In the UK, north east facing gardens will receive fewer sunlight hours per day. During the later part of the day, a north east facing garden may be completely obscured by the house’s shadow. At these times, the garden will feel darker and colder. This effect is more pronounced when: the house is extremely tall, the garden slopes away from the house or the garden is very short in length. Many native UK shade-loving flowers, trees and grasses can thrive in north east facing gardens.
Will a North-East Facing Garden Get Any Sun?
Yes, but only sometimes. In the British Isles, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. North-east facing gardens will receive direct sunlight from early morning to late afternoon, for approximately 3 to 6 hours.
The amount of sunlight reaching north-east facing gardens will be lower around the Winter Solstice (December 22nd, 2023) and higher around the Summer Solstice (June 21st, 2023).
Smaller north-east facing gardens, or gardens obscured by houses, trees and other structures, will not receive much sunlight. Unfortunately, this means that sunsets will be hard to view from a north-east facing garden.
What Grows Well in a North-East Facing Garden?
Plants that favour shaded areas, receiving little or no direct sunlight most of the year, are well suited to north-east facing gardens. Other crucial factors to consider include:
- Soil Acidity: Most UK soils are roughly neutral (pH = 7). Many plants thrive in slightly acidic soils (pH = 4 to 7) while others require alkaline (lime-rich) soils (pH = 7 to 8).
- Soil Type: Many plants have a preference for sand, clay, silt, peat, loam or chalk soils.
- Soil Moisture: According to Iowa State University research published in 2021, the majority of plants have an optimum moisture level of ~54%. Plants in loamy soils preferred drier soils (~30%) while silt and clay-rich soil required approximately twice as much soil moisture (~60%).
- Garden & House Size: Size shouldn’t be overlooked. If you have a tall house and a short north-east facing garden, sunny days in the garden will be scarce. Even during clear summer skies, tall structures will cast a long shadow over north-east facing gardens.
What is the opposite direction of north east?
The opposite direction of north east (045°) is south west (225°).
North East Facing Gardens: Pros & Benefits
- Furniture in NE-facing gardens will fade more slowly and feel cooler in summer.
- Plants and grasses are less likely to burn – British gardens with a north east aspect are more resistant to intense heat and drought.
- Rooms that back onto a UK north east facing garden, including conservatories, will be naturally cooler in the summer months. You could make serious financial savings in the long run, as the need for air conditioning is reduced.
- Children and pets can enjoy a north-east facing garden for more mornings of the year – your garden will be basked in sunlight during hot summer mornings, then in shade during the evenings and nights.
- Depending on house location and elevation, you may be able to see impressive sunrises for long periods of the year.
- You may use less water; north east facing UK gardens will receive less sunlight, helping to trap moisture in the soil. This could reduce the volume of water needed to keep lawns, plants and trees healthy during heatwaves.
- You’ll be able to plant a variety of shade-loving British plants; read our top picks below!
- In some gardens, particularly those away from urban areas, you won’t have to plant a single seed for early spring flowers to appear. Snowdrops, bluebells and daffodils are abundant in shady, wetter spots across the UK from January to March.
North East Facing Gardens: Cons & Drawbacks
- North, north east and east facing gardens have a slightly lower average house price than those with south-facing gardens, which many considered the “ideal” UK garden direction.
- Additional lighting may be needed if you plan on using your north east facing garden during the late afternoons, evenings and nights; your garden will be in the house’s shadow during these times. The darkness will be particularly noticeable over winter.
- You won’t be able to dine al fresco as frequently, as the garden will be colder than south-facing gardens.
- Plants that require full sunlight may struggle to thrive in north east facing gardens.
- In winter, you may spend more on your energy bills as additional heat is required in colder, north east facing UK rooms.
- In smaller north east facing gardens, you might not be able to grow sun-loving plants. These include many fruits and ornamental flowers.
- You probably won’t be able to enjoy sunsets from a north east facing garden, as the sun will be hidden behind the house in the evenings and nights.
Which Plant is Best for North East Direction?
Ferns (polypodiophyta): Best Plant for North East Gardens
For year-round foliage, consider planting or potting ferns. Ferns are known for their hardiness and high weather tolerance in British gardens, requiring little-to-no ongoing maintenance.
Leaf size and shape vary between fern varieties. Most ferns have green-coloured leaves, but yellow, orange, red and purple-coloured ferns are equally common in UK garden centres.
Best Ferns for Shaded Gardens
Species such as Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina), Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) and Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) grow wild across the British countryside.
Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) provides colourful spring foliage in north east facing garden. If your north-east oriented garden suffers from excess groundwater or rainfall, consider planting Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis).
Dogwood (Cornus): Best Hardy Plant for Dappled Shade
The name dogwood evolved from “dag”-wood, meaning wood that can be fashioned into daggers. This is a fitting name, as Dogwood planted in the UK spends most of the year with very few leaves.
The plant has brightly-coloured stems that remain visible across the seasons. Popular species to plant in dappled shade include the rust-coloured Common Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and the ruby-red Siberian Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’).
Japanese Forestgrass (Hakonechloa macra): Best Ornamental Grass for North East Facing Gardens
Japanese Forestgrass (Hakone grass) is a semi-evergreen, low-growing perennial that flowers in summer. It’s best suited to moist, neutral-to-alkaline soils.
Watering in the hotter summer months may be required but apart from that, this gorgeous ornamental grass will survive in most north east facing gardens with little effort.
From spring to autumn, long green leaves burst out in all directions. In winter, the leaves will yellow and die back in colder temperatures. Japanese Forestgrass prefers partially shaded spots in most UK gardens.
English Oak (Quercus robur): Best Native UK Tree for Partially Shaded Gardens
This quintessentially English oak tree can be found across Ireland, Wales and England (particularly in southern and central regions). Oak trees are slow growers but can reach heights of 20+ metres, growing around 20 to 50 centimetres per year.
English Oak trees thrive in moist, well-drained soils. Slower growth should be expected in north east facing gardens, due to decreased sunlight intensity.
Wild Cherry (Prunus avium): Best Tree for Large North East Gardens
Known for its shiny bark, white spring blossom and vibrant red cherries, Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) has grown across Britain for thousands of years.
This native tree is often grown for its wood – cherry is a highly sought-after deciduous hardwood, prized for its elegant grain patterns and reddish-brown colour. Wild Cherry will grow in shaded areas, but may not yield flowers or fruit in smaller north east gardens.
Apollo (Mahonia aquifolium): Best Plant for Extremely Dry North East Shade
Apollo is a hardy deciduous plant that can survive harsh winters. It grows equally well in exposed and sheltered locations. Although non-native, Apollo is a common sight in UK garden centres.
Apollo’s sharp, glossy, dark green leaves take on purple tones in winter. Bright yellow flowers will appear around spring, followed by small black berries in autumn and winter.
Also known as Oregon shrub, Apollo (Mahonia aquifolium) excels in full shade. This low-lying evergreen shrub is very well suited to dry north east shaded gardens.