Afternoon sun is warmer than morning sun and notoriously scorching in the summer. As the sun begins to set, it is the west side that receives the hottest heat of the day. Afternoon sun is a challenge for potted plants. Container plants already need frequent watering because of their confinement. The best afternoon sun loving potted plants need to love full sun and be drought tolerant.
Sun Loving Flowers and Ornamental Grasses
Bougainvillea and petunia thrive in western afternoon sun although they do require regular water in pots. Blue lyme grass is a very invasive, full sun ornamental grass that is probably best potted. This grass flowers all summer. Cut down in the fall to allow new foliage. According to University of Illinois Extension service, plume grass is a pampas grass substitute that can form an effective potted screen. Plume grass does well in sunny spots with well-drained soil. The stems of this grass do not survive high winds. Flowers appear in the fall.
Hot Blooded Veggies and Herbs
Container vegetable gardening is on the rise for balcony trapped small farmers. Take advantage of hot sun areas to grow afternoon sun-loving vegetables and herbs. Yellow and zucchini squash, tomatoes, rosemary and basil are just a few full sun edibles that do well in dry conditions. Potted vegetables and herbs still need adequate moisture to turn out fruit. Soak them deeply at night and they will return a respite from grocery produce costs.
Afternoon Sun Shrubs
Crepe myrtle is a full sun plant that can be a potted shrub or a small tree in a larger container. Take care not to remove the tops when pruning as it can ruin the plant. Avoid getting water on the leaves to prevent powdery mildew. Use a soaker hose rather than overhead watering. Crepe myrtle blooms most of the summer. Texas sage is an extremely drought-tolerant shrub with gray leaves and lavender flowers.
Western Side Succulents
Agave Americana survives in containers under the scorching sun of places like Texas and Arizona. Geraniums are a flowering herb in the succulent family which also enjoy afternoon sun. There are a wide variety of geranium flower colors and leaf shapes. Aloe vera has its fame as a medicinal plant for the skin. Often used raw for treating burns, it is a bit ironic that aloe also thrives in burning afternoon sun.