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From Sun to Shade - And Back Again

From Sun to Shade - And Back Again, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights for August 1, 2018,
Brunnera flowers.

“From May on, I can hardly wait to get up to see what has happened overnight, for one of the pleasures of a garden is that something is always happening; it is not static, even for a day.”  May Sarton

The only constant in any garden is change. Sometimes we want it to grow and change quickly, other times we want to freeze it in place. But there’s always change, always something to adjust to.

Coralbells adjust to changes in sunlight better than many other plants.Coralbells adjust to changes in sunlight better than many other plants.

The amount of sunlight plants receive is one of the most variable factors: a tree dies and leaves hostas in full sun; a neighbor puts up a fence and sun-loving perennials are in shade; a basement needs repair and years of careful foundation planting has to be ripped out. Change happens.

In some areas of our landscapes, exposure to sun can even change dramatically from one time of day to another, particularly on the west side of buildings where it can go from 6-8 hours of full shade to one hour of hot sun late in the day. Neither sun- nor shade-loving plants thrive well in areas like that and it can be difficult to find plants that are happy there.

For areas where sunlight is variable or where new or declining growth will mean change, here are a few perennials that can tolerate a wider range of sunlight:

  • Ajuga*
  • Balloon flower
  • Beebalm
  • Bellflower
  • Bergenia*
  • Bleeding heart
  • Bluestar or Amsonia
  • Brunnera
  • Catmint
  • Columbine*
  • Coneflower
  • Coralbells
  • Cranesbill
  • Daylily
  • Monkshood
  • Penstemon
  • Peony
  • Periwinkle or vinca*
  • Plumbago*
  • Spiderwort
  • Toad lily
  • Turtlehead

* Asterisk denotes plants that can take full sun to full shade.

Image of Karma Larsen
Karma Larsen
Communications Associate - Nebraska Statewide Arboretum & Nebraska Forest Service
Karma Larsen is a Communications Associate with the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. She writes, edits and/or formats monthly columns, news releases, horticultural publications, brochures, social media and websites.

Contact Karma at:
Nebraska Forest Service & Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
(402) 472-7923