The Best Flowers to Plant in Morning Sun & Afternoon Shade

Sunshine helps plants generate energy, but more isn't always better. While succulents and cacti revel in direct afternoon sun, many garden flowers don't, especially in a hot-summer climate. If your backyard faces east, you are likely looking for flowers that get the rays they require from cooler morning sunlight. You have many to choose from, and here are some of our favorites to get you started.

Azeleas plant

Annuals for Morning Sun

Annuals are plants that live in the moment, giving their all for the one season they live. They germinate, grow, flower, seed, and die in one year. But they often reseed the flowerbed so you see more of them the following year.

More than a few annuals prefer afternoon shade to scorching heat. Here are some good choices for an east-facing bed:

  • Lobelia (Lobelia erinus), a trailing compact annual perfect for hanging baskets, planters, or ground cover.
  • Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), a top bedding plant in the United States, have shiny leaves and flowers in a wide variety of colors, growing to 12 to 18 inches high.
  • Scarlet sage (Salvia splendens), an annual with a squared stem and bright, spiky crimson blossoms that last all season long.
  • Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana spp.), bred for its bright annual flowers, not to use in cigarettes. The tall stems are laden with star-shaped flowers in colors from pink to maroon and lavender.

Perennials for Partial Shade

Perennials are plants that live and blossom for more than one season, sometimes for many years. They are foundation plants in a garden. You'll find many perennials prefer partial shade and will thrive in morning sun, afternoon shade. Any of these favorites will work well:

  • Clematis (Clemitis spp.) is a gorgeous flowering vine that climbs 10 feet or higher if provided a trellis or fence to use as support. It's hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture zone 4.
  • Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow plant (Brunfelsia pauciflora) is an evergreen shrub with leathery leaves and clustered blooms that start purple but mature to white. It grows to 8 feet tall and half that wide.
  • Golden corydalis (Corydalis lutea) works beautifully on a slope that gets shade in afternoon, where its bright leaves form a ferny mound and the canary-yellow flowers bloom month after month. It needs virtually no maintenance at all in USDA zones 3 through 9.

Flowering Shrubs for Morning Sun

Azeleas
credit: Trisha Sprouse

Shrubs make bigger statements in the garden than perennial plants. They take up more space and can usually be counted on to stick around for some years. Here are a few excellent flowering shrubs that prefer morning sun and afternoon shade:

  • Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) are the shrubs with flowers that change color

    from blues to pinks

    according to the acidity of the soil. Hot afternoon sun dries out the leaves and fades the brilliant, jewel colors of the blossoms. Pick either hortensias, those snowball-style flowers, or lacecaps, flat-top flowers, with fertile, non-showy flowers in the center and more showy sterile flowers on the outside.

  • American snowbell (Styrax americanus) is a tall native shrub that is covered with white bell-shaped blossoms in spring. It hates afternoon sun but requires a few hours of rays in the morning to flower.

  • Azaleas and rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) are known as queens of the shade garden, but in fact, they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Their large, frilly blossoms can be incredibly beautiful and fragrant.


Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.