Garden: Plants for Your Light Conditions


Cary, NC — Here in the Piedmont, the frost date officially passed on April 10, and now is the time to dig in your garden! Before you head to the garden store, where all those beautiful new plants turn your head and make you want to buy everything, here are a few quick tips.

Know Your Yard

Take a good, hard look around your yard. Look at the quality of light and at the quantity. It’s easy to think an area is sunny because you see it mid-day when the sun is high overhead. That could, however, be the only time in which the area gets full sun.

Observe. Does the area in which you wish to plant get full sun, part sun, part shade or mostly full shade? These light conditions can directly effect the success of the plants you choose.

Zinnias are full sun lovers and will provide color the entire summer

Zinnias are full sun lovers and will provide color the entire summer

Not sure what your area’s light requirements are? If you are out of your house most of the week, try to observe your area during a weekend. Look at the morning, mid-day and afternoon.

Here are the main light requirements most plants have:

  • Full sun – six hours or more of sunlight.
  • Part Sun – four hours (usually 10 am – 2 pm); these can tolerate some mid-afternoon sun.
  • Part Shade – four hours of sun from 10-2, but absolutely no harsh mid-afternoon sun.
  • Full shade – deep shade with no sun reaching the ground.

When I head to the garden store, I have to remember that my yard does not have many areas of full sun. As tempting as it is to buy those black-eyed susans and gazanias, they will be doomed to wither in my mostly-shady lot.

Full Sun

Flowering Perennials: Black-eyed Susans, day lilies, daisies, petunias, pansies, Gerbera daisies, coreopsis, coneflower, and sedum variety, lamb’s ear, artemesia and dianthus.

Petunias like full sun and are wonderful annuals to plant now in Cary

Petunias like full sun and are wonderful annuals to plant now in Cary

Herbs: Almost any herb likes full sun and can be planted now, including rosemary, basil, thyme (all varieties) oregano, mint (keep in a pot), chives, marjoram, cilantro, lavender, sage, bee balm.

Annuals: Sun flower, zinnias, salvia (can be a perennial too), geranium, marigold and petunias.

Part Sun/ Part Shade

Perennials: Heuchera, Hostas, impatiens and snap dragons.

Annuals: Coleus (although some are now bred that can handle more sun) and begonias.


Perrenials: Ivy, hellebours, astilbe, hydrangia, lily of the valley, coral bells, alyssum, foxglove.

Annuals: Larkspur, fuchsia, larkspur and lobelia.

A Plant for Every Light Condition

Whatever your light conditions, you will find a plant to match. When in doubt, ask the folks at your local garden center. It’s easy to get distracted by bright flowering pots displayed in full sun–but make sure your yard has those conditions before you purchase! You’ll avoid a lot of heartache.


Story by Lindsey Chester. Photos from Garden Supply Company.


The Garden Column is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.