You’ve seen the words, but what do partial sun and partial shade mean? Are they the same thing? Sun exposure is an important part of knowing where to put your plants.
Without sunlight, most plants can’t grow. Plant labels and plant descriptions often give you information about the amount and intensity of sunlight a plant needs, but the terms can be a little confusing.
Some yards receive more sunlight than others. Knowing how much sunlight an area gets can help you select the right plants for that space. Keep in mind that some plants can grow in more than one type of sun exposure.
Full sun means 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Full sun is usually found on the south side of your house (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere). Full sun plants are your go-getters. Most summer crops prefer full sun. Artichokes, cucumbers, eggplant, fruit and nut trees, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and most herbs need 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight each day. Plants with silver or gray foliage also prefer full sun.
Partial sun means 3 to 6 hours of sunlight in the afternoon. Partial sun is usually found on the west side of your house. We can call these the late sleepers of the plant world. They need time to wake up and may not be ready to deal with sunlight until later in the day. Artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, blackberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, leeks, cilantro, garlic, kale, lettuce, melons, mint, onions, oregano, peas, potatoes, radishes, raspberries, rutabagas, Swiss chard, and turnips can be grown in partial sun.
Partial shade means 3 to 6 hours of morning sun with protection from more intense midday and afternoon sun. These are your early risers. Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beans, blackberries, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, endive, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, radishes, raspberries, spinach, and Swiss chard grow well in partial shade.
Before you start sticking plants in the ground, you should probably create a sun map of your yard. This will tell you how much sunlight each area actually gets. And remember, those areas change with the seasons. Also, the plants themselves can create different degrees of shade or exposure for other plants. I grow chives under my artichoke plant. This is a form of companion planting, or intercropping.
If you have a garden with traditional rows, your plants will get the most sun exposure if your rows are oriented in north-south directions and your tallest plants are at the northern end of your garden plot.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!