In the plant world, when does “full sun” not really mean full sun?
When you live in a place that gets really, really hot for a really long time.
When we go to the garden store, and our attention is captured by an interesting-looking species that’s new to us, we’ll often look for that little plastic pick that’s inserted into the pot, or if it’s a seed packet we’re intrigued by, we’ll flip it over to learn more.
We’re looking for the variety’s biography to tell us how tall and wide the plant grows, how much water it needs, and how much sun it should have.
And therein lies the kicker for those of us in the southern parts of the country.
Many species whose labels claim the plant can take a lot of sun would just burn up in, say, most of Texas, or the desert Southwest, or other hot and sunny parts of the United States.
In summer, these areas are treated to more than 12 hours of punishing sun — and high temperatures — per day.
It’s a hardy plant indeed that can take that kind of exposure and still look fabulous.
So what does “full sun” actually mean for us in the South and Southwest? How do we enjoy a beautiful garden without the risk of losing everything in the grueling heat of July and August?
Those of us in zones 8a and higher have to be careful with how much sun we give our plants — although some areas with a lot of humidity might have better luck.
We consulted experts in several states. Across the board, their advice fell into two main categories. Let’s look at what they had to say.
- Location, Location, Location
- Go Native
- When in Rome…
- How many hours of direct sunlight does a normal flowering plant like need per day?
- Gardening 101: Fun in the sun – exploring sun and light exposure needs
- What Does “Full Sun Really Mean”
- How to Have a Beautiful Garden in Full Sun
- Understanding Full Sun
- Full Sun Annuals
- What Is Full Sun And Tips For Full Sun Landscaping
- What is Full Sun?
- Sun Patterns in the Garden
- How To Determine Sun Exposure In Your Garden
- Buy Plants According To Your Garden Sun Exposure
- Plant Sun Exposure Requirements Defined
- Measure Garden Sun Exposure Throughout The Year
- K-State Research and Extension
- Does “Full Sun” Mean Full Sun?
- Garden Planning: Sun vs shade
- The modern day trend of planting
- What is the difference between full sun and partial sun/partial shade
- So, how much does sun exposure really matter?
Location, Location, Location
Every one of our experts said that choosing the site for your plants is of critical importance.
“‘Full sun’ means 6-8 hours of sun,” says Ron Bowen, Coordinator of the Master Gardeners at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. “And plants generally prefer morning sun.”
For species that might not be able to handle hours and hours of brutal sun exposure, Bowen recommends that you situate them in such a way that they receive morning sun and afternoon shade.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension agent Angela O’Callaghan, who holds a doctorate in horticulture, agrees with Bowen.
Her advice to gardeners in Clark County (home of Las Vegas) is to pay attention to directional sun exposure. “If you are growing something for flowers or, by extension, for fruit, these plants will need eight hours of sun, but put them somewhere where’ll they’ll get bright light from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” she says. “West-facing might not be the best idea for these types.”
Bowen adds that some commercial growers have started to add heat tolerance information on their labels. “These labels have only been out for a couple years, mostly in the south,” he says, adding that it’s smart to check these guides for additional information as to what kind of climatic conditions a particular plant can tolerate.
“Hopefully more growers will adopt the heat tolerance labeling soon,” Bowen adds.
Another common theme we heard from our experts was the importance of being smart about which species and varieties you choose for your garden.
“You can grow almost anything if you’re willing to spend inordinate amounts of time and resources,” says O’Callaghan “But does that really make sense?”
If It’s Not Meant to Be, It’s Not Meant to Be
Infatuated by azaleas’ legendary beauty and perhaps remembering the captivating fragrance of a childhood visit to Grandma’s house, my neighbors across the street insisted on planting azaleas.
In Austin’s notoriously alkaline dirt.
They trucked in acidic soil, added thick layers of mulch, watered obsessively, and even misted. They took loving care of the nearby trees that they hoped would provide the required shade and coolness for the dazzling shrubs.
In short, they did everything they knew how to to give the azaleas a fine and loving home.
And yet, before summer was a memory, the once-lovely azalea bushes were in the compost heap, replaced by considerably more boring but highly Austin-tolerant sage bushes.
The moral? Mother Nature worked it all out so that Plant A grows where it makes sense for Plant A to grow, and so on. It probably just doesn’t make sense for humans to try to interfere with her carefully laid out plans.
Trying to force Plant B to grow in Plant A’s territory will just waste resources and likely lead to endless frustration!
Check out the thought-provoking book “The Humane Gardener” to understand another reason to follow Mother Nature’s blueprint.
You’ve heard of Laredo, Texas? It’s hot there. This town near the Mexican border can hit triple digits by late April.
Martha Ramirez, an extension agent for Webb County, of which Laredo is the county seat, emphasizes the importance of selecting local varieties. “We encourage our residents to consult our lists of native and adapted plants,” she says. “We’ve worked hard to identify plants that are either from here or are proven to do well in our growing conditions.”
Both O’Callaghan and Bowen agree. “Check your local university extension office. They usually have good publications for your area,” says Bowen. He says to study up and become an informed plant shopper.
O’Callaghan also cautions against trusting information you get at garden centers, especially at chain outfits or big box stores. “You can’t believe everything you hear,” she says. The employees at these places work hard but are often learning on the job and don’t have as much information as you can find if you check good online sources, she adds.
O’Callaghan also agrees that plant seekers should do their research before walking into a nursery. “You need to know your garden,” she says. “Know how your bare spots are situated and know ahead of time what type of plants can tolerate the conditions your garden offers.”
Source additions to your garden from locally owned and operated garden stores, or if you go to big box or chain stores, have a list of native and adapted plants in hand so you’ll know what will and won’t work in your environment.
When shopping, you might also take into consideration where particular in-stock specimens were grown before making their way to your local shop. Plants propagated in upstate New York or Minnesota might not do so well in Phoenix, for example.
When in Rome…
Now that you’re perhaps a bit more informed about choosing and placing sun-loving plants for your southern garden, maybe it’s time to do some more research for specific species and varieties that will take the heat.
Make a list, check it twice. Head to the garden store with your newfound knowledge and maybe, just maybe, come July, you’ll have attractive, flourishing greenery rather than brown sticks.
It’s just a matter of picking the right plant and putting it in the right place. And knowing your climate, of course.
As Las Vegas’s O’Callaghan says, “Our full sun… it ain’t the same as Maine’s!”
Southern gardeners, we’d love to hear your experience with “full sun.” How many plants have you inadvertently fried? Do you trust plant labels’ sun-exposure recommendations?
Photo credit: .
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.
How many hours of direct sunlight does a normal flowering plant like need per day?
Potted plants are nice because you can move then around and see how the respond to different light as the seasons change. Small pots with light soil (potting soil) dry out very fast and may need daily water during warm/hot weather.
Transferring them soon into the ground with appropriate lighting is highly recommended if you don’t have the time to water and bond with your plants.
Be aware that most plants require some time to adjust to big differences in light. Moving orchids from indoors into outdoors with full sun in the spring can easily kill them if not done in stages. Start with a morning sun location and spend a week or more moving them to sunnier locations.
Many plants, like orchids, require a lot of sun to flower regularly.
If you are buying your plants from a large retailer they will often have a plastic card with suggested care for that plant.
The Internet is also a great source of advice. Look for advice that is specific to the climate zone in which you live. When we lived in the north orchids were an annual, but in Florida anyone can do orchids.
Gardening 101: Fun in the sun – exploring sun and light exposure needs
I have two dogs and they have very different preferences when it comes to sunshine. One of them loves lying in the sun, while the other gets hot quickly and prefers the shade. Our plants, too, have preferences for sunlight or shade – but unlike the dogs, they can’t move into the spot they think looks most comfortable, so they are dependent on us to get their preferences right when we plant them!
Most often, the plant’s label or a garden book or blog will use symbols or terms to indicate whether a plant wants full sun, part sun or full shade. The next challenge is to work out what these terms really mean, and where those needs can be met in your garden.
The terms you will usually encounter relating to a plant’s light needs are full sun, part or partial sun (or part or partial shade), dappled shade and full shade. These requirements relate to the situation the plant would grow in where it evolved. For example, plants that grow in meadows need full sun, whereas a plant that comes from a forest prefers dappled light.
For a great indication of a plant’s needs, look at its natural habitat. Meadow plants like crocus generally require full sun, whereas rainforest plants like ferns thrive with dappled light.
A plant that requires full sun needs a spot that gets lots and lots of sunshine each day – at least six solid hours. That period of sunlight exposure should begin from early or mid morning. Most vegetables, herbs, fruiting plants and flowers such as roses and annuals such as petunias and sunflowers do best in full sun. Some plants that need full sun (including veggies) may grow best with a little shade from the hottest afternoon sunlight in summer, especially in hot climates.
Partial sun or partial shade
These positions are areas that get some sun during the day, but not full, uninterrupted sun. These locations may be overshadowed for some of the day. Many plants that need full sun can tolerate partial sun if it is only for part of the day. Plants that do best in shade may cope with partial shade if the spot is shaded for most of the day. Camellias and hydrangeas do well with partial shade.
This is a position that never gets lots of direct sunshine. Dappled shade is usually found under trees or in areas protected by a climbing plant on an arbour. If the area is overshadowed by a deciduous tree or vine, it will be in dappled shade from spring to autumn, but in full sun during winter. This is a good position to grow woodland plants including bulbs such as bluebells, some ferns and orchids and native understorey plants.
This is a spot that doesn’t get direct sunlight. It may be on the southern side of a wall or overshadowed by a solid structure such as roof, dense hedge or neighbouring property. The rear of a sunny balcony and positions indoors away from windows are often in full shade. Plants recommended for indoors such as spathiphyllum can usually be grown outdoors in a full shade situation (provided it is frost-free).
Clockwise from top left: Petunias are a great option for full sun, camellias prefer partial sun, bluebells and other woodland bulbs grow best in dappled shade while indoor plants like the ever-popular spathiphyllum can be grown outdoors in full shade conditions.
Consequences of mismatched light needs
When a plant and its light needs are mismatched, the plant suffers. It may fail to thrive and is usually attacked by pests or diseases. If the situation isn’t rectified (for example, by moving the plant to a better spot or changing the amount of sunlight or shade it receives by giving it more shade or by pruning overhanging branches to let in more sun), the plant may die.
Plants that need lots of sun but find themselves in a shady spot may not flower or fruit, can develop soft, lanky growth or may lose leaf patterning and variegations. A plant that’s in full sun but needs shade may wilt frequently, develop burnt leaves and be stunted.
Get your plants’ light needs wrong and your garden could look like this.
Finding the sun
If you’re unsure of your bearings, use a compass (there’s one on your smartphone) to work out where north lies. Or simply get up early to see where the sun rises in the morning, as that’s east. During the day the sun will travel across the northern sky and set in the west.
As a rule of thumb, in the southern hemisphere, the sunniest gardens face north but plants growing in a north-easterly or north-westerly position will also enjoy full sun. Positions facing south tend to be in full shade for most of the year.
That’s the rule of thumb, but at your place what’s around the garden will affect how much sunshine or shade your garden gets as well as the direction it faces. Overshadowing buildings, walls, neighbours’ houses and trees can block the sun and may turn a normally sunny, north-facing garden bed into a partially or fully shaded spot. The amount of sunlight may also change over time as surrounding plants grow and nearby structures are erected or demolished.
The time of the year also affects the amount of sunlight or shade in different parts of a garden. This is because the sun rises and sets in different parts of the eastern and western sky, and travels in a higher or lower arc across the northern sky, depending on the season. Observe your garden at different times of the year to see how the patterns of sun and shade vary, and tailor your plantings to suit.
Use a compass to hep determine the sun’s path across your garden.
What Does “Full Sun Really Mean”
Measuring the sun exposure of your garden before you start is crucial. You cannot grow a meadow in a forest clearing or power line easement, for instance, as the tall surrounding trees will block the sun for much of the day.
There is some fuzziness of the definitions for the various sun exposures terms that you may read or find on plant labels. “Full sun” definitely means at least six hours per day, but some plants such as vegetables really need eight to ten hours per day.
“Partial sun” or “partial shade” means that the plant needs 3-6 hours of direct sun per day. The terms sometimes are used interchangeably. However, being shaded in the morning is not the same as being shaded from the scorching afternoon sun.
“Partial sun” usually implies that the plant needs more sun and is more heat tolerant. “Partial shade” implies that the plant should be protected from the sun during the afternoon.
“Shade” does not mean pitch black, of course. More plants tolerate dappled shade than can live in really deep shade.
Regardless of a plant’s label, how much sun it needs or will tolerate varies with the strength of the sun and on how much you water.
If you methodically plot out the sun exposure in different parts of your garden, you may be in for some surprises. What is baking hot at noon may really be dappled shade the rest of the day. What is dappled sun in April may be full shade in July, when the shrubs need light to produce next year’s flowers. So create a chart once the trees have leafed out and make hourly observations.
How to Have a Beautiful Garden in Full Sun
Spots that soak up sunshine from sunrise to sunset are prime candidates for gardens overflowing with color, flowers and tasty produce. But not all plants can stand up to direct, full sun. By understanding your garden’s light levels and meeting the needs of sun-loving plants, you can enjoy a beautiful full-sun garden worthy of a gardener’s dreams.
- Understanding Full Sun
- Selecting Plants for Sunny Gardens
- Caring for Plants in Full Sun
Understanding Full Sun
Creating a full-sun garden starts with understanding what “full sun” means. Light levels can be confusing, especially when you’re faced with plant tags or descriptions that read “full sun” or “partial sun” and nothing more. Plant professionals (and the companies that print plant catalogs and tags) typically define full sun as six to eight hours of direct sun or more each day. Partial sun refers to areas that receive between four and six hours of direct daily sun.
When planning a sunny garden, take time to track the actual amount of direct, unfiltered sun your garden spot receives. It may surprise you. Nearby plants, trees and buildings can shade sunny areas as the sun moves through the sky each day. Sunlight also changes with the seasons. A patch of lawn that receives full sun before trees leaf out in spring can be a perfect spot for early blooming, full-sun bulbs, but it’s a no-planting zone for sun-loving summer perennials.
Daily hours of sun can occur in a single stretch or be broken up by times of shade. Focus on the total for the day. If you’re an outdoor person, you understand that morning rays are gentler than midday sun, so keep that difference in mind as well. Shorter hours of intense sun can have an impact similar to longer hours of less intense rays.
Full Sun Annuals
If you have a sunny garden, you’ll be able to choose from a huge selection of annuals, in all colors, shapes, and sizes. The majority of annuals require full sun, which means they need direct light for at least six to eight hours daily. Before planting, you’ll want to watch the different areas in your yard to see how much sun they get, especially when surrounding trees and shrubs are in full foliage and may be casting more shade.
Annuals Image Gallery
If your garden won’t provide full sunlight, you still have several options. You can plant an annual that does well in partial or full shade, like Coleus. Or you can make a spot in your garden with full sun by removing branches, fences, or other obstacles that block the light.
This page includes links to annuals, grouped by light condition and color. Remember, if your plants aren’t getting enough sun, you won’t get as many flowers.
Blue to Purple Full Sun Annuals:
Full Sun Annual Grasses and Foliage:
Pink to Fuchsia Full Sun Annuals:
White to Green Full Sun Annuals:
Full Sun, Partial Shade, and Full Shade Annuals:
Didn’t find what you needed? Try Annual Flowers, Annuals, or Full Sun Perennials for more information.
What Is Full Sun And Tips For Full Sun Landscaping
Most gardeners know that the amount of sunlight plants receive influences their growth. This makes the study of sun patterns in the garden an important part of your garden planning, especially when it comes to full sun landscaping.
What is Full Sun?
Yes, this may seem an obvious question to some, but in fact, it is not. Many people think this means having sun all day; others feel that full sun is direct sunlight part of the day. For example, your garden might receive three to four hours of direct sun in the morning with a break in sunlight around lunchtime and then full sun for the remainder of the day.
By definition full sun is considered to be at least six or more hours of direct sun each day within a given area. That said, the sun’s strength varies with the time of day as well as the season. For instance, the sun is strongest during the summer months in the United States and more intense in the early afternoon. It’s also stronger here in the south (where I am located) versus areas further north.
Sun Patterns in the Garden
Growing full sun plants successfully means understanding how sun patterns in the garden work in your particular area. Plants normally grown in full sun in southern climates generally benefit from some partial shade during the hottest part of the day to avoid scorching, as these areas are naturally warmer than northernmost locations.
For most plants, sunlight is necessary in order to produce enough energy for photosynthesis, or food for the plant. However, different plants have different needs, so make sure that the plants you choose for full sun landscaping are also suitable for areas having partial shade should your climate dictate this.
In addition to sun patterns, you need to pay attention to microclimates in the garden. Even with full sun landscaping, the various patterns between sun and shade can create areas having slightly different temperatures and soil moisture, which can affect plant growth.
One of the challenges new gardeners face is how to determine how much sunlight an area gets. The best way to figure it out is to measure hours of sunlight in your garden, and create a garden sun chart. Don’t worry, it’s easy. In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how to determine the sun exposure in your garden.
People ask me for plant recommendations all the time, it’s probably the most common questions I get from gardeners. It seems like an easy question to answer, right? But there are tons of factors involved, and garden sun exposure is an important one.
So, my answer always starts with “that depends”, which is shortly followed by “how much sun does your garden get?”.
That question is usually followed by lots of other questions… How is the amount of sunlight measured? How many hours of sunlight is considered full sun? What does partial shade mean?
I know it can be frustrating, but I have great news for you! It’s super easy to measure sunlight exposure in your garden, and create you very own, custom garden sun chart, so let’s start with that first.
How To Determine Sun Exposure In Your Garden
If you haven’t figured out how many hours of sunlight your garden gets yet, or you haven’t done it in a while, it’s a good exercise.
You might be surprised to realize that your “full sun garden” is really a partial shade garden… or that your “shade garden” gets more sun than you thought (aha! no wonder those shade plants are burning!).
To measure hours of sunlight in your garden, start early in the morning right after the sun rises. Take note of the garden sunlight exposure at that time. Then make a note of whether it’s in full sun, partial shade, filtered/dappled sun, or full shade.
Then every hour, check the garden area again and write down the garden sun exposure. Keep measuring garden sunlight in each area every hour until sunset.
DIY chart to measure sunlight in your garden
If it’s a large garden area, you might want to map sunlight exposure in the different sections of the garden as they come into the sun, or move into shade.
You could even take this onto a larger scale to determine the sun exposure of your entire backyard, front yard or the whole property, and track everything in one chart.
Related Post: Perennials vs Annuals: What’s The Difference?
If you don’t want to take the time to map the sunlight in your garden, then there are a few tools you could try instead. An inexpensive garden light meter is a nice little tool to have (also measures soil moisture and ph levels tool!).
Otherwise, you could use a time lapse camera as a sunlight meter and set it to take a photo of your garden every hour to make it super easy for you!
Buy Plants According To Your Garden Sun Exposure
Once you know how much sunlight an area gets, and at which hours during the day, it makes it super easy to buy plants for your garden!
All you have to do is read the plant tag on every plant before you buy it. The tag should tell you the plant sun exposure requirements, for example shade, partial shade, full sun, partial sun…
Plant labels show plant sun exposure requirements
Sounds easy but… what does full sun mean? What is partial shade -vs- full shade? How many hours a day is full sun? Don’t panic, I’ve got you covered! Here’s a breakdown of plant sun exposure requirements to make it super simple for you…
Plant Sun Exposure Requirements Defined
How many hours a day is full sun? A full sun garden is an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight throughout the day. Full sun plants are easy to shop for, so lucky you!
How many hours of sun for partial sun? Partial sun and partial shade are similar, and generally mean a garden that gets 3 to 6 hours of sunlight. A partial sun garden means the area gets closer to 6 hours of sunlight.
Many full sun plants, and even some partial shade plants can also grow just fine in a partial sun garden.
How many hours of sunlight is partial shade? In contrast to partial sun, a partial shade garden is an area that gets closer to 3 hours of sun, and is also protected from the intense afternoon sun.
Some part sun perennials grow fine in a partial shade garden, and some shade plants grow well in partial shade too.
However, if you notice your shade plants burning in the summer, then that means they’re getting too much sun and should be moved to your shade garden.
How many hours of sun is shade/ full shade? A shade garden is an area that receives less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day, with the bulk of the sun exposure occurring during either early morning, late afternoon, or dappled sunlight (filtered) throughout the day.
Full shade is an area that doesn’t get any direct sun exposure, but may receive bright, indirect light. Full shade plants are very picky, and will burn in the sun.
What is dappled sun? Another plant sun exposure term you may see is “Dappled Sun”, this means the garden sunlight is filtered through trees or bush branches, fences slats, pergolas… etc.
So a dappled sun garden isn’t totally shaded, but gets filtered sunlight. Many partial shade and shade plants grow very well in a garden that gets dappled sunlight.
Measure Garden Sun Exposure Throughout The Year
Remember that the sun changes position in the sky throughout the year, so an area that is mostly shade in spring and fall may get more intense sunlight in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky (and hotter).
This means your sensitive shade plants could start burning in the sun in July and August. You don’t want that, so it’s super important to map the sun in your garden a few times throughout the year.
Partial sun garden area
Also think about how a garden area might be affected once trees get their leaves in the spring. A full sun garden in the spring and fall could become pretty shady during the summer once the trees are full of leaves.
So it’s a good idea to measure garden sunlight during the peak summer months, as well is in the spring and the fall. That way you can see how the sun changes in your garden throughout the growing season.
Full sun garden areas
Once you know how to measure hours of sunlight in your garden, it’s easy to choose the right plants! Just be sure to map your garden sun exposure a few times throughout the year, and then again every few years as the landscape changes.
More Information About Garden Planning
- Perennials Made Easy! How To Create Amazing Gardens
- How To Design A Front Yard Foundation Planting
- Annual Flower Garden Design For Beginners
- Flower Garden Bulb and Perennial Designs For Amazing Spring Gardens
Share your tips for how to measure sun exposure in your garden in the comments section below.
K-State Research and Extension
Defining Sun Requirements for Plants
Shedding Light on Sun/Shade Conditions
By Dennis Patton, horticulture agent
Return to Miscellaneous Agent Articles
As gardeners there is a lot to know when caring for our plants. We have been told the key to success is right plant, right place. That phrase is easy to say but has a lot of elements to dissect in order to create a lush beautiful garden. Soil, water, fertility, and, maybe the most misunderstood of all, light exposure.
Defining sun requirements
We have all picked up a plant tag and read needed light requirements — sun, part sun, part shade or shade. What does that all mean? It is enough to just make you want to throw up your hands and walk away. Understanding light exposure or sun/shade patterns is not easy but with a little help we might be able to shed a little light on this topic.
Light patterns is really about understanding microclimates in our garden and then finding the right plant that will thrive in the right spot. Increasing hours of sunlight in the Kansas City area means heat, while shade conditions may be 10 to 15 degrees cooler and more humid. Plants have adapted over time to favor a particular condition for best growth. It is our challenge to mimic these conditions if we want the most from our investment.
Full sun is pretty easy for most of us to grasp but it becomes a little cloudier when determining the levels of shade. Full sun is direct summer sun for six or more hours per day. In nature full sun would be the meadows or open prairie spaces. In our KC backyards we define full sun as at least six hours or more of sun each day.
Shade — light, partial, full and dense
Shade is more complicated. It’s about varying degrees of relief from the sun. Shade might be easiest to define if we break it down into four classes from light to dense shade.
Light shade can be defined as receiving between three and five hours of direct sun in the summer. Light shade may be the best growing conditions in our brutal summers here. These locations are sunny enough that many sun loving plants will grow while many shady lovers can still make it. Keep in mind that morning sun, which is cooler and less intense, is easier on shade loving plants then the hot afternoon sun. Plants that receive too much intense light will scorch if pushed into too much hot sun.
Partial shade is often defined as an area that receives two hours of direct sun each day or shaded for at least half the day. Here again, remember the difference between morning and afternoon sun and its effects on some more shade loving plants. Partial shade is good for many flowering shrubs that will produce more blooms with a little sun. These would include such plants as azaleas, rhododendrons and macrophylla hydrangeas.
Partial shade can also be found under or around trees. This is hard to determine but these conditions can exist under or near trees that have less than 50 percent canopy. It can also be found in the reflections of light off of buildings. Another way to look at partial shade would be more cooler morning sun and little or no hot afternoon sun.
Full shade is the third type of shade. These areas take in less than an hour of direct sunlight each day. It could also be dappled light through a tree canopy for most of the day. Full shade is not just a result of trees but also buildings, fences and other structures that cast shadows or block the sun rays.
When planting in full shade soil moisture can be an issue. Dry shade presents additional challenges for plant selections as the competition with tree roots can be high. Plants in this area should not only be shade tolerant but also drought tolerant unless supplemental water will be applied.
Dense shade is the last in this category. It which means no direct sunlight and little indirect light seldom reaches the ground. This would be the light under evergreen trees or overhangs of buildings. It can be found under shrubs, decks and dark corners and passages between houses. The ground is usually dry and dark from lack of light.
Dense shade is the most difficult and limiting growing condition. Plant selections are few due to the combination of shade, root competition, and dry soil conditions. Decorative mulches or ground covers are good alternatives for areas with dense shade.
What does the plant need? Read the tag.
Understanding the sun and shade patterns of the garden is only part of the equation. The second part is understanding the plant needs. Here again this can be confusing as plants can adapt to several light levels. The adaptation is related in many ways to the intensity of the sunlight. Remember morning sun is cooler and less intense. It does not lead to leaf scorch and stress. Some plants can tolerate a lot more sun if it was morning sun as opposed to the hot, scorching afternoon sun.
Plant growers try to help us figure out the needs. Many times on a plant tag there will be references to light requirements. Tags will say such things as sun, sun – part shade, shade. It can also get confusing as another tag can say shade – part sun. So what does that mean when several light levels are listed?
Here is the simple key to understanding the tag. The first word describing the light requirement would be the plants preferred location. For example “sun – part shade” means the plant will grow best in full sun but tolerate some shade. While a tag reading “part shade – sun” would prefer less sun or maybe morning sun over hot afternoon sun. Does that make sense or are you still in the dark?
Another problem we face in determining light levels is where the plant was produced and who rated its sun and shade tolerances. Full sun in Seattle or Minneapolis is really not the same intensity as full sun in Kansas City or Oklahoma City. Here in Kansas City our hostas scorch with hot afternoon sun. Head north and you will see them happy as a clam in full sun. It all goes back to intensity; the difference between morning and afternoon sun. Ample soil moisture can help compensate for the effects of the sun on plant growth.
I feel like I have maybe confused you more than I helped. Understanding sun/shade patterns is not easy. But with a little thought, and good old trial and error you can soon figure out what is right for your favorite plant. One last thought. You planted in too much sunlight or shade? The solution is simple, just transplant to a new location. Weren’t plants meant to be planted on wheels as they seem to just keep shifting locations in the garden?
Does “Full Sun” Mean Full Sun?
Q. This may be a silly question but when a plant label or gardening book says full sun, does this mean that the plant needs direct sun for the whole day or will it be okay if it gets shade in the late afternoon?
A. No, this is a very legitimate question that’s not asked very often. Full sun is defined as any plant that requires six hours or more of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day. The sun exposure is not a year round measurement but from mid March through October. Another way of thinking of this is when Day Light Saving Times is in effect. It’s also important to realize that the information on plant labels and gardening books are not tailored to your specific neighborhood. Instead, they’re designed for a region that may include several states. The USDA Hardy Map or the Sunset Western Garden Book Climate Zones are the primary resources. Shade in the late afternoon should not be a problem for sun loving plants. A ‘shade loving’ plant is any plant that requires filtered sun with less than three hour of direct sunlight per day. Full shade does not mean no sunlight. There aren’t many plants, except mushrooms, that can survive in the dark.
In addition, there is another, very broad group of plants that are listed for “sun or part shade.” These plants will need some relief from the intense late afternoon sun, either from shade provided by a nearby tree, other plantings, a building or other means. You should keep in mind that the hottest temperature of the day occurs in mid to late afternoon. There are a wide variety of microclimates in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Identical plants can tolerate afternoon sun in one location and burn up in another. For example, Azaleas require morning sun and afternoon shade in Livermore but will grow in the full day sun in Alameda. Thus, measuring the sun exposure for plants is not an exact science. This has lead to a plethora of “sun to part shade” labels that seem to dominate gardening books and plant tags. I’m surprised to see Coleus, Japanese Maples, Fibrous Begonias, Impatiens and other so-called “shade loving” plants thriving in the afternoon sun on the hottest days. The nursery professional at your favorite garden center is an excellent resource to help sort things out.
Q. Now that I’ve harvested all the fruit off my apricot, plum and cherry trees, how should I go about watering them this fall?
A. You should scale back the water on fruit trees once Labor Day has passed. A single application in September and October is sufficient. I’d stop watering all established fruit trees in November. The two exceptions are those varieties with maturing fruit and those growing in containers. Citrus is also an exemption. Although they do not show it yet, they’re in the early stages of dormancy and do not require the moisture. You should resume watering next spring after the rainy season has ended.
Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at [email protected] or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Buzz.Bertolero
Garden Planning: Sun vs shade
After hardiness ratings, the most important factor to consider when choosing plants is their light requirements. Most resources provide the light level, or range of light levels, in which a plant will thrive. For example, some plants require full sun to thrive, while others will grow equally well in full sun or part shade. Let’s look more closely at these designations.
Full sun. Full sun is commonly defined as direct sunlight for at least 6 hours during the middle part of the day during the growing season. If youre lucky enough to have a sunny site, youll have a large selection of plants from which to choose, since a majority of the most common perennials perform best in full sun. (Many of these plants will survive in partial shade, but the display of flowers may not be as dramatic.) The exception to this is for gardeners in hot, dry regions, who should consider locating their gardens in a place where the plants will receive some shade during the hottest part of the day.
“Full sun” means at least 6 hours of sun during the middle of the day.
Part sun (or part shade). If your garden gets direct sunshine from sunrise until noon, even if that equals six hours in mid-summer, consider the site as receiving partial shade. Morning sunlight isnt as strong as mid-day sunlight. The same is true for late afternoon/evening sun.
If your garden receives sunlight from 3 p.m. on, consider it partially shaded. The same goes for sites that receive filtered or dappled sunlight all day. For these gardens, look for plants designated for part sun (or part shade.)
Full Shade. However, if your garden is located on the north side of your house or shaded by a dense tree canopy, youll need to choose your plants adapted to full shade. Your choices will be more limited, but dont despair! Its possible to create a lovely and durable shade garden!
Remember that the shadows cast by buildings and trees vary with the season. In December and January, when even the mid-day sun is low in the sky, your house will cast a shadow that is much larger than the shadow it will cast in midsummer, when the sun travels almost directly overhead. Though there are all sorts of ways to calculate exactly where shadows will fall at each time of the year (factoring in the height of your house, your latitude, etc.) you dont need to get that fancy. The easiest way to determine light levels is observation. Observe what sections of your yard are in full sun at different times of the year, and at different times of the day.
In the last class we mentioned foundation beds, island beds, and borders. Lets look at each of these, and consider some several garden designs for each situation.
Class 3, Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
In the world of planting, the words “sun exposure” are used a lot. But really, how important is it for your tree or plant´s health?
The modern day trend of planting
In today´s world, it is safe to say that there has been a recent craze in the plant scene. Suddenly everyone wants house plants and desk plants. Or maybe a lush balcony or garden full of trees and bushes. And why shouldn’t we, there are so many benefits to them environmentally and aesthetically.
However, have you ever found yourself in the situation where you excitedly plant a tree or plant, but then a couple weeks later the leaves started to droop?
Well it could well be that you have overlooked one of the most basic rules of plant care: sun exposure.
What is the difference between full sun and partial sun/partial shade
Let´s start with the basics:
Full Sun: at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.
Partial Sun/Partial Shade: four to six hours of sunlight every day.
Full Shade: two hours or less of sunlight every day.
The shade tolerance of a tree isn’t how much shade a tree requires, it’s how well a tree can thrive with limited sun exposure. Often, the deeper the shade is, the more challenging it can be for a tree to develop properly because it can’t photosynthesize.
When choosing which tree to plant with your Bios Urn®, make sure you first find out what sun exposure (or shade tolerance) it needs and if you have a planting spot that can fulfill those needs.
Image source: Jeff Turner on Flickr
So, how much does sun exposure really matter?
Many plants thrive under sunny skies from dawn to dusk, but others may need a bit of a break. So, does sun exposure really matter when it comes to tree care? Yes it does.
The same care indoor plants need transitions to outdoor plants as well, like trees. Of all the things we consider when it comes to tree planting and care, the right tree in the right place is at the top of the list. And it’s because there is SO much that can impact the health of a young tree. Things like planting a sun-loving species in a shaded area or a shade-loving tree in a sunny spot.
Sun exposure is no joke. When you’re in the tree selection phase and looking for the right planting spot for your Bios Urn®, keep in mind the amount of sun your designated planting spot will get. Trees depend on the sun to photosynthesize and having too much sun or too little sun can weaken—and even kill—young trees. Some young trees are so hardy that it’s easy to forget they require care and strategic planning.
Image source: Thomas Quine on Flickr
Sun exposure also affects a tree’s foliage density and flowering and fruiting characteristics. If you’re creating a layered landscape with trees, make sure the canopy of large trees won’t block the sun from small trees, unless they are shade tolerant species. Some species of trees are hardy enough to flourish with dappled sunlight.
Sun exposure is just one factor that can impact a tree’s health. Before choosing the right tree for your desired planting spot, make sure the planting location meets all the conditions the tree needs to thrive including sun, soil type, and the space it needs to grow. And if you’re growing an indoor plant that requires sun, make sure it’s in front of a window and not under.
Check out our Tree Planting & Care section for more tree care tips.
What do you think of the importance of sun exposure? Have you had a negative experience with a tree or plant that needed for sunlight? We´d love to hear from you in the Comments section below!
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