One of the most basic questions on gardening is whether you are looking for a sun plant or a shade plant, or maybe something in between. This simple idea can be difficult to define if you don’t understand what constitutes full sun, full shade, and partial sun/shade.
If you’re looking at a plant tag and it tells you your plant needs partial sun. Do you know what that means? Do you have the right sun requirements in your garden to grow this plant?
It’s a good idea to know your sun. If you monitor your garden beds for the amount of sun they normally receive you will have a better idea of what is needed when you head out plant shopping. Keep in mind some plants bloom in spring before canopy’s of leaves are out on trees, and others bloom in summer when the sun is at its hottest. Although determining if a location will meet your plant’s sun requirements is not an exact science, it will give you a good idea of each garden area’s situation.
Below are some common standards for sun exposure:
Full Sun: Full sun plants like bright sunny areas. Full sun means 6 full hours of direct sunlight. Those six hours could be from 8 – 3 or 12 – 6; anytime during the day. These hours can also be three morning hours, plus three afternoon hours. Many full sun plants that are drought tolerant will be perfectly happy with sun 14 hours a day.
Partial Sun / Partial Shade: These two terms are often interchangeable to mean 3-6 hours of sunlight each day. While the terms are interchangeable, there is a default understanding:
Partial sun – a plant listed as partial sun needs relief from the intense mid to late afternoon sun, although it still requires at least 4 hours of sunlight. Afternoon relief could be from a structure such as a gazebo or the shade from a tree filtering the sun.
Partial shade – typically refers to morning or early afternoon sun, with shade the rest of the day resulting in no more than 4-5 hours of sun.
Dappled Sun: Dappled sun is similar to partial shade. The plants are getting partial sun as it makes its way through the branches of a green leafed tree.
Full Shade: Full shade means less than 3-4 hours of direct sunlight each day, and is best if it is morning sun. Even in the absence of direct sunlight, full shade can take still handle light – every plant needs some sun or light; even those that thrive in full shade.
A few examples of:
Full Sun Plants
Drought Tolerant Plants
Click on each picture below for full display of reading a plant’s label: