Answer: It's not easy to find a colorful shrub for the shade. However, many shrubs offer distinctive characteristics other than color which you can easily obtain by planting shade tolerant annuals. In your zone 7 shady garden you have several nice choices depending on the pH of your soil.
Purple Beautyberry: (Callicarpa dichotoma),acid soil, 4-6 ft, sun or partial shade, dry to moist soils, has lovely purple berries in fall so that the branches appear jewel-laden!
Dwarf Fothergilla: acid, 2-5 ft, can tolerate partial shade, can handle boggy conditions. Outstanding fall color!
Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) , Adaptable, sun or shade. Showy upright inflorescences at the ends of branches make this a knockout in bloom! Demands space.
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) , acid, 6-8 ft., sun or partial shade, moist to dry. Architecturally interesting form with large flower panicles in late summer which are good for drying. Demands space.
Virginia Sweetspire: (Itea virginica) 3-4 ft., moist to wet, sun or shade. 2" - 5" long clusters of fragrant white flowers occur June-July. "Henry's Garnet" has reddish-purple fall color.
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), Acid, moist, well-drained soil. Extremely fragrant flowers in mid-summer. "Ruby Spice" has rose flowers, "Hummingbird" has white.
Daphne Well, drained, neutral to acid soil with lots of organic matter. Fragrant flowers in spring. "Carol Mackie" with variegated foliage. "Somerset" pink-budded white fragrant flowers. A bit fussy to grow.
Mountain pieris hybrids (Pieris floribunda) "Brouwer's Beauty" moist, acid soil, white flowers in spring.
Drooping Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana) requires acid, moist well-drained soil. Graceful fountain like shrub with drooping foliage. "Scarletta" for burgundy fall foliage, or "Girard's Rainbow" for colorful new foliage.
Rhododendron and Azaleas are known for their tolerance of shady spots. Like moist, well-drained acidic soils with plenty of organic matter. Large range of colors available.
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