UNITED STATES—Home gardens are getting shadier as bigger modern homes occupy smaller modern lots. Bigger homes make bigger shadows. So do their bigger fences that compensate for their minimal proximity to each other. Less space within their smaller gardens extends beyond their shade. Consequently, shade tolerant species have become more popular than ever.

Also, small trees have become more popular than large trees for small modern gardens. However, more of them are evergreen to partially obscure obtrusively close homes. Their shade lasts throughout the year, and is likely darker than that of deciduous trees. It could be too dark in some situations even for shade tolerant species. Even they need sunlight.

Realistically, shade tolerant species merely require a bit less sunlight than most species. No real vegetation can survive without any sunlight. Like it or not, artificial turf can be the most practical option for the shadiest of lawns. Some potted plants can cycle around the garden, to take turns in shade and sunlight. If so, they may not need to be shade tolerant.

Shade is as natural as sunshine.

Most shade tolerant species perform differently with shade than with better exposure. For example, some rhododendrons that tolerate shade bloom better with more sunlight. Most species with colorful or variegated foliage are more colorful with more sunlight. Likewise, sunlight enhances autumn color for some deciduous species. Shade is merely tolerable.

Also, some shade may be dynamic. Garden space below deciduous trees can be shady for summer, but sunny for winter. Below high evergreen trees, sunlight might get through at a lower angle through winter. Major pruning or removal of vegetation can improve sun exposure if necessary. Many shade tolerant species are adaptable to such modifications.

Most shade tolerant species are understory species. They naturally live below canopies of higher vegetation. Some have big leaves and dark foliar color to maximize absorption of sunlight. Ferns are famously tolerant of shade, although tree ferns can reach above it. Kaffir lily, cast iron plant and hosta tolerate shade also. Rhododendron, azalea, camellia, andromeda and hydrangea tolerate shade as well, but need a bit of sunlight to bloom.

Highlight: Andromeda

Andromeda might be more familiar by its Latin name of Pieris. A few of its seven species, and a few of their hybrids, are popular for home gardens. All are evergreen shrubs. A few do not grow much taller and wider than three feet. A few can grow a bit more than 10 feet tall and wide. In the wild, some might grow as small trees that are almost 20 feet tall.

Andromeda has glossy evergreen foliage. Individual leaves are lanceolate, perhaps with serrated margins. They are between one and three inches long, and half to an inch wide. New growth of most cultivars is as rich cinnamony red as that of photinia. A few cultivars have more pinkish or simple green new growth. A few cultivars are variegated with white.

Andromeda blooms with somewhat pendulous racemes of tiny pendulous flowers. Floral racemes are between two and four inches long. Individual flowers are between a quarter and half an inch long. Most are white. Some are pink. Most have green rachi. Some have pink rachi. Bloom is abundant for the middle of spring. Andromeda prefers partial shade.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.