What are the best plants for east-facing gardens? Are you an early riser? Then you will know how lovely an east-facing garden can be when it gets the first sun rays of the day.
Many plants thrive in east-facing gardens. These plants love the partial shade and need to be protected from the hot afternoon sun.
Don’t think that you’re at a disadvantage because your garden is not south-facing. You can still create a stunning natural space filled with beautiful exotic plants.
Plants that love partial shade can thrive with 2 to 3 hours of sun per day. Some are even fine with less than that.
Take a stroll around your nursery and ask about plants that do not want full sun.
Full sun means 6 to 8 hours of sun per day and this won’t happen in your east-facing garden. Your plants will get sun in the morning and then enjoy the shade for the rest of the day.
Let’s look at some lovely plants that are perfect for an east-facing garden or patio.
Best Plants for East Facing Gardens
- Hakonechloa Macra (Japanese forest grass)
- Berberis (Barberry)
- Meconopsis betonicifolia (Himalayan blue poppy)
- Polemonium caeruleum Brise d’Anjou (Jacob’s Ladder)
- Acanthus mollis (Oak Leaf)
- Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Monmar’ (Enchantress Hydrangea)
- Impatiens flowers
- Lamium (Deadnettle)
- Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple)
Here you can find a list of the best plants for an east-facing baloncy.
Do you have a southeast-facing garden? Read about the best plants for southeast-facing gardens. Southeast-facing gardens have even more direct light and warmth compared to east-facing gardens. Therefore they are ideal for plants requiring direct sunlight and warmer conditions.
14. East Facing Gardens Plants
1. Hakonechloa Macra (Japanese forest grass)
One complaint that many new gardeners have with east-facing gardens is that they cannot grow lawns.
So, while a lovely sunny garden with lush green grass may not be possible in your space, you can still create a wonderful spectacle with Japanese forest grass.
Japanese forest grass is a slow-growing ornamental plant that requires very little maintenance. The plant grows in clumps with an arching habit and flat, long blade-shaped leaves.
Hakonechloa macra offer leaves with a gold-yellow color. As fall arrives, they take on a pink tinge around the edges.
Plant them close together and they form a fabulous carpet that will outdo any standard lawn.
When it comes to light, Japanese forest grass loves shady conditions and full shade. This makes it ideal for your east-facing garden.
These gardens get a few hours of sun in the morning and remain cool and shady for the rest of the day.
Keep your grass moist, but not soggy. You can add a mulch layer to retain moisture.
Japanese forest grass is hardy between USDA zone 4-6 depending on the cultivar according to the University of Wisconsin.
2. Berberis (Barberry)
You may sometimes find that plants you choose don’t seem to be happy in your garden. This is not because you don’t have green fingers.
Very often, it relates directly to the amount of sunlight that the plant gets.
Some plants will not thrive in conditions of full sun. They prefer shady areas with only a few hours of sunlight per day.
If you have an east-facing garden, you need to look for plants that love the shade. The stunning Berberis is a great choice.
The Barberry is easy to care for, offering a rich pop of color and all-year-round interest. There are many types to choose from.
The Japanese Barberry offers bright green leaves that turn to orange and red in the fall.
The Winterfreen Barberry has lovely yellow flowers and dark green leaves that turn to bronze in winter.
Plant Barberry into fertile soil and add mulch to retain moisture. You can grow it as a bush or as a hedge on the east side of your garden.
Barberry makes a great combination with Boxwood shrubs. Boxwood shrubs also benefit from afternoon shade, making them ideal for an east-facing garden.
Plant your Barberry and Boxwood together and show off your gardening skills!
3. Meconopsis betonicifolia (Himalayan blue poppy)
The stunning Meconopsis betonicifolia is one of the few plants that offer a blue flower. A true delight for any gardener.
When it comes to light conditions, the Himalayan blue poppy thrives best in partial shade, making it perfect for your east-facing garden.
In fact, if this plant gets too much sun that dries out the soil, it will not respond well and may even die.
They love cool, damp soil that is neutral to slightly acidic. This plant responds to the amount of acid in the soil.
If you have less acid, the flowers will become more purple. If your soil is more acidic, it produces the stunning blue hues that make it so popular.
The Himalayan blue poppy puts on a show with large, silky cup-shaped blue flowers with contrasting golden stamens.
It is perfect for a shady border, creating a focal point in your east-facing garden.
4. Polemonium caeruleum Brise d’Anjou (Jacob’s Ladder)
Jacob’s ladder does not like very hot temperatures or full sun. It prefers growing in an east-facing garden where it gets some sun in the morning and shade for the rest of the day.
This suits it far better than a west-facing garden where it will get much hotter afternoon sun, or a south-facing garden which is constantly hot and sunny.
Planting the beautiful Jacob’s ladder will add a burst of life and color to your east-facing garden.
Polemonium caeruleum has attractive variegated leaves of creamy-white and bright green. In late spring, this perennial puts on a show of small, blue-violet flowers.
It thrives in average soil and is a great plant for budding gardeners. Keep your soil damp but not soggy.
This plant would require protection from the afternoon sun. But, in your east-facing garden, this is not a problem.
It looks lovely in garden beds, borders, and patio containers. It is also hardy in coastal gardens.
5. Acanthus mollis (Oak Leaf)
When planning an east-facing garden, you need to look for plants that are tolerant of shade. When I first started gardening, I always imagined that plants wanted sun and more sun.
This is not the case, though. Many plants will not survive in hot sunny conditions.
The lovely Acanthus mollis, Oak Leaf, is a plant that loves shade and drier conditions. Perfect for your east-facing garden.
It is a fast grower and can reach heights of up to 4 feet (1.2m). This size makes it perfect as a backdrop in borders.
It also looks stunning growing against a wall or fence.
Oak leaf is named for its oak-shaped leaves that are a deep green hue to them. In spring, it offers tall spires covered in an abundance of white flowers tinged with lilac.
This plant needs very little maintenance. It enjoys watering but can also tolerate dry soil.
Some east-facing gardens have areas that get almost no sun. This could be due to large trees or structures that block out the few hours of the morning sun.
Your Oak leaf plant will be happy in these areas, so get started and don’t leave it looking sad and unattended.
6. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Monmar’ (Enchantress Hydrangea)
Most hydrangeas want protection from the afternoon sun. That is why they are perfect for your east-facing garden.
The beautiful Enchantress Hydrangea offers clusters of densely packed flowers, up to 9 inches (22cm) across.
Depending on the acidity of your soil, the colors will vary from blue and violet in acidic soils to pinky tones in more alkaline soil.
This plant offers all-year-round interest. In winter, the ruby-colored stems make a very attractive sight. All the more reason to add some Enchantress Hydrangeas to your east-facing garden.
Keep your soil moist but don’t allow it to become soggy.
You can add a layer of mulch. Mulch helps to aerate the soil, keep it well-drained, and also traps moisture.
Hydrangeas make lovely cut flowers. If you have an abundance, cut some and put them into a vase indoors.
A bunch of hydrangeas also makes a wonderful gift to offer on a special occasion.
7. Impatiens flowers
A great way to take advantage of your east-facing garden is to create a little outdoor breakfast nook.
East-facing gardens get sun in the morning, and you can take advantage of this while enjoying a lazy weekend breakfast with the family.
When choosing plants for your east-facing garden, you need to look for species that thrive in full shade or part shade.
Strolling around my local nursery recently, I came across delightful plants that will flower in the shade and deep shade.
They are called Impatiens flowers.
Even though your garden is in deep shade, you can still have a stunning display of colorful red, pink, purple, and lilac blooms.
This plant does want full sun and will not thrive in hot sunny conditions. That is why it is perfect for your east-facing garden.
Plant in rich, fertile soil and add some organic feed. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly.
Adding a mulch layer will help to trap in moisture and reduce the amount of water needed.
In my garden, I always use natural fertilizer and stay away from chemicals wherever possible.
Impatiens flowers look glorious in flower beds, in borders, and are also ideal for planting into patio containers. The varieties with softer pastel tones are perfect for English and country-style gardens.
Plants that need protection from the afternoon sun are a great choice for your east-facing garden. In these gardens, there is no afternoon sun, so you have nothing to worry about.
In fact, east-facing gardens are ideal for plants that want part-shade or even full-shade.
Plants that only require only an hour or two of the morning sun will thrive in your east-facing garden.
The lovely Astilbe thrives best with only a few hours of the morning sun. That is why it will not be happy in a south-facing garden. The sun will burn the delicate flower plumes.
There are many varieties of Astilbe with blooms that range from white to dark pink, and many tones of pastel in between. The flowers look very attractive atop the deep-green fern-like foliage.
Astilbe enjoys loamy soil that has a neutral to slightly acidic PH value.
Plant them in beds and borders, or as a focal point near a water feature. They bloom in spring and summer, adding a burst of color to your garden.
Astilbe also attracts butterflies, an added perk when creating a wonderful natural living space.
Tip for bringing light into very dark east-facing gardens: East-facing gardens will get natural sunlight in the early morning for a few hours.
If you find that your garden is exceptionally dark, you may want to look for large trees or tall hedges that are blocking the light.
Try to trim back branches or lower the height of hedges to allow in as much light as you can.
If you have an east-facing garden, you need to think of a shade garden! Think of luscious forests, damp fertile soil, and loads of green foliage.
Another great choice for your east-facing garden is the Hosta plant. This plant is known for its stunning foliage of large, green leaves with white edging.
Hosta loves shade and will not do well in sunny gardens. Getting a few hours of cool early morning sun is perfect.
It is also able to thrive in full shade. So you can plant it anywhere in your east-facing garden and know that it will be happy.
Although it is usually planted for its fast-growing leaves, it does offer purple or white blooms in summer.
Many gardeners prefer to remove the blooms so that they don’t detract from the gorgeous foliage!
Hosta is a hardy plant that does well in cooler regions. Plant into rich, fertile soil and water regularly.
You can add also organic mulch layer to retain moisture and aid with soil aeration.
If you have a spot under a tree that gets very little sun, looks sad and untended, planting Hosta will soon turn it into a lovely lush green oasis.
Hosta looks lovely when planted with other shade-loving plants like ferns, coral bells, and columbine.
Have you ever taken a walk in a natural forest? You are sure to have noticed an abundance of ferns.
Ferns love shade and moisture. They thrive in cooler, damp, shadier conditions. That is why they are the perfect choice for your east-facing garden.
Your east-facing garden will get a few hours of the morning sun. after that, it will be in shade for the rest of the day. Ferns will love your east-facing garden.
Ferns are grown for their attractive fronds that can vary in size from half an inch (1cm) to 80 feet (24m) tall when growing in the wild.
In your garden, ferns will cover unsightly walls and create a fabulous backdrop in borders. They can also grow in damp and dark areas under trees.
Plant in rich, fertile soil in damp areas. If your garden is not naturally damp, then water regularly.
You need not worry at all about the sun as ferns thrive in the shade. To keep your soil fertile, add organic feed in late spring.
Ferns are age-old plants that date back to the dinosaur era. They require very little maintenance.
Ferns pair well with woodland plants like Primula, Epimedium, Hosta, and Oxalis.
Many people with east-facing gardens feel that having color in their living space is not an option. We tend to think of colorful flowers blooming in bright sunny conditions.
This is not true. Shade gardens can look just as spectacular with amazing colorful blooms.
The Caladium is an exotic plant that loves shade. It will be happy with a few hours of the morning sun that your east-facing garden gets.
It will even be happy in deep shade areas of your garden that get no sun at all.
Caladium offers stunning multi-colored foliage that can be white, green, red, or pink. They make an eye-catching display in an east-facing garden, adding color and interest.
Plant into rich, fertile soil and water weekly. Add a layer of mulch to help in retaining moisture.
Apart from that, Caladium requires very little care and fuss.
If you don’t have a garden, they can also be grown in containers and placed on east-facing patios and balconies.
12. Lamium (Deadnettle)
When you have a garden that is in shade for most of the day, you need to look for shade-loving plants that offer colored foliage.
This is the easiest way to brighten up your east-facing garden.
Planting Lamium, known as Deadnettle, is a fast and rewarding way to introduce color into your garden.
Deadnettle is an easy-care plant that offers beautiful foliage in tones of silver, white, and yellow. The colors show best when the plant grows in the shade.
In sunny conditions, the leaves will get scorched, turn brown and wither.
As you can see, the Deadnettle loves full shade. It can also survive in part-shade.
Choose a part of your east-facing garden that gets the least amount of sun and it will thrive.
Plant into rich, fertile soil and water weekly. This plant enjoys soil that is neutral to alkaline.
If you have a home PH testing kit, it should be around 6.0 to 7.0. If your soil leans toward the acidic side, you can add lime to reduce the acid levels.
Lamium looks lovely on slopes, in rock gardens, and under trees. You can also plant it into mixed borders and containers.
Primroses are popular flowers, known to be early bloomers, bringing color into your garden and the hint of spring.
Primroses also love woodland conditions – shady, damp areas – making them perfect for your east-facing garden.
They will add interest to your living space and look great in beds, borders, rock gardens, and alongside pathways.
These perennial plants require very little care and will bloom year after year. Depending on the variety, they will reach heights of 4 inches to 20 inches (10cm to 50 cm).
When it comes to sun, Primrose will do well in both partial and full shade. Because your east-facing garden only gets a few hours of sun in the morning, it is the perfect garden to grow primroses.
Plant them into rich, well-draining soil and water regularly. You will be rewarded with stunning ornamental flowers in tones of pink, red, yellow, and purple.
The Candelabra primrose looks fabulous when growing together with small ferns. Create your own woodland garden with this shade-loving combination.
14. Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple)
While some plants are not fussy about sun, others react differently to the amount of sun they are getting.
You may wonder why some plants thrive on your south-facing patio and not on your north-facing one.
This has to do with the amount of sunlight that the plant’s getting.
Many plants require full sun – 6 to 8 hours per day. Others require much less and will wilt and die if they get too hot in full sun.
If you have an east-facing garden, you will get a few hours of warm sun in the morning. Your afternoons will be cool and shady.
This is the perfect setting for shade-loving woodland plants. Think exotic, damp forests, and think shade.
The Japanese Maple is a much-loved ornamental tree that is perfect for your east-facing garden.
It does not do well in the afternoon sun and would require protection if planted in a garden with full sun. You won’t have this problem.
These deciduous trees are hardy and have an attractive, rounded shape. The Japanese maple comes in many varieties and can grow as a bush or even a tree up to 3 feet or 30 feet (1m to 10m) tall.
It offers beautiful foliage in hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple.
Japanese maples look stunning as a focal point in your garden. They can also be planted as a backdrop in a mixed border.
Plant into rich, fertile soil and water regularly. Because the tree can grow tall and has shallow roots, dig in at least 6 inches (15cm) of mulch. Mulch will help retain moisture and reduce the need for watering it frequently.
Read next: best plants for northeast facing garden.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.