All plants need sunlight to generate energy, but some grow best with just a few hours of morning sun and shelter from the afternoon sun. Others have a penchant for filtered sunlight or full shade where the sun doesn't shine at all. Fortunately, there are plenty of flowers to choose from based on these preferences, as well as those that tolerate any of these conditions.
The Breakfast Club
Some flowers are content to bask in the sun during the early hours of the day, but they become shrinking violets when it comes to the heat of the afternoon sun. These are the flowers labeled with "morning sun" at the nursery. Generally speaking, this translates to two to four hours of morning sun with full or dappled shade in the afternoon. In terms of placement, flowers receiving morning sun are usually sited facing east.
Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) is a compact annual that thrives in morning sun and with either afternoon shade or shelter from the afternoon sun. Although the plant only grows to a full height of 6 to 8 inches, its trailing habit makes it ideal for hanging baskets, planters and window boxes, or as a groundcover planted where it can spill over a retaining wall.
The iridescent flowers of 'Techno Heat Electric Blue' (Lobelia erinus 'Techno Heat Electric Blue') are so striking that they really do appear to be electric. In contrast, 'Queen Victoria' lobelia (Lobelia fulgens 'Queen Victoria') features fire engine-red flowers on 36- to 48-inch stalks and deeply bronzed foliage. Another fan of morning sun and afternoon shade, this hybrid is a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.
According to Iowa State University, impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), also known as "Busy Lizzies," are "the most popular bedding plant in the United States." With glossy green leaves and single or double flowers of yellow, orange, pink, red, purple or white, these moisture-loving flowers find a site with morning sun and afternoon shade ideal.
To many people, the term "partial shade" is as confusing as the weatherman's prediction of "partly sunny" or "partly cloudy." To clarify, partial shade indicates a site that is in the shade for four to six hours a day. More straightforward is the term "full ," which means no direct sun at all.
Also known as Siberian bugloss and false forget-me-not, heartleaf brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla) is a mounding perennial suited to USDA zones 3 through 8. As the name implies, the plant has heart-shaped leaves and produces small, delicate but vibrant blue flowers. The plant prefers organically rich, moist woodland settings with partial or full shade.
Yellow fumitory (Corydalis lutea), also called golden corydalis, is a perennial member of the bleedingheart family (Fumariaceae spp.) that produces tubular yellow flowers from early summer through early fall. Suited for partial or full shade rock gardens, woodland setting, borders and beds in USDA zones 3 through 9, this plant deters deer and rabbits while inviting butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.
There are many plants that are less fussy about sunlight, thriving in morning sun, full mid-afternoon sun and/or late afternoon sun. Nursery plants labeled as "drought resistant" typically enjoy full sun, meaning six or more hours of direct sun. Similarly, if you come across a plant at the nursery labeled for "dappled shade," this refers to sites that get both sun and shade, usually because there are trees in close proximity that filter sunlight. This condition is typical of woodland settings.
Ox Eye Sunflower
Also known as false sunflower, ox eye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) is a perennial member of the aster family but is not a true sunflower (Helianthus spp.) So, although the plant does produce bright yellow flower heads that resemble sunflowers, they are seedless. Reaching an average height of 3 to 5 feet, this plant is a prolific bloomer in full to partial sunny locations in USDA zones 3 through 8.
Blue ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), also known as flossflower, is an annual member of the daisy family that is native to the Caribbean region, Mexico and the U.S. Pacific coast. Although this plant likes high temperatures and will tolerate full sun, it looks better when provided with some shade. Its button-like, blue flowers bloom all summer and providing interesting color contrast paired with yellow, pink or red flowers in beds and borders.