Different Levels of Sun Exposure

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The Difference Between Sun, Part Sun, & Shade

Sunlight is the source of energy for all major functions in plants. It’s the key ingredient in the recipe for photosynthesis, which plants use to make fuel (sugars) for plant growth. When plants don’t receive enough light, they can’t produce enough energy to sustain growth. However, receiving too much light can do even more damage, causing leaf burning and death. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how much light a plant needs and how much your garden has to offer.

The key to a successful garden is the right plant in the right place, so let’s talk about how sunlight influences your decision!

Determining Light Levels In Your Garden

The simplest way to figure out how much light your garden gets is by observing it throughout the day. Check on your garden every so often and record the times of day you receive direct vs. filtered sunlight. The time of day you receive sun is almost as important as how many hours! Intense afternoon sun is much hotter than morning sun, especially in warmer climates.

It’s best to measure the light over multiple days and find the average light levels. Try to avoid observing on rainy and cloudy days, as those won’t provide representative data. If you don’t have the time to make observations, there are always garden gadgets that will do the work for you. Once you’ve studied your light, try filtering through our selection of plants by light level!


When we say a plant requires “sun,” we mean full sun, which is at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. It doesn’t mean it must be in direct sun during all hours of the day. Areas that provide sun in the garden are usually void of trees or large buildings that cast shade. Be careful to balance light and moisture in your sunny spots, as areas with sun tend to dry out much quicker than others!

Here are some plants that thrive in the sun: ConeflowerButterfly BushRoses, & Stonecrop

Variety of flowering shrubs with blooms of crisp whites to dazzling pinks in a garden of green

Part Sun

Plants that require “part sun” are looking for 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. It requires some bright light to set flower buds or fruit, but appreciates relief from light during the hottest times of the day.

These plants grow best in part sun: Panicle HydrangeasBellflower, & Azaleas

A shaded garden filled with flowering shrubs with blooms ranging from red to green


When we say “shade,” we don’t mean no sun. Shade plants require less than 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, with the rest as filtered sunlight. Direct morning sun is better than afternoon sun, as shade plants prefer the cooler light. Shade can be found under trees or near buildings or other structures that block light.

Check out these shade-dwelling plants: Ostrich FernHosta, & Coral Bells

A top-down view of a collection of green, blue, orange, black, and chartreuse shade plants

Think your plant is getting the wrong amount of light? Thin, elongated stems or flowers indicate your plant may not be receiving enough light. If leaves are looking burned or brown, it may be exposed to too much sun. Don’t worry; you can always move your plant to a better spot. Plus, we’re always here to help if you have questions along the way!

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.