One of the most common questions we hear at the garden center is “What kind of light does this plant need?”  If you aren’t asking, you are probably checking the plant tag trying to figure it out yourself. Whichever way you gather your info, you find out the plant needs full sun, part sun, part shade or full shade.  And you are thinking things like: “Is part sun the same as part shade?” “How much sun is full-sun?” Kind of like wondering whether partly sunny or mostly cloudy is the same thing. We get it. Knowing the sun exposure your plant needs is very important.  While reading in Southern Living (one of our favorite magazines around here), we saw they addressed this very issue, so we figured, why not follow suit?

We are going to break down the terms for you, but before we do, remember this–you need to observe the areas around your home where you are thinking about planting.  If an area is in the shade in the morning but full-sun in the afternoon, that is completely different than full-sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. So take some notes.  Where and what time of day does the sun shine on your landscape? It will not be the same all year long, so keep that in mind, and take notes about that, too.


Simple answer:

6 hours per day

More complicated answer:

Just because a plant tag says it can handle full sun, it does not mean they will take 8-10 hours of sun a day happily.  If a plant is heat or drought tolerant, that generally means it can handle more than the average 6 hours of sun a day. When in doubt, definitely ask our professionals.  They have been doing this long enough and will be able to tell you if a plant can handle all day sun.

Popular full-sun plants (heat tolerant): hollies

Popular full-sun plants (six hours only): yew

Part Sun or Part Shade

Simple answer:

3-6 hours per day

More complicated answer:

Plants requiring part sun or part shade usually do well in dappled sunlight throughout the day.  They may be able to handle direct sun in the morning or afternoon. Generally, they will not be able to handle direct sun in the heat of the day. Here is the difference between these two distinctions:  if the plant is labeled part sun, it DOES need some direct sun during the day. It simply won’t thrive without it. If the plant is labeled part shade, they will need more sun protection and most definitely from direct sun during the hottest part of the day.  As a rule of thumb, keep part sun and part shade plants out of the blazing, mid-afternoon sun in our area.

Popular part sun plants: azaleas

Popular part shade plants: hydrangea

Full Shade

Only a more complicated answer:

Full-shade does not mean no sun at all.  All plants (well, almost all plants) require some sun to thrive and survive.  Plants that like “shade” aren’t going to do great if you plant them under your deck.  Shade that is good for plants requires some dappled sun throughout the day. Full-shade plants will do best if they are planted under a tree canopy that may let in some dappled light, but no direct light during the day.  Some full-shade plants may be able to tolerate some early morning or evening full sun.

Popular full shade plants:  ferns, hellebores

If you are still completely confused, no worries.  Someone around the garden center can help you find the right plant for the right place in your landscape. Just be sure you know your space well! We love helping you bring green home.