Successfully introducing a new plant into your garden requires that you get to know each other. And part of that process is finding out how much sun your new plant needs – and what kind of sun.

Your plant may have come with sun exposure guidelines, or you may have found these guidelines by searching online. You may know that the blackfoot daisy does best in full to part sun, while autumn sage can handle both sun and part shade. But what does that mean, exactly, and does it matter?

Yes, it matters. Just ask your plants! They will soon let you know how they feel about the sun exposure they are getting. But to help you provide the best environment possible right from the start, here are five sun exposure terms you should know:

  • Full sun: A minimum of six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day.
  • Part sun: Between four and six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day, preferably in the morning and early afternoon. “Part sun” plants generally do better in a brighter garden setting.
  • Part shade: Between two and four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day. “Part shade” plants should typically be sheltered from later afternoon and evening sun, especially during the summer.
  • Dappled sun: Some direct, but mostly filtered sun exposure, such as in a woodland garden where sunlight peeks through the branches and leaves of trees, producing bright shade throughout the day.
  • Full shade: Two hours or less of direct sun exposure, preferably in the morning or late afternoon, plus dappled sun throughout the day.

Sun exposure can impact the performance of your plant considerably. Most plants have a difficult time growing in full shade locations that provide no direct sun exposure or dappled sun, such as in the impenetrable shadow of a building or an evergreen tree. Likewise, plants best suited for part shade can quickly scorch in full sun.

Many plants, especially native plants, ask very little of us. As their caretakers, one of our most important jobs is to find out what they need – and do our best to give them their perfect time in the sun.

October 25, 2018 — Agnieszka Hurst

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