Climate change has significantly influenced vegetation dynamics on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). Past research mainly focused on vegetation responses to temperature variation and water stress, but the influence of sunshine duration on NDVI and vegetation phenology on the TP is not well understood. In this study, NDVI time series from 1982–2008 were used to retrieve spatiotemporal vegetation dynamics on the TP. Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis was conducted to understand the spatiotemporal variations of NDVI. The Start of Season (SOS) was estimated from NDVI time series with a local threshold method. The first EOF, accounting for 35.1% of NDVI variations on the TP, indicates that NDVI variations are larger in areas with shorter sunshine duration. The needle-leaved forest and shrub in the southeastern TP are more sensitive to sunshine duration anomalies (p < 0.01) than broad-leaved forest, steppe, and meadow due to spatial and altitudinal distribution of sunshine duration and vegetation types. The decrease in sunshine duration for the growing season on the TP has resulted in a decreased NDVI trend in some areas of southeastern TP (p ranging from 0.32-0.05 with threshold ranging from 0.05 to 0.25) in spite of the overall NDVI increase. SOS dynamics in most parts of the TP were mainly related to temperature variability, with precipitation and sunshine duration playing a role in a few regions. This study enhances our understanding of vegetation responses to climatic change on the TP.