Versatile Plants: What to Grow in Areas with Sun and Shade?

Why is it important to know a plants sun requirements?

All plants need some amount of sunlight to grow. However, some plants require more sunlight (or less) than others in order to thrive.

How do you find out how much sun a plant needs?

Every plant you see at a nursery, if not most plants, will (or should) have a label or tag with the plant information. On that tag, the preferred sun exposure will be listed; sometimes it is typed out, sometimes there are symbols.

It is important to find out the sun exposure of the plant so that you grow the plant in the ideal location where it will flourish, providing you and other life forms with beauty and purpose.

Sun Exposure – What’s it Mean?

Full Sun – at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight; shown as a full yellow sun symbol.

Part Sun – No more than 4 hours a day of direct sun or dappled sun created by tall trees; the tag may list a full sun symbol and a sun that is half yellow and half black.

Part Shade – The plant benefits from afternoon shade or all day dappled sun; shown as a sun that is half yellow and half black, sometimes with an additional sun that is full black.

Shade – No more than 2 hours a day of sunlight, best if it is morning or early afternoon sun exposure; shown as a black sun.

What plants have sunlight versatility?

Do you have an area in your garden where during the summer months its too hot and bright for most shade-loving plants, but the area doesn’t receive enough direct sunlight for sun-loving plants to put out top foliage and flower color?

The plants suggested here are those we consider versatile plants that tolerate shifting sunlight exposure in our Willamette Valley, western Oregon region.

Trees and Shrubs


  • Highly adaptable sun-or-shade loving daylilly, lady’s mantle, goat’s beard and anemone
  • Sun-tolerant shade plants such as coral bells, fuchsias, and bergenia
  • Most spring-flowering bulbs


  • The sun-tolerant New Guinea impatiens and coleus varieties
  • Wax begonia
  • Ageratum
  • Dusty miller