Most woodland plants do best in partial or even full shade, as they are adapted to those conditions in the wild. Some woodland plants can be found that will thrive in full sun, however. Look to plants that normally grow in wooded clearings, climbing plants, or shrubs and even trees.
Vining plants such as kiwi fruit, hops, grapes, morning glories, gourds and greenbriar seek the sun in a woodland setting. These can grow on trees or trellises. Poison ivy and poison oak also are full sun woodland vines, but aren’t usually planted purposely because of their toxicity. Others are peanut, yam, tuberose, creeping strawberry bush and climbing roses.
Many woodland shrubs are actually sun-loving plants and thrive in the sun. These include red osier dogwood, red juniper, salt bush, dwarf quince, fuchsia, Rose of Sharon, wolfberry, Oregon grape, wild rose, black chokeberry, bladdernut, bog birch, New Jersey tea, red-berried elder, and roundleaf dogwood.
There are the usual woodland trees, such as birch, elm, alder, poplar, chestnut, and evergreens, all of which do well in sun. Fruit and nut woodland trees that like full sun are the Siberian pea, Japanese plum yew, sweet chestnut, walnut, cherry, hazel, apple, hawthorn, plum, pear and holly oak. Quaking aspen, Balm of Gilead, black willow, box elder, red cedar, jack pine, pin oak, peachleaf willow, pin cherry and tamarack are other trees that prefer full sun.
Many fruit-bearing plants do well in full sun, as they can produce more berries. Woodland berries include blueberry, raspberry, Juneberry, gooseberry, elderberry, loganberry and blackberry. Currants and black currants also are woodland plants that like full sun.
Herbs that can be found growing at the sunny edges of woodlands include wild leeks, wild garlic, parsley, rosemary, sage, rue, garlic cress and wood sorrel. Flowering plants include asters, wild iris, milkweed, gentian, blazing star, goldenrod, black-eyed Susan, clover, wild indigo, coneflowers, phlox, bellflowers, beardtongue, day lilies, Culver’s root, golden Alexanders and lobelia.
Some prairie-type plants also can be found growing in the sunny parts of woodlands. These often include grasses and sedges like fox sedge, most varieties of miscanthus, switch grass, wild rye, Pennsylvania sedge, Northern sea oats, blue-eyed grass, June grass, prairie dock, ragworts, purple love grass and bottlebrush grass.