Flower bulbs, Gardening tips, Lawn renovation & repair, Plants,

How to Design Your Dream East-Facing Garden

An east-facing garden poses a few extra challenges you don't get with a south-facing garden. However, choose the right plants and lawn type, and your east-facing garden will thrive!

9 MIN 26 Sep
Last update: 28 Nov 2023
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Wondering how to make full use of your East-facing garden? No problem! Sure, most of your greenery will be in the shade during the afternoon and evening, but it’s certainly not a reason to give up wanting a beautiful, thriving garden! 

Table of contents:
  • What are the properties of an east-facing garden?
  • Determining your garden’s location
  • The hours of sunshine in an east-facing garden
  • Benefits of an east-facing garden
  • The disadvantage of east-facing gardens
  • The ideal plants for an east-facing garden
  • Will a lawn grow in an east-facing garden?
  • Tips for an east-facing terrace
  • FAQs

I’ll show you how to get the most out of your east-facing garden, covering how to care for it, which plants are best and how to keep your shady lawn well-maintained.

Ready? Let’s get started.

What are the properties of an east-facing garden?

Close up of purple liver flowers
The oddly-named Liver Flower. Beatiful in an east-facing garden

In the morning, an east-facing garden receives lots of sunlight but will be plunged into shadow during the afternoon and evening. 

East-facing gardens have the following properties:

Morning sun & afternoon shade: A garden that faces east gets plenty of sunshine in the early morning hours. From the afternoon onwards, most, if not all, of the garden is in shade.

Plant Selection: Choose plants that prefer morning sun and cannot tolerate afternoon heat. This includes many varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs. Read on for specific ideas. 

Flowers such as the dainty liverworts look particularly pretty in an east-facing garden. They come in vibrant shades of purple, pink and blue.

Depending on your needs, you can use an east-facing garden for various purposes, such as growing vegetables, flower beds, recreational areas or playgrounds.

Garden doctor Louis says:

Position your flower beds and planters towards the east to make the best use of the available sunlight.

Determining your garden’s location

You might not have a compass, so it’s likely you’re not even sure which direction your garden is facing. So, follow these tips to help determine your garden’s orientation:

Look at the sun, which rises in the east. If the sun rises at the far end of your garden and then travels over the top of your house as the day progresses, your garden is east-facing. If the afternoon sun is shaded by your home, then your garden faces east. 

You might not have an old-school compass, but many smartphones have built-in compasses, so try using your compass app.

Garden Doctor Louis says:

If you want to know the precise orientation of your garden, consult a surveyor or landscape architect.

The hours of sunshine in an east-facing garden

A sun lounger in a well-kept garden
Choose some attractive and comfortable garden furniture to enjoy that morning sun!

The number of hours of sunshine depends on a fairly extensive range of variables, but generally, a typical UK garden gets around 1,500 to 2,000 hours of sunlight per year.

In more precise terms, an east-facing garden gets:

  • Spring/Autumn: Between 2 to 8 hours a day
  • Summer: Around 8 hours a day
  • Winter: Up to 2 hours a day.

Of course, this depends on direct sun exposure — if large buildings are nearby, you’re more likely to receive considerably less sunlight. 

Benefits of an east-facing garden

The principal benefit of an east-facing garden is the morning sun. If trees surround your home, consider cutting them back to maximise that morning sun. 

So, choose shade-loving plants and wildflowers that thrive in partial and dappled sun. 

But from a lifestyle perspective, you’ll enjoy breakfast on your patio with ample morning sun! Try to surround your patio with potted plants that thrive in the morning sun and cope well with less direct sunshine. 

Additionally, on the odd occasions we get hot summer days, an east-facing garden is cooler than a fully exposed south-facing outdoor space. So, count yourself lucky for the shade! 

The disadvantage of east-facing gardens

Of course, the most obvious disadvantage is the reduced sunlight, so some plants just won’t thrive. But on the upside, this means you’ll have to water your plants and lawn less frequently, and there are plenty of stunning shade-loving plants — you have to choose wisely. 


Shady gardens risk mould and fungal infections because of the consistently increased moisture levels.  

Also, east-facing gardens spend longer in the shade, so they warm up more slowly. Indeed, you may well find you have your own little micro-climate in your east-facing garden, with flowers bursting into bloom later than in exposed areas.  

Garden doctor Louis says:

The disadvantages of an east-facing garden are not necessarily an obstacle to a beautiful outdoor space — you just have to understand which plants will thrive.

The ideal plants for an east-facing garden

A butterfly taking nectar from an azelea.
Shade-loving azeleas are perfect butterfly attractors!

While your plants will enjoy direct or partial sun in the morning, they’ll spend most of the afternoon in the shade. Luckily, lots of plants enjoy this position:

Shade-loving perennials

  • Astilbe
  • Christmas roses (Helleborus)
  • Elf flower (Epimedium)
  • Funkian breeding (Bergenie)
  • Hosta (Funkie)
  • Caucasus Forget-me-not (Brunnera)
  • Ligularia
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria)
  • Tearful Heart (Dicentra)\

Early flowers: 

  • Aquilegia
  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
  • Crocuses
  • Liver flowers
  • Primroses
  • Snowdrops
  • Bluebells
  • Pansies
  • Grape hyacinths (Muscari)
  • Eranthis

Shadow-loving trees: 

  • Azalea
  • Ivory Euonymus (Euonymus alatus)
  • Lilac (Syringa)
  • Hydrangea
  • Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
  • Camellia
  • Mahogany (Mahonia)
  • Pieris (Pieris japonica)
  • Rhodendron

Ground-covering shrubs

  • Ground-covering raspberry (Rubus calycinoides)
  • Fragrant snowball (Sarcococca)
  • Thick man (Pachysandra terminalis)
  • Stuffed St. John’s wort (Hypericum calycinum)
  • Creeping spindle (Euonymus fortunei)
  • Measure lover (Vinca minor)
  • Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)


  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Wild rocket
  • Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Spinach


  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Chives

Spring flowering bulb plants: 

  • Blue cushions (Scilla)
  • Hyacinths
  • Imperial crowns (Fritillaria)
  • CrocuseS
  • Liver flowers (Hepatica)
  • Daffodils (Easter bells)
  • Snowdrops
  • TulipS
  • Wild tulips
  • Dwarf irises (Iris reticulata)


  • Common spotted fern (Polypodium vulgare)
  • Common worm fern (Dryopteris species)
  • Japanese worm fern (Athyrium niponicum)
  • King fern (Osmunda regalis)
  • Shield fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
  • Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
  • Venus hair fern (Adiantum pedatum)
  • Female worm fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

So, as you can see, many beautiful flowering and herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees will thrive in your east-facing garden (as long as you care for them!). 

Find out more about plants that thrive in a shady garden and how to improve your lawn in a shaded garden.  

Will a lawn grow in an east-facing garden?

MOOWY’s Shade & Sun Grass Seed
Front image of the Shade & Sun grass seed product pouch with grass seed in front of the pouch
MOOWY’s Shade & Sun Grass Seed
Shade & Sun Grass Seed
  • Perfect for lawns in shade and full sun
  • Fast growing
  • Thrives underneath trees and shaded bushes
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Absolutely. But it’s essential you select a shade-loving species as your typical lawn grass requires full sun. 

So, your lawn can look beautiful with the right lawn seed (MOOWY’s Shade & Shade grass seed, for example). 

However, shady lawns are more likely to remain wet all day, which promotes moss and fungi growth, so ensure you aerate your lawn regularly and scarify whenever the soil surface gets hidden by moss and weeds. 

Check out our collection of articles about scarifying your lawn

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Shaded gardens can have beautiful lawns, but you may need to aerate, scarify, and fertilise your lawn more often to ensure it remains resistant and robust.

Tips for an east-facing terrace

A garden terrace with sun shade and seating.
Enjoy breakfast on your terrace!

Your patio, terrace, or decking areas are probably your pride and joy, providing hours of sunny enjoyment each year. Here are some tips to make the most of your terrace area:


One of the problems with shady gardens is that you’re often tempted to maximise skin exposure to the sun when it’s there. However, sitting in direct sunlight can damage your skin, causing premature ageing and the potential for a range of skin conditions. 

So, provide shade on your terrace, such as umbrellas, awnings, and pergolas for morning sun protection. 

Planting and decoration

Many of the shade-loving plants listed above grow well in pots — always read the label before introducing a new plant onto your patio. So, surround your terrace with colourful flowering plants and herbaceous or evergreen climbers.  

Set up garden furniture, such as a table and chairs or even an outdoor sofa, for comfort and luxury, and add solar lighting to make the space cosy and inviting, especially when in the shade. 


If you’re growing plants in pots, they’ll need more regular watering than those in the ground. So, make sure you water when the pots go dry, and keep an eye out for moss on paving slabs — scrape it off with a yard brush and hot water as soon as you see it to prevent slips and slides. 

Soil improvement

You may well need to keep on top of your soil in a shady garden as it’s likely to become saturated and heavy. Mix in good quality, well-rotted compost and leaf mould to keep the earth nutrient-rich and well-drained. 

Lawn care for a shady garden

Starting with the right grass species is essential for best results, so look for shade-tolerant grass varieties that are also happy in full sun, like MOOWY’s Shade & Sun lawn seed. 

However, you’ve probably inherited your lawn from the previous homeowners, so check out our guide to completely renovating your lawn for expert tips on changing your grass variety. 


Cutting back and pruning your plants may feel like a hassle, but it improves the following year’s growth. So, always prune your perennials in the autumn or early spring to give your garden year-round appeal. 

Check out our expert guides to pruning your shrubs, plants, and trees

Garden doctor Louis says:

It’s always best to water your garden in the morning. The lack of afternoon sun means your plants and the soil remain wet overnight, which promotes moss, fungi, and weed growth. A morning watering means that the sun dries the leaves and prevents oversaturation.


What is an east-facing garden?

An east-facing garden gets full sun in the morning but is typically plunged into shade during the afternoon. And while these conditions aren’t ideal for all plants, there are hundreds of plants, bushes, shrubs, and trees that thrive in partial to full shade. Check out our guide to east-facing gardens. 

Which plants are suitable for an east-facing garden?

Go for plants that are shade-tolerant but can handle direct morning sunlight. A wide range of plants fit this profile, such as the types of wildflowers you’d find in forests, such as snowdrops, bluebells, and rhododendrons. Also, azaleas, hydrangeas, primroses, and lilacs will work in the shade. Check out our list of shade-tolerant plants suitable for east-facing gardens. 

How many hours of sunshine does an east-facing garden get?

Typically, an east-facing garden gets up to eight hours of direct sunlight a day, depending on the surrounding buildings, plants, and landmarks that could plunge the garden into shade in the afternoon. In spring, expect between two and eight hours of sunlight, but just one-to-two hours in winter.

Any questions?

I hope I’ve given you plenty of tips and ideas for your east-facing garden. But if you have any questions, email us or comment in the Comments section below. 

Or check out our comprehensive Help & Advice section for expert tips for gardens and lawns. 

Thanks for reading. Happy gardening!

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