Sun Plants vs Shade Plants

Sun plants and shade plants require different conditions and in order to successfully garden them, you need to evaluate which areas of your yard receive the most sun and which are predominately shaded. By selecting plants that fit your garden’s natural conditions, you are much more likely to have a successful garden experience.

How to Determine the Sun Level in Your Garden

The amount of sun that a garden receives should be measured in hours. For example, for a garden to be characterized as full sun, it should receive 6 or more hours of direct sunlight daily. A partial sun area would receive about 4 hours per day. Partial shade areas receive 1 to 3 hours of sunlight daily and full shade areas never receive any direct sunlight.

There is also a difference between morning and afternoon sun. Afternoon sun is typically much hotter than morning sun, which provides a cooler atmosphere. In some conditions, a plant that is partial shade can tolerate more sun if most of it is morning sun. The same is true in the opposite situation, when planting a full sun plant in an area that is not technically "full sun". It's important to take some time to determine the situation in your yard before planting, so you can be sure to select the best plants for your garden.

Selecting Plants for Your Garden

When purchasing plants from your garden or nursery shop, look at the tag in the pot to find out what the plant’s recommended growing conditions are. Most plants will fall into one of the light categories above. You should be able to categorize each area of your garden or yard, based on its light conditions, and have this information on hand when buying plants.

Popular Sun Plants

There are many full sun plants to fit every kind of garden. If you like evergreens, some good choices are arborvitae, juniper, many species of dwarf spruce and a few varieties of yew. Day lilies, coreopsis, perennial geraniums, perennial daises, salvia and prairie grasses are all good choices for a full sun garden.

Popular Shade Plants

Classic evergreens can thrive with minimal sunlight. The English shrub Boxwood can also work well in a full shaded condition. Rhododendron are available in many styles and colors, and work great in full or partial shaded areas. The hydrangea family of plants includes many woody climbers and shrubs, which require at least partial shade. Ferns and hostas also make great shade tolerant plants, and if you're looking for annuals that flower, impatiens, wax begonias and coleus are good choices.

There are many plants to choose from, whatever your conditions. The most important step is to determine the light conditions and size of your garden or yard and begin planning. By doing a little research to ensure you plant the right things for your space, you really increase your chances of a beautiful and healthy garden.