The 10 Best Plants for Morning Shade and Afternoon Sun

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The 10 Best Plants for Morning Shade and Afternoon Sun

One of the beautiful things about a garden is that it’s always changing. Change is also one of the most challenging things about gardening! While the soil quality might change incrementally over a season, light levels change daily. Pair the changing light in your garden with plants that thrive in those conditions to have the best success. Morning shade and afternoon sun can be a perplexing combo but take heart, there are hundreds of plants that will thrive in this light exposure. Choosing just-right plants becomes easier when you know the different types of sunlight your yard gets.

morning sun and fog with barn

Types of Sunlight for Plants

Full sun, part sun, part shade—what does it all mean? Sifting through light requirements on plant tags and then lining those up with the conditions in your yard can be tricky. Here’s a rundown of terms and definitions commonly used in gardening.

Full sun: six or more hours of direct sunlight per day. The sunlight doesn’t have to be continuous; a plant might receive 2 hours of sunlight in the morning and another 4 hours in the afternoon. The key word here is “direct.” Sunlight is in no way obscured; it is directly illuminating the plant.

Part sun: 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Part shade: 2-4 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Shade: less than 2 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Morning vs. Afternoon Sun

Morning sun is less intense for a plant than afternoon sun. The angle of the sunlight hitting the plant coupled with the moderate morning temperatures make morning sun exposure less intense. Plants that grow best in lower light levels are most likely able to tolerate a few hours of morning sun versus the same amount of afternoon sunlight.

Plants react differently to light by region too. A few hours of afternoon sun in Georgia packs a lot more punch than a few hours of afternoon sun in Minnesota. A plant that grows in full sun in Minnesota might require afternoon shade when planted in Georgia. Bottom line: consider your region when defining light levels in your landscape.

14 Gorgeous Shade Garden Plans to Turn Your Yard into an Oasis

Denny Schrock.

Perry L. Struse.

Denny Schrock.

Perry L. Struse.

PHOTO: Denny Schrock

10 Best Plants for Morning Shade and Afternoon Sun

Plants labeled for full sun are the best fit for morning shade and afternoon sun. Here’s why: the intensity of the afternoon sun (particularly important consideration in the South) is likely to offset any shortcomings the area receives in reaching 6 hours of direct sunlight. An area that receives an entire afternoon of direct sunlight falls squarely in the category of full sun growing conditions. Each of these easy-care perennials for full sun will likely thrive in a spot that receives morning shade and afternoon sun.

  1. Baptisia: Late spring-blooming baptisia stands 3 to 4 feet tall and adds valuable texture and structure to the garden long after the blooms have turned to lovely dried seed pods.
  2. Black-eyed Susan: Easy to grow in dry soil and places where other plants struggle, black-eyed Susan has bright yellow flowers on top0-inch-tall stems.
  3. Catmint: A low-growing plant that is perfect for the front of a landscape bed, catmint has silver-green foliage and it’s purple or white flowers are popular with pollinators.
  4. Coneflower: A North American native and food source for wildlife, coneflower grows 2 to 3 feet tall and blooms from summer though fall.
  5. Daylily: While its flowers last only one day, daylily makes up for the short single flower lifespan by producing hundreds of blooms. Expect a daylily plant to flower for 4 weeks or more.
  6. Garden phlox: White, pink, red, or purple flower clusters top the 2 to 4 foot tall stems of garden phlox from July through September.
  7. Hardy hibiscus: Dinner-plate-size flowers make hardy hibiscus a garden favorite. It’s slow to emerge in spring but steals the garden stage from mid-summer through fall.
  8. Salvia: Purple flower spikes punctuate this long-lived perennial. Cut back flower spikes on salvia plants in July for a second flush of flowers in late summer.
  9. Sedum: Ranging in height from 2-inch-tall ground-hugging varieties to lofty 3-foot-tall types, there is a sedum for nearly every garden. One of their best attributes is that they tolerate drought with ease.
  10. Yarrow: Wonderfully drought-tolerant, yarrow sends up flowers in shades of yellow, white, red, and pink. Cut flower stems back in mid-summer for a second flush of flowers in late summer.

Consider All the Factors

Remember, light quality is just one consideration when choosing plants. Soil type, moisture availability, and winter hardiness are other important factors to consider. Look at all aspects of the growing area when choosing plants. And if you do place a plant in the wrong location and it languishes, simply grab a shovel and move it. Plants are mobile and forgiving when you give them a little extra TLC to reestablish in the new growing spot.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.