Horticulture Magazine

South Facing Garden Planting & Growing Tips

watering colourful flowers in garden

The direction your garden faces can play a big role in determining what your gardening tasks are.

The more you know about your garden, the easier it is to make it look fantastic. Some plants are suited to specific gardens more than others.

There are many benefits attached to south-facing gardens. A garden facing the south normally gets more hours of sunlight than one that faces in any other direction. This is linked to the way that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Gardening - Set Of Tools For Gardener And Flowerpots In Sunny Garden
Get more from your south-facing garden

Why are south-facing gardens so popular?

Gardens that face the south receive more direct sunshine than those that don’t. This explains why so many people desire them. If a plant needs ‘full sun’, this means its needs at least six hours of direct sun a day. Plants that require full sun will perform normally perform better in south-facing gardens.

Do you have a south-facing garden?

Gardens that face south-west and south-east can be regarded as south-facing gardens. If you’re not sure whether you have a south-facing garden or not, you can stand in your garden to check the position of the sun. If the sun rises to the left of your home and sets to the right of your property, you have a south-facing garden.

compass on white background
Is your garden facing south?

Looking at a map can also help you determine whether your garden is south-facing or not. Just don’t accidentally rotate the map if you’re looking online as your findings could be inaccurate. Make sure the compass arrow is pointing straight up. This will mean your map is correctly positioned.

Challenges with south-facing gardens

However, having access to a south-facing garden isn’t without its pitfalls. Some plants don’t cope with this level of sunlight very well and tend to thrive in shade. You’ll need to choose plants which are famed for their performance in these environments. Not all plants can stand the heat, so it is wise to choose ones that can or at least create enough shade for them to thrive.

Dryness in south-facing gardens

If you do have a south-facing garden, it may dry out very quickly. The vast levels of sunlight they receive mean water can be lost from soil and plants very quickly. Plants that perform well in moist, shady conditions will be harder to grow than others.

Partial shade plants in south-facing gardens

If you do wish to grow partial shade plants in a south-facing garden, all is not lost. One thing you can do to achieve your aims is to make your garden more water-wise. You can do this by collecting rainwater for your plants. You can also heighten soil moisture levels by mulching sufficiently around your plants.

Another step you can take to ensure certain plants grow is to create some shade. The shade that you create can be beneficial for you as well as your plants during hot sunny days. One way to create more shade is to plant shade trees.

More south-facing garden ideas

palm leaf of trachycarpus fortunei close up
The trachycarpus fortune

A distinct benefit of your south-facing garden is that it will help you grow exotic, distinctive plants that you would struggle to with elsewhere. Tropical plants that you can grow in the UK include the trachycarpus fortune, catalpa ‘bungei’, phyllostachys nigra and the hedychium aurantiacum.

Artificial grass in south-facing gardens

If you want a lawn area in your south-facing garden but have faced problems with natural grass during the summer, you could consider investing in artificial grass. Synthetic grass has grown in popularity over recent years and now looks more authentic than ever. This kind of grass requires much less maintenance than natural grass.

Artificial grass can help you spend more time enjoying your garden rather than maintaining it. You could also think about creating a chamomile lawn or replacing grass with herbs such as thyme in certain areas of your garden.

Butterfly bushes in south-facing gardens

A butterfly bush is also perfect for this type of environment. Butterfly bushes are also referred to as ‘buddleia’. These are shrubs that flower from July to October and offer beautiful colours including blue, white, pink and lilac. These bushes attract butterflies and they’re especially loved by peacock, red admiral, and small tortoiseshell varieties.

Growing plants in full sun

Many plants perform very well in full sun. To give your plants the best possible start, you need to prepare the soil in your sunny borders before the planting process begins. Quality organic matter will make your soil more adept at retaining water and provide the nutrients that your plants need to grow.

Mulch including pebbles, bark and gravel will help your flowerbeds to retain water. It can also prevent evaporation and help you keep weeds to a minimum in the process. By watering plants in sunny borders deeply every few days, you can encourage deeper rooting. Plants in sunnier areas will need more attention when it comes to watering.

New plants tend to be the most vulnerable, so it’s vital to provide extra care for these.

The best plants for south-facing gardens

Irises are amongst the popular plants amongst owners of south-facing gardens. Noted for their insect and disease-resistant properties, they offer an initial flush in the spring months, with a second following in the autumn.

Gladioli, lilies and tulips

Gladioli are famed for their performance in full sun. It’s best to plant these in the spring in batches so you can continue to admire them right through to the autumn.

Tulips should be placed in a position where they’ll be offered full sun in the autumn.

A key advantage of lilies is that they are so easy to grow. These should be planted during the autumn months and are suitable for semi-shaded areas as well as full sun.

Beautiful lily flowers with green leaves in background
Lovely lilies blossom in full sun

Dahlias and more

Dahlias perform brilliantly in hot, light and dry conditions. Noted for their tolerance of droughts, Dahlias are native to Mexico and Central America.  Gazania are African daisies that are incredibly resilient against wind and full sun.

Full sun is no challenge for the Osteospermum which continues to impress throughout even the hottest summers. Also wonderfully suited to hot sunny environments are poppies.

Achillea, creeping phlox, delosperma, evening primrose, Verbascum and sedum all have a great reputation amongst gardeners in south-facing environments.

Enhancing your south-facing garden

You have a wealth of options available to you in a south-facing garden. By choosing your plants wisely and giving them all the attention and care they need, you can create a beautiful, colourful space that looks fantastic all year round.

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