One question that comes up all the time at the garden center is, “Will this plant be OK in my yard?” Usually our answer back to you will be, “That depends. How much sun do you get in the area where you want to put the plant?” While that might sound like a simple question to long-time gardeners, for most folks it might take a little digging for more information. Questions like “Do you get morning sun or afternoon sun? Is the sun mostly around 11 to 4? Do you have any trees, fences, etc. nearby that might be filtering the light?” can cause frustration because maybe you just moved to this home, or maybe you are not out in your side yard or back yard much during the day and are just not sure.
An easy way to figure out what type of sunshine you have is Sun Mapping. You can Google it and see all sorts of methods, but I think the simplest way is to make a quick diagram of your home and yard and then note how sunny that area looks each hour on a sunny day. Some might do it every hour, some for a few hours in the morning, mid-day and late afternoon. For me, if I am out in my yard between the hours of 11AM to 4PM or all afternoon and need my sunglasses on and sunscreen, then I have full sun. If the area I want to plant in during those times is a place where I would not mind relaxing in a chair with a good book and no sunglasses, I probably have shade.
Luckily, most plants also come with care tags that have 4 main descriptions: Full Sun means you have 6 or more hours of direct sun a day. Partial Sun means you have between 3 to 6 hours of direct sun. Partial Shade means you have less than 3 to 4 hours of sun, and need protection from the direct beating down of the sun’s rays in early to mid-afternoon. Lastly, Full Shade means less than 4 hours of direct sun and those plants also prefer that sun exposure to be early in the morning. Of course just to make things a little more confusing, someone might ask you if you have Dappled Shade. Dappled Shade is typically when you have tall trees or other things like fences or pergolas around that filter the direct sun into patches of light and dark that may move with the breeze or the movement of the sun over time. This would usually fall under the Partial Shade category.
Remember, Full Shade does not equal “dark.” All plants need some light. Also, around our area, many of our full-sun loving plants will do fine in partial sun. When our days get longer and hotter in the middle of July and August they will appreciate some cooling from shade.
I hope that I have not confused anyone with all of the above. Like I mentioned in the beginning, it might sound simple and truly it is once you figure out just what type of sunshine you have in your garden. What we really do not want to see happen is for you to fall in love with a beautiful fuchsia hanging basket and hang it up on your front porch in the direct sun. It will fry and you will cry. We want you to be successful in your gardening experience and while some things take trial and error, other things we can advise you on if you can answer our question: “How much sun do you get in the area where you want to put the plant?”
by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke’s Vice President