipop
  • Adams

Among the different varieties of crab apples, the John Downie is the most common, producing beautiful flowers and orange-red fruit in the fall.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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