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  3. Understanding Plant Sunlight Requirements

Understanding Plant Sunlight Requirements

Everyone knows that plants require sunlight to grow, its the basics that we are taught as a child. But what we aren’t always told is that the intensity and duration of sunlight can differ; some plants needing lots of sun to survive, whilst others prefer more shade.

So how do we find out what plants need what? When buying plants, most plant labels identify the amount of sun a plant requires (full sun, part sun, part shade or full shade). This article is here to guide you through what all of these terms mean and how you can give you plant the best chance at surviving and thriving.

Key Points

  • Full sun – at least 6 hours of direct sun is required daily
  • Part sun – between 3 and 6 hours of direct sun is needed daily.
  • Part shade – plants require between 3 and 6 hours of sun daily. But they need protection from the intense mid-day sun.
  • Full shade – less than 3 hours of direct sun is required per day.

Full Sun

Full sun refers to the amount of light in bright and sunny open spaces. Numerous plants that thrive under sunny skies are classified as full sun plants, although some may require occasional shade.

If a plant is labelled as both drought tolerant and full sun, it is highly likely they can survive even the most intense summer sun. Nevertheless, certain plants are not equipped to handle such heat. It is crucial to interpret label recommendations as guidelines and adapt them to your specific local conditions.

Part Sun/ Part Shade

Plants marked as part shade are likely to struggle in excessive sunlight, especially in the afternoon. They will require shade during the hottest periods of the day.

On the other hand, plants designated as part sun can generally handle more light and require a minimum amount of direct sunlight to flourish. However, insufficient sun exposure may result in poor blooming for these plants.

In either case, offering direct morning sun is a favourable option.

Full Shade

Shade-loving plants may require various levels of light, ranging from the gentle indirect light found on the north side of a house, to the deeper shade under evergreen trees. True shade plants, like ferns, are susceptible to damage from excessive sunlight. For such plants, filtered light, as seen beneath a tree canopy, provides an ideal environment known as dappled shade.

While most full-shade plants can handle some direct sun in the morning or evening, they cannot endure mid-day sun exposure. It’s essential to carefully observe your landscape to ensure that areas you believe to be shady do not receive prolonged periods of direct sunlight during the day. To better understand the sun exposure in your landscape, check the light conditions at different times throughout the day and over an entire growing season.

Updated on March 15, 2024

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